Messy Book Program

The “Messy Book Program” (formerly called Creative Cultural Reflections and CALM Worker Program) was launched in January 2018 in Rankin Inlet. Our second community of Arviat, Nunavut launched in October 2019. The ARF hopes to offer the program in Cambridge Bay, Arctic Bay, Sanikiluaq and Iqaluit, Nunavut within the next two years. By 2021 the ARF hopes to launch in at least two additional northern Indigenous communities.

The Messy Book Program offers daily after school, culturally specific art programs, delivered in the local Indigenous language, to approximately 20 youth in each community. We partner with participating communities, high schools, and their graduating committees, to train and hire two high school students to become CALM Workers (Community Artist Liaison and Mentor Workers), and one CALM Worker Mentee (who acts as an on-call support staff), to run the after-school program throughout the school year (September – May). The program is in constant development and is guided by the participation and input from the CALM Workers, youth participants, Susan Aglukark, and roster of Indigenous artists.

The Messy Book Program provides the youth participants with opportunities to learn and celebrate their heritage, while developing important life skills. Empowering youth to recognize that they have the right and capacity to heal from their trauma. It invites them to explore their own healing without forcing them through the process. It teaches them to set up boundaries on their own terms, in order for them to gain confidence. It also helps them to recognize the values they hold dear, explore what those values look like in practice with the group and through creative expressions, and acknowledge the things in their lives, and skills they possess, that they are proud of.

A long-term outcome of this project is to help strengthen the local economies in the North through the arts, as many of the artists set up their own online stores or sell their goods.

The primary goal of this program is to nurture and offer guidance for children and youth in the areas of non-clinical mental health support, non-academic basic learning support, time management guidance and everyday life skills management, personal relationship skills, a creative and culturally grounded outlet for their abilities, and much more. It also provides after-school respite for families in safe and creative spaces.

Youth participants are guided to explore, discover and connect with their ancestral and cultural backgrounds. The program combines art, art journaling, movement, music and drama to encourage creative cultural and historical exploration to fill in the identity gap that has contributed to the mental health and suicide crisis with Indigenous youth in the North. Youth participants are guided to explore, discover and connect with their ancestral and cultural backgrounds, and to learn about the rich history of their communities, their families and themselves.

In addition, the program establishes opportunities to develop leadership skills and connections between Inuit societal values and western ideology. In the safe spaces with positive adult role models, youth are supported and encouraged to express themselves using many different art forms. The program also provides healthy food and snacks to promote nutrition, health and self-respect.

Story of Transformation:

The program incorporates Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) principles to guide our staff and the activities. The program is culturally specific and directed by adults and youth who are part of the culture. The project empowers youth by encouraging self-directed learning, allowing them to determine their own art projects, and collectively decide on themes they explore month to month. We also ensure their own Indigenous language is used for the project delivery, and Indigenous arts practitioners, with a current preference for Inuit artists, are included throughout the year who teach new artistic skills and speak to the participants about their lives and artistic practices.

“Having youth do Creative Cultural Reflections (CCR) on their ancestry and using creative outlets as tools to express emotions. This will create avenues of teaching, healing, and introduces healthy ways to express emotion through art. Personal example – I had found research that had been done by the University of Manitoba where my grandfather (ataatatsiaq) assisted in identifying animal and plant species, I had expressed my thoughts and emotions by writing “Even though many things were stripped of us they could not take away the knowledge of survival, and love for our land”. In writing this I made a connection and realization. I knew that the knowledge came solely from Inuit, my people. I finally made a pre-colonization connection, for a brief moment I knew what it felt like to not be this product of negativity (colonization, as interpreted by Indigenous Canadians). What a powerful and uplifting feeling.”


Participant and 2017 ARF Intern

Key benefits of the Messy Book Program include:

  • Identifying basic mental health management skills
  • Identifying local resources
  • Cultural pride and knowledge sharing
  • Development of youth leadership skills
  • Creation of income for high school students
  • Creation of income for northern artists
  • Provide consistent safe creative space for Inuit children and youth
  • After-school respite for families of participants
  • Development for youth in the areas of:
    • mentorship
    • guidance
    • art as an emotional outlet
    • communication verbal and creative
    • project follow through
    • self-respect


Rankin Inlet and Arviat

The Messy Book Program was launched in January 2018 at the Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik high school in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. In October 2019, a second location for the program was opened in Arviat, Nunavut. To date, the Arctic Rose Foundation’s Messy Book Program has provided more than 60 youth with a safe space, positive adult role models, and encouragement to express themselves through multiple art forms.

These program takes place after-school from 3:30 p.m.- 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, September to May. At the beginning of the year, the youth participants set the rules of the space. This year, the rules included using kind words, respecting each other, staying in the room, and no technology in the space except for music.

To promote nutrition and self-respect, a healthy snack is provided for all the participants and a talking circle begins each session, to set the tone and assess the emotional place of those in the room. The circle helps youth to establish a safe emotional space with an adult as well as their peers. After the circle, they go to their workstations to work on their art projects.

Each youth is provided with an “Everything you Need” kit, containing art supplies that they are responsible for. Each month the youth participants and staff decide on a new life lesson or theme that help to structure the program and guide activities. For example, in October 2018, the youth in Rankin Inlet chose the theme of “lateral violence”. The program leaders and creative director then explored how lateral violence may be experienced at home, in school, in their community, and in personal relationships and reactions. In November 2018, the theme was “bullying”, and a micro-theme of “reaction vs. reflection”, was then explored.

Once a month a guest Indigenous artist visits each community for a one-week period. Many artists are sourced from the community, and others are brought in from other northern regions, and occasionally beyond, to share their craft.


Coming Soon

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut January 2020
Iqaluit, Nunavut, 2020

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200 North Service Road West, Unit 1, Suite 355, Oakville, ON, L6M 2Y1

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The Arctic Rose Foundation is a charitable organization that was founded by Susan Aglukark in 2012 and officially designated as a registered charity in 2016. The mission of The Arctic Rose Foundation is to instill hope for Northern Inuit, First Nations and Metis children, youth and their families through the creation of physically, emotionally, mentally, culturally safe places and the provision of holistic, adaptable programming that engages, nurtures and supports them in healthy and meaningful ways.