Family-themed prints by respected Mi’Kmaq artist in the Family Library

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Article written and submitted by Andrea Reynolds, coordinator, IWK Family Library

The Family Library settled into its bright and easily accessible new space in August, and since then the library’s staff, IWK teams, and patients and families have been enjoying its new home across from the Heart & Hearth Cafe. The books and movies are all on the shelves (or in borrowers’ hands), the public computers are connected, and the youngest visitors have been making good use of the carpeted play area at the back.

But something was missing until just a few days ago. The Family Library needed a last touch to complete its welcoming, homey feel. It needed some artwork to be hung on the walls, something that would speak to the diverse IWK families who come to the library for many reasons, among them a respite from treatment.

With that in mind, I began the search for the perfect artwork to lift spirits and hopefully appeal to the library’s many visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Earlier, I had met with Tyro Setlhong, diversity and inclusion coordinator, about the project. She mentioned that in her experience, the IWK patients and families in our Mi’Kmaq community want to see themselves better reflected within the health centre. We agreed that a great step in this process would be to showcase artwork by a Mi’Kmaq artist in a central place inside the IWK and what better spot than the Family Library?

Next, I approached the IWK Auxiliary, which has generously funded the operational budget of the Family Library since it opened in 1992. This would be an unusual expense for the library, but when I met with IWK Auxiliary treasurer, Lois Bowser, and explained the purpose of the proposed artwork, she was enthusiastic.

My search was ultimately successful and the perfect artwork now adorns the library walls. It beckons people peering through the glass windows in the corridor to come in and visit “the family” – four framed prints by late Nova Scotian Mi’Kmaq artist David Brooks (1950-2014). I feel richer for having discovered Brooks in the course of my research. The artwork of David J. Brooks from Indian Brook, NS, is featured in many places, among them the Art Gallery Of Nova Scotia, and on the walls outside the Native Friendship Centre in Halifax. I learned that Brooks had been a student of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and a counsellor at the AIA Addictions Intervention Association. Above all, Brooks was a family man and a very loving father to his three daughters and wife.

I actually ordered the prints directly from David’s widow, Alice Brooks. She was very warm in all our back-and-forth communications, and even sent me photos of the entire, beautiful collection. After careful deliberation I chose four prints which depict the theme of family: Sisters; Familie; Mi’Kmaq Family; and Mother’s Child.

Each print is vibrant and alive with colour. It is no exaggeration to say that the artist’s love of family shines through his work. It fits exactly with the atmosphere the IWK Family Library strives create: this is a space where you can bring your children to read them books in a multitude of languages, learn more about a loved one’s health condition, or just take a moment to recharge so you can take care of yourself and your family members with strength and love.

“David would be so happy to know his art is now at the IWK… I am very grateful,” Alice wrote to me once I told her the prints had arrived. Likewise, I am very grateful to Alice, to the ever-supportive IWK Auxiliary, and to the very talented artist, David Brooks.

Please come visit The Family Library on level two to view these four unique and visually stunning celebrations of family. Words and photographs alone do not do them justice.