Since 2012, the Suncor Energy Foundation has supported the Walter Petryschuk art scholarship. Walter is a retired Sarnia refinery manager who played an instrumental role in Suncor’s support of the restoration of the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in the mid-1980s.
The $2,500 scholarship is awarded annually to a young local artist pursuing a post-secondary arts program. This year’s recipient was Kennady Osborne, a graduate of Sarnia Collegiate Institute & Technical School (now known as Great Lakes Secondary School).
Kennady’s submission included a wall mural of Anishinaabe Chief Shingwauk in her alma mater’s Aboriginal Student Centre. Chief Shingwauk established himself as a national leader during the War of 1812 and was instrumental in the establishment of the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He is also considered a historical visionary for his recognition of the importance of preserving Indigenous culture and education.
While Kennady and her family were excited to learn she won the scholarship, her father, Shawn recognized a deeper significance. Mr. Osborne’s grandmother, Mabel Ruth Bearfoot, was a residential school survivor. “For Kennady to have the freedom to express herself in her own culture is a proud moment for me,” says Osborne. “My grandmother would be proud too because, in her time, you would be arrested for doing anything related to Aboriginal culture – dancing, carrying sacred items, speaking the language – it was all forbidden.”
Mr. Osborne believes that despite the atrocities his people have endured throughout Canada’s history, there is still hope. “To me, it is phenomenal that within four generations, we’ve come this far. I think it’s a testament, not only to the strength of our people, but also to where we’re heading as a country.”
We wish Kennady all the best as she moves to Toronto to attend the Ontario College of Art & Design and thank Shawn for sharing the special story of this exciting time for his daughter.