Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. Last week, the April grant was awarded to the Jay Bell Redbird Indigenous Arts Pavilion.
Jaylene Cardinal and her partner Dakota Ward will be co-directing and managing the Jay Bell Redbird Indigenous Arts Pavilion at Artfest Kingston this summer. The pair are better known as the team that operates W.C. Creatives, the only Indigenous storefront in Kingston, where they sell a variety of products from art to skincare, traditional beaded jewellery, pottery, and more.
Both Cree artists and entrepreneurs, Cardinal and Ward moved to Kingston with their three children — one of whom has followed in her parents’ artistic footsteps — in 2014, looking for a new start.
“Feeling the need to escape family cycles and create a more positive situation for our children, we had decided to make the bold decision to move to Kingston, Ontario,” Cardinal shared with Kingstonist.
“Why Kingston, you might wonder? Dakota was born here in 1988 and his mother (Georgia Ward) always talked positively about the place saying ‘it is a small city with big opportunity.’”
After getting on their feet with the help of Tipi Moza Iron Homes, the pair decided to start their own business. In the beginning, W.C. Creatives worked pow-wows and craft shows as vendors until a family friend, who is a successful entrepreneur and lifetime Kingston resident, let them know about an opening at Fort Henry.
The artists jumped at the chance and, in 2019, W.C Creatives became the only Indigenous storefront in Kingston.
“We proudly share our culture as we know it and listen to other people’s cultures as they know it, building bridges of understanding,” Cardinal expressed. “Being artists, we get a chance to express ourselves on multiple levels to people from all walks of life. That is something we hold dear to our hearts and is truly a W.C. Creatives experience.”
In March 2023, the pair were offered the opportunity to manage the successful Jay Bell Redbird Indigenous Arts Pavilion at Artfest. The Indigenous pavilion was created in 2017 by the late Ojibwe artist Jay Bell Redbird and showcased 12 Indigenous artists.
“Dakota and I would love to bring more of a hands-on learning experience,” explained Cardinal. “We plan to put the Awesome [Kingston] money toward the honorariums for the knowledge keepers and drummers. It is very important to have the knowledge keepers and drummers, because what they share was passed down from generation to generation and tell stories that are held dear to peoples hearts.”
Visit W.C. Creatives Facebook Page for more details on the Indigenous storefront, and find the pair at Artfest Kingston, which will be held in City Park from July 1 to 3, 2023. Tents and pavilions will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Visit the ArtFest website for more information.