In November, St. Francis Xavier University (StFX)’s Coady Institute celebrated a significant milestone for its Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership initiative. In a virtual event, Indigenous Program Lead Karri-Lynn Paul announced that the campaign surpassed its $1 million fundraising goal.
During the event, attendees heard from program graduates, staff, and supporters. Paul also unveiled artwork by Mi’gmaq artist Tracey Metallic titled Keepers, which she says will serve as the visual representation of the initiative’s work and goals.
Metallic says when she first heard about the Circle of Abundance it reminded her of an earlier painting that depicts her own journey toward empowerment.
“I had Sun Catcher in mind because she’s all about that – holding each other up, helping each other out,” Metallic explains.
Metallic began painting “on and off” in 2014 after she decided to take leave from work to focus on her own healing.
“I was a social worker. I was practicing social work and I was also living with depression.”
Metallic’s brother passed away in 2003. Six months later her sister died. Then she lost her mother.
“I just kept getting one blow after another,” she explains.
“In 2015, I worked for an employment and training program. I was the in-house social worker and I taught classes on healing. Being depressed, it wasn’t a tough decision to decide I have to practice what I preach. I needed to take time off, so I did that.”
It was during this time that Metallic began focusing on her painting. At first, she painted cartoon characters for her grandchildren. After receiving praise for her work on social media, she developed the confidence to pursue her own designs.
“In my time off, my painting was an outlet for my stress and my depression. It was just phenomenal what it did for me and that’s why I’m still doing it today. It helped me channel what I was going through in life and how I was healing onto a canvas.”
“Keepers” by Tracey Metallic
I’ve been there. I was down right to the bottom. I know how it feels when there’s no other way but up –
and that journey is beautiful.
Metallic says she does not always accept commissions because she likes to take her time and paint from a personal place.
“Over the past two years I’ve been making it into more of a business, but making sure that I’m really true to why I paint to being with. I don’t force my paintings, they just come to me,” she explains.
However, when she heard about the Circle of Abundance, she thought it was a perfect fit.
“When [Paul] explained to me about women lifting each other up, that’s what I do. That’s exactly what I do and what I had done in my previous employment. I’m a social worker. That’s why I went into social work. And I’ve been there. I was down right to the bottom. I know how it feels when there’s no other way but up – and that journey is beautiful.”
Pulling inspiration from both her own journey and what she learned about the Circle of Abundance, Metallic began to design Keepers.
“I had an idea with this circle. It’s like a ball of energy. That’s empowerment,” she explains.
“You can see how the dress is kind of a mountain, and the sunrise coming up, and then you see water; it’s like we’re coming from the earth – natural. Women are nurturers. We’re natural nurturers.”
The Circle of Abundance initiative launched earlier this year with an opening gift from Hollywood’s Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Metallic says she was surprised to learn that Reynolds shared her work on social media, and she is now reaching a larger audience than before.
“I was just overwhelmed. It still hasn’t stopped. I’m still getting orders right now,” she says. “My head’s still spinning. But it’s a good spin.”