Our Community: 'Red dress' raises awareness, shows student's metalwork skills

A class metalworking project at a Sooke school has turned into an opportunity to raise awareness of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Pyper Phillips, a 16-year-old Metis student at Edward Milne Community School, created a red metal dress sculpture that is both a testament to her skill using a plasma cutter — a device for cutting through metal — and a contribution to dialogue on the issue.

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Winnipeg-based Metis artist Jaime Black initially conceived the REDress Project, an art installation where hundreds of red dresses are hung in public places to represent the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. It is a permanent exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

On Vancouver Island, the Lil’ Dress Project grew from a conversation around the kitchen table on how the local Aboriginal community could bring more awareness to the issue in the region.

The logo for the Comox-based grassroots group, designed by First Nations artist Karver Everson, served as the template for the dress made from aluminum by Phillips.

“I am happy to be able to support the project,” said Phillips. “Working on it has certainly increased my understanding of the issue.”

She used a plasma cutter to cut out the design of the metal dress sculpture, which measures 110 centimetres tall, 66 cm wide and three millimetres thick.

The sculpture is powder-coated to give it colour and a durable finish.

Phillips is enrolled in TASK (Trades Awareness Skills and Knowledge), a hands-on trades program. The program, a partnership between the Sooke School District 62 and Camosun College, gives high-school or college students the opportunity to explore five different trades.

They can choose from carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet metal and welding.

At Edward Milne Community School, Grade 11 and 12 students who enroll in the metal TASK program learn about metal fabrication through class, shop instruction and work experience.

Phillips has created two dresses, one of which will be hung in the school, where it will be used as a learning tool. The second dress will be donated to the Lil’ Dress Project, as a thank-you for allowing the school to use its design.

While Phillips downplays her role, her instructor says she deserves recognition.

“She has inspired other students by her work,” said Matt Harmeson, TASK program head as well as metal fabrication teacher at the school.

Harmeson said the plan is to create smaller versions of the dress for sale, donating the proceeds to the Lil’ Red Dress Project.

Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign tops $350,000

Victorians responded to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign over the holidays, raising more than $350,000 for local programs and services for the community’s most vulnerable.

The non-profit had asked for the public’s support for the annual campaign, as the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in a significant increase in people asking for help leading up to the holidays.

“We let people know there was an increase in demand and they responded,” said spokeswoman Patricia Mamic. “There was an incredible outpouring of support from people in this community and those funds will stay right here to help feed, clothe and shelter those in need, while helping others escape violence and addiction.

Although there were fewer people out and about this holiday season, they were more generous, as this year’s donation total represents a $100,000 increase from last year.

Provincially, the campaign raised $5.3 million.

The Canadian arm of the Salvation Army began its work in 1882 and is one of the largest providers of social services in the country. It has a presence in more than 55 communities in B.C. and 400 communities across Canada.

For more information, go to salvationarmy.ca.

Friends of Uplands Park to tackle carpet burweed

Join the Friends of Uplands Park on a Carpet Burweed Crawl at Uplands Park, every Sunday from today until May.

The extremely invasive carpet burweed can destroy rare wildflowers.

The event is in partnership with Oak Bay’s parks department.

The event is free to join. It runs from 1 to 3 p.m. every Sunday until May from the marine kiosk at Cattle Point in the park, off Dallas Road.

For more information, go to friendsofuplandspark.org.

Got an idea for a project under Victoria’s strategic plan?

The City of Victoria is accepting applications for the city’s strategic plan grants, with $500,000 worth of funding available. Non-profit and community organizations are invited to submit applications for projects or programs that support the actions and outcomes of the City of Victoria’s Strategic Plan and build community resilience.

“We know that our community has been hit hard over the past year,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “These grants are one way that council can support local groups to create and enhance greater resilience in the community so we are better prepared and more resilient as a community as future challenges come our way.”

Previously funded projects have included programs to help prevent youth homelessness, support Indigenous healing, educate renters about their legal rights and responsibilities, create a neighbourhood tool-share program, and advise newcomers on educational and financial-assistance opportunities.

Since the program began in 2015, the city’s annual strategic plan grants have funded 286 projects, investing $3.1 million in the community. The deadline for applications is Jan. 31. For more information, go to victoria.ca/grants.

Nominations open for Victoria leadership awards

Nominations are now open for the Victoria Community Leadership Awards, presented by Leadership Victoria.

Nominations are open in 10 categories. Nominees are typically leaders who see an opportunity in the community and jump in with both feet to make a difference.

Leadership Victoria is an organization that grows community leadership. This is the 17th year of the awards.

Nominations are open to everyone. For more information, go to leadershipvictoria.ca.

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