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A Day in the Life: Shirley Cheechoo - The Brock Press

April 5, 2016


Source: A Day in the Life: Shirley Cheechoo – The Brock Press


A day in the life of Brock’s newly appointed Chancellor, Shirley Cheechoo, is a busy one. After waking up in her home on Manitoulin Island, she will typically either spend her day at the Weengushk Film Institute, spend time with her granddaughter, or travel around the nation. Given the wide array of activities that Cheechoo engages in, it is more realistic to investigate what a week in her shoes is like.


“It all depends on what day it is,” said Cheechoo. “I work seven days a week, 80 hours a week. They’re long hours and I’m a writer on top of that and I do youth workshops across Canada as well. There are some days I am very busy and others where I spend the whole day with my five-year-old granddaughter.”

“I write narratives and films as well, since I’m a filmmaker. I have done a lot of documentaries and feature length films, so I write and I travel a lot too,” added Cheechoo.


When it comes to her day job, Shirley Cheechoo keeps herself busy at the Weengushk Film Institute. Cheechoo founded the Weengushk Film Institute in 2002 as a non-profit organization that teaches youth to engage in and express themselves through the arts. Weengushk, she explained, “means sweet-grass in Ojibwe and means it clears the path because sweet-grass clears the path.”


“I am the founder and executive director of the institute,” explained Cheechoo. “I work there and my day is mostly full with fundraising, recruitment and dealing with large board stuff.” “That’s what a normal day looks like, but when there are kids in the school I am even busier because I am the artistic director on top of that. I develop curricula and bring in instructors and I help students with whatever they need help with — like a mentor.”


Cheechoo is also in the process of establishing a new short film course at the institute and Brock is trying to help out.


“At Weengushk, we run a short film program that uses film as a tool to teach youth to write, read, do math, communications, business skills, and other life skills,” said Cheechoo. “They work on each other’s films and develop a resume during that process and they get an experience of what it is like to be a director, producer, script writer, supervisor, and so on. They learn all these while working on other people’s films while also directing their own films. Basically, that’s what we do and it’s a credit course through Brock University. This is the first year that it will be credited starting in Fall.”


On top of the work done through the institute, Cheechoo keeps herself busy with all manners of other projects.


“I am currently working with a couple of writers who want me to direct their films. We are in the process of developing the scripts right now. I am also mentoring young filmmakers, so if they need help putting their production or script together I help them too.”


In addition to this, she is also an accomplished visual artist.


“You will find my work either in museums or online,” said Cheechoo.


Surprisingly, although Cheechoo is an important person to Brock University, there is little representation of her artistic work at the university itself.


“There is only one piece of my art at Brock and it’s not on display,” said Cheechoo. “Brian Hutchings has a print of mine in his office. It’s a painting of three