School Programs & Long Term Projects

 

 

 

 

 

Biography

D. Ahsén:nase Douglas (BA, BEd, OCT) is an oil painter, children's story book author and educator. His work is primarily figurative and imbued with subtle emotion.

The artist’s work explores contemporary Indigenous identity, culture, perspectives and stories through the "figure". His paintings can be found within private and public collections across Canada and the United States, as well as Australia.

He is self-taught with formal training in art history and visual design, photography, computer science, social science and education. As an Indigenous Artist in Residence with the York Region District School Board and Educational Partner with the Toronto District School Board, he has been given the opportunity to share his art, culture and stories with a variety of students of all ages.

D. Ahsén:nase Douglas is Kanien'keha:ka (Mohawk) with roots in the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory. He is recognized by the Ontario Arts Council as well as  the Canada Council for the Arts as a professional "Indigenous Visual Artist".

While he finds it amusing to watch people try to pronounce his Kanien'keha (Mohawk Language) name, he simply asks to be called "Dee".

As an artist I feel it's important to give back to the community whenever possible, but as a First Nations artist I believe that it is important to educate the youth of today with authentic knowledge and experiences so that real reconciliation can take place between the Indigenous (Onkwehón:we) and the non-indigenous people of Turtle Island.

When working with a school I bring more than "just art" to the classroom, as an authentic "Indigenous person" I also to bring real life experiences, lived history and knowledge. I've worked with teachers in the past to strengthen and expand their other courses in a way that brings an authentic Indigenous point of view, this has included topics such as residential schools, OKA and colonialism within Canada. My goal is to work WITH the teacher as a classroom partner.

 

Testimonials

The learning that Dee brings into our classroom is irreplaceable. His lessons are always well thought-out, highly visual and animated, and keep the students' rapt attention. He responds to and addresses recent events in the media and generates important discussions about Indigeneity and FNMI issues using entry points appropriate for the grade levels he is teaching. 

The students also profit enormously from Dee's lived experience as an artist, benefitting from his rich knowledge base of conceptualizing and creating painted works. Through his guidance, the students fully grasp the tenets of the Creative Process. The final product is always a piece of art that they are proud of.

Alexandria Critch
J/I French Immersion Teacher, Ventura Park Public School

Praise from a student: 

'Art was never really my thing, but this year I learned to actually make art. (This lesson) made 2021 my best year!'

Ventura Park Public School

 

 

Contact Information: You can email me at

Update: April 4th, 2024 - I am currently booking for the new school year 2024-2025. If interested in a quote for your school, please contact me above. Thank you

 

A York Region District School Board Story

Released June 2020

 

These are some of the things I have done in the classroom.

 

Special Note: I am now an official "Education Partner" with the Toronto District School Board as well as an "Indigenous Artist in Residence" with the York Region District School Board.

 

Selected Schools I've worked with:

York Region District School Board

  • Cornell Village Public School
  • Emmy Carr Secondary School
  • Ventura Park Public School
  • Beckett Farm Public School
  • Mackenzie Glen Public School
  • Unionville Public School
  • Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School
  • Keswick Secondary School
  • Milliken Mills Secondary School
  • Vaughan Secondary School
  • Markham District Secondary School
  • Silver Stream Public School
  • Park Avenue Public School
  • William Armstrong Public School
  • Redstone Public School
  • Legacy Public School
  • Anne Frank Public School
  • Donald Cousins Public School
  • James Robinson Public School
  • Buttonville Public School
  • Morning Glory Public School
  • Bayview Secondary School
  • Vivian Outdoor Centre
  • Lincoln Alexander Public School
  • Stonebridge Public School
  • Edward T. Crowle Public School
  • Carrville Mills Public School
  • Keswick Secondary School
  • Roméo Dallaire Public School
  • Adrienne Clarkson Public School
  • Franklin Public School
  • Unionville Secondary School
  • Lake Wilcox Public School
  • Richmond Green Secondary School
  • Aurora Secondary School
  • Highgate Public School
  • Milliken Mills Public School
  • Mount Albert Public School
  • Wellington Public School
  • Castlemore Public School
  • Northern Lights Public School
  • Richmond Hill High School
  • Black Walnut Public School

Toronto District School Board

  • Beverley Heights Middle School
  • Sir Samuel B Steele Public School 

Other:

  • Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre
  • Enaahtig Healing Lodge (for YRDSB)
  • Loyalist College - Kingston
  • Teacher AQ - FNMI Studies AQ Part 1 - YRDSB
  • Teacher AQ - FNMI Studies Specialist - YRDSB

 

Below are some examples of classes that I have been given the opportunity to either lead or participate. Most of these photos were taken from various school board tweets.

 

 

Black Walnut Public School

Winter 2023

While with Black Walnut Public School I worked with six grade 7 & 8 classes to create this large (largest to date in YRDSB) Indigenous based wall mural for their hallway. Measuring 40x8 feet, it was a huge undertaking but the students were easily able to step-up-to the challenge.

After four days of Indigenous learning and design, the students created individual images illustrating a traditonal oral story that I told on the first day. I ALWAYS use traditonal oral stories and learning as a "springboard" for student work.

After the designs where completed, I took these designs and consolidated them into a pleasing wall mural measuring 40x8 feet.

 

 

Northern Lights Public School

Fall 2023

I had the pleasure of working with the grade 8 students at Northern Lights Public School to create a series of canvases that when hung in sequential order word illustrate a specific Mohawk Traditional Story. Using the Woodland Style as a base, I taught the classes line, color and story in order to allow the students to visiualize and illustrate each section of the story according to their own lens and style.

 

 

 

Mount Albert Public School

Spring 2023

Mount Albert Public School was an unusual situation in which we created two very large murals concurrently. This project took 12 weeks (1 full day per week) and included three grade 8 classes. I typically only do mural work with grade 7 and 8 as I find they have the skill level and perseverance to finish a project of this scope. Like my other projects everything is inspired by Haudenaunsee or Mohawk stories, either oral or written. While I teach through my own experiences as a Woodland Style artist (80s), I prefer to stress the idea of line, color and story. Which can also be applied to graphic novel illustration and comic book art. As a 20+ year commercial artist who concentrated primarily on book covers and lllustration, I find that the skills and ideas taught within this project are applicable to all forms of art.

 

 

William Armstrong Public School

Spring 2023

I worked with the grade 5 and grade 7 students of William Armstrong Public School for a total of 10 weeks. During this time they were exposed to Indigenous/Mohawk culture, stories and expeiences. I taught them design, line and color. Unlike the "mural projects", a project based on "canvas work", either indivual or group, I was able to spend the entire time in the classroom with all students.

 

 

Donald Cousins Public School

Spring 2023

At Donald Cousins I’ve worked with three grade 8 classes to create a 15x7 foot mural based on a Mohawk story. The students worked on indiviudal canvases in the classroom with their regular teachers while I worked with smaller groups in the hallway. The first 5 lessons (days) encompassed Indgenous/Mohawk knowledge and stories, Indigenous art, as well as design,color and line. I welcome the students to interpret my stories through their lens. This was a 10 week project.

 

 

Markham District High School

Spring 2023

I worked with this grade 11 art class at Markham District High School during the spring of 2023. The first day was discussion, lecture and group thumb nail sketches on the interpretation of the idea of "Community". Sharing my cultural point of view, we discussed family, clans, community and the environment. This last section tying in nicely to the concept or practice of decision making based on the forward thinking concept of the next "Seven Generations".

 

 

Buttonville Public School

Winter 2023

While with Buttonville Public School I worked with two grade 7 classes and two grade 8 classes. Working in groups of 4-5, the students illustrated traditional Haudenosaunee stories, either written or told orally by myself. In addition to the wonderful experience of group work, the students where able to experience the art process from both a Mohawk and professional artist perspective. These wonderful paintings will hang thoughout the school to tell the stories heard from the students perspective.

 

James Robinson Public School

Winter 2023

While at James Robinson PS I worked with four grade 7 & 8 classes to produce a wall mural based on a variety of Haudenosaunee Stories, both oral and written. Each class was given instruction on line, color and story and asked to illustrate a scene from the story in such as way as they would contain these characteristics and express the story. While I don't teach the students to paint within the "Woodland Style" I do use this as one of my teaching styles along with others that emphasis the Indigenous story teller as well as artist. I prefer to let the student's own "style" ring true rather than impose a particular style.

The overall mural "design" is my own, and is used to bring together various student elements into one cohesive package. I like to say that I orchestrate the students in much the same way the old masters did within their studios/workshops, or as the famous Cree painter Kent Monkman now does within his studio. Kentmonk Process Video

 

 

Sir Samuel B. Steele Junior Public School (TDSB)

Winter 2023

While with Sir Samuel B. Steele Junior Public School I was given the opportunity to work with two talented grade 6 classes. The designs that you see were entirely their own designs based on Indigenous stories both told and written during the first day of class. While the overall design was my own, I used selected class designs as the elements within the mural to best illustrate each story.

I then worked with small groups of students on a rotation basis to complete the painting process. The last stage was left to myself to complete the blackline work.

Rather than creating a large wall mural, this school opted for two large canvases (4x4 feet) that could be hung as needed. This option is sometimes preferred for those school with limited wall space.

 

 

Anne Frank Public School

Fall 2022

I worked with one grade 8 and one 7 class for this project. The goal was to create a series of panels that would illustrate a tradional oral story that I told on the first day. Once complete, each 3x3 foot panel would be mounted in sequential order to visually tell the complete story. A panel on the side would contain the portion of the story being illustrated as well as the students names.

Anne Frank PS is a special place for me. More than just the opportunity to work with some wonderful students, I also created some friendships that I hope will last a long time. These relationships are teasured and is what is mean in part by the Indigenous words "All my Relations".

The middle picture shows an exchange of culture in the form of food with the principal. One frybread for one Sufganiyah. I need to admit that I received the better end of the exchange and entirely enjoyed my first taste of this delicious pastry. I was also given the story of Hanukkah for which I am grateful. Nia:wen Aneta Fishman and her staff for making me feel welcome.

 

 

Redstone Public School - YRDSB

Fall 2022

Grade 8 students at Redstone P.S. just wrapped up a project working with Dee Douglas, a Mohawk artist, to explore First Nation art, cultures and perspectives. See the beautifully created mural below, inspired by First Nation stories and lessons guided by the artist! @Ahsennase

- Taken from official RedStone Public School Twitter Account

 

 

Beverly Height Middle School - TDSB

Fall 2022

This is perhaps my largest mural to date with the greatest number of classes. I work with 5 grade 8 classes for 12 weeks to produce this 27 x 8 foot main mural, as well as two 4 x 8 foot supplimental mural. All work is based on a traditional Mohawk story that I tell in class the first day.

 

 

 

 

 

Cornell Village Public School

Spring Term 2022

Working with two grade 7 and two grade 8 classes, we completed a record breaking double mural set in 10 weeks! The grade 8 mural can be seen in the main stairwell at the front of the school, while the grade 7 mural can be seen at the top of the same staircase in the adjoining hallwall. Using a traditional oral story as a spring board the students created elements of the mural using their own styles and imagination. These designs were then brought together by the artist in residence to bring in focus and capture the essense of the original story.

 

 

 

 

Redstone Public School

Winter Term- 2022

Redstone PS required a mural for a blank wall that previously contained an out of date painting. Originally planned for the library and much smaller, this mural became my largest to date measuring in at 15x7 feet. With the help of three grade 8 classes we were able to complete this mural in 10 weeks. Based on student designs and orchestrated by myself, we were able to bring together a unique depiction of a tradition oral story.

 

 

The final step, finishing the "blackline work" during the final week.

 

 

 

Milliken Mills Public School

Winter Term - 2022

Group projects (canvas) based on oral traditional stories. The goal of the project is to create a "story board" that reflects the stories told by myself. The students are taught line, form, shape and painting techniques. While various forms of Indigenous art are used as samples, students are encouraged to explore their own creative styles.

 

 

 

 

Highgate Public School

Fall Term - 2021

First Nations Mural Project - Wa'tkonnonhwerá:ton - "Welcome"

In the fall of 2021 I spent 10 weeks with three grade 7 and 8 classes. The goal was to inspire artwork and a subsequent mural in the foyer of the school that would be based on Indigenous learning through stories and other leassons. The theme was Wa'tkonnonhwerá:ton, creating a welcoming message for new visitors entering the school. Students created the indiviual designs except for the central Mohawk figure and background that was created by myself to give the final mural a cohesive message and design.

 

 

 

June - National Indigenous History Month - 2021

During the entire month of June I made virtual classroom visits to both elementary and high schools. Within the elementary school (typically grade 1-6) I talking about contemporary Indigenous communities and introduced students to basic concepts. Then told by children's story book, "Coyoye Boy: an original Trickster story". With pictures being "shared" via Google Classroom or Zoom I was able to tell the story and voice the characters behind the scene. Great fun for me, and the kids loved it!

High School students had a chance to discuss art related topics, view my process while I integrated topics of identity, stereotype, appropriationation and responsible art making into the mix.

 

 

 

Teaching During the 2020-2021
COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Teaching during the 2020-2021 Covid-19 Pandemic was a difficult experience for teachers and students alike. With two teenage sons in grade 10 then 11, I constantly worried about both their health and education. It was a trying experience for me personally.

As an freelance art, history and Indigenous social justice teacher I found it extremely stressful at times because when you define an important part of yourself as a teacher, and then suddenly find yourself unable to teach, the stress levels DO rise.

Luckily I was able to continue as many had, I soon learned to adapt and to find news ways to reach my students online. In some cases I found my new methods worked better and gave students a more "personal" view of my painting process... much like "Bob Ross".

In a lot of cases I continued to teach history and social justice issues to high school "Native Studies" students, but I also gave "talks" to teachers within their FNMI Studies AQ courses. Thus helping to further their knowledge and help them qualify to teach Indigenous based subjects within their board.

Here are some photos of my virtual art "classroom".

My "Demo" desktop
Giving one of my students live feedback

 

 

Adrienne Clarkson Public School

First Nations Mural Project

As with most of my programs, this class started with an introduction to First Nations culture and ended with a traditional oral story. Using that story as inspiration, the students created a number of "characters" that would later be used for a wall mural. Being an 8 week program I was able to include additional art lessons on shape, form and line as well as pallet selection. And as I normally do I included more First Nations culture such as the Mohawk language.

This is an example of some of the final designs from ONE of my classes. At Adrienne Clarkson there were 75 students making up a total of three grade 8 classes.

The Initial Design

The orignal intent was to take the best 3 designs from each class and to create an integrated mural. I originally started doing this and was able to fit 4 from each class into the mural on the left. However, I found it very difficult to ignore the other GREAT work created and decided to include a second mural on the right. This is an ambitious project when you consider we will be starting the first week of June and only have 3 weeks to complete both murals. The plan is to have the students complete 90% of the work.

The Final Mural (above two images)

 

 

Markham District High School

March 2020

Grade 11 & 12

I've also done one day portraiture workshops with an emphasis on classical procedures, drawing from life, and the Zorn Pallet. In this case we had a volunteer student to sit for us. I also spoke about the importance of lighting and demonstrated 3/4 lighting technques. The students had many questions about the business of a Professional Artist as well as technique.

     

 

In classroom oil painting demo (started in class - completed in the studio)

 

 

Beckett Farm Public School

2019-2020 Grade 7 & 8

Four large canvases (4x8 feet), 160 students, 4 sessions per week for 3 months. We completed some wonderful art based on some traditional oral stories I told. In the end I brought my son in to help with the black line work. The emphasis was on line, color and translating an oral story to a pictorial format.

My eldest son Jake (one of the three feathers) is helping me put some finishing touches on the panels before completion. This was the last major project that I completed before the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.

 

 

Unionville PS - 2019
Grade 7 & 8

This library mural was created in a large part by the students themselves. Taking their designs, I orchestrated a harmonious design that created a narrative story.

 

 

Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School - 2019

Grade 7

This rather large program included 120 grade 7 students, four classes twice a week for 8 weeks. In addition to an introduction to First Nations culture, and specifically Kanien'keha:ka culture, I taught design and color. The projects included individual canvases that will hang in the library and a wall mural that will grace the front foyer.

I was also asked to speak at the staff meeting about our project, cultural appropriation as well as other top-of-the- mind topics.

 

 

Keswich Highschool

(December 2018) GraDE 12

This five day program (75 minutes each day) ran from Monday to Friday and encompassed the use of oils on canvas with traditional figurative painting skills. Each day included a short demo, discussion and videos as well as practice. Due to the short time in class it is not expected that the students will complete the project during the artist's stay, but additional time will be needed within class. This prorgam gives the students a basic understanding of the tools and techniques needed to explore this medium further.

Longer class times are recommended for the student to fully benefit from this experience.

 

 

Markham District

Highschool (June 2018)

During MDHS' annual Indigenous Conference I had the pleasure to be invited to teach two 70 minute workshops to these attentive Grade 10 classes. I tried to incorporate as much about art, Kanien'keha:ka culrure and Indigenous culture as possible. But of course the time was limited. I also included a "ways of seeing" drawing exercise.

Near the end I had a discussion with art teachers about Cultural Appropriation in the field of art and had the chance to reference my favourite example of what NOT to do. We all agreed that AmandaPL is a great example of "White Priviledged Cultural Appropriation".

 

 

ET Crowle PS - Fall 2017

Preparing for Quest


ET Crowle PS - Preparing for Quest In preparation for Quest 2017, the students of Miss Ringler's class were given a introduction to Indigenous and Kanien'keha:ka culture through class discussions and traditional oral stories. Later it was decided that Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson would be used as the source for individual projects (acrylic on canvas) and a larger 3x5 mural on wood panel.

This was 1 of 4 panels that would be inspired by various Indigenous issues and cutlure. The other panels would explore issues around MMIW&G (Grade 7), Social Issues (Grade 8) and Oral Story Telling (grade 6).

 

 

E.T.Crowle Public School

YRDSB QUEST 2017

Grade 5 & 6

This was a six class program in which I would spent half a day with the students to first teach them about Indigenous culture in general, then my Kanien'keha:ka culture in particular through discussion and traditional oral storytelling. After which time we started the design process based on a selected traditional story. It was decided to base this year's paintings off the story of "Hiawatha and the Peacemaker" as written by the famous Mohawk song writer and musican (The Band) Robbie Robertson from Six Nations Mohawk Territory in Brantford Ontario. We decided to go this route since this oral story takes 12 days to recite and I am far from qualified to tell this tradtional Haudenosaunee story in all it's glory and detail.

 

 

 

ET Crowle PS (June 2018)


On National Indigenous Day I spent the morning with Mrs. White's Grade 2 class telling oral stories and reading from my story book, Coyote Boy. As you can tell I'm a "full-body" story teller.

Grade 2

 
 
 

 

 

Silver Stream PS (May 2018)


A little younger than the classes I normally teach, I was suprisingly impressed by their manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. They produced wonderful work and enjoyed my lessons on Indigenous culture through oral story telling. In addition to individual projects, I've taken their work and incorporated it into one large mural.

Grade 4

 

Stone Bridge PS (Dec 2017)


I teach line, color and design using a variety of indigenous art styles with traditional oral stories as inspiration. I bring indigenous culture to students who have never met an indigenous person before. I like to think I am making a difference.

Grade 8

 

Keswick High School (Oct 2017)

"All My Relations"
Visual Arts through Indigenous ways of learning.

Grade 10 & 12

 

 

Keswick High School (Oct 2017)

"The Old Ones"
Grade 12

This Indigenous themed art project relates to the difficult and often overlooked task of "seeing" rather than simply "looking" at an object. This important skill is part of the artist’s mental toolbox, and allows the artist to capture more than the likeness of a person or thing, but also the "essence". With the use of the “old ones” I teach my students respect for Mother Earth as well as, I hope, the ability to “see” the minute details of light, shadow and texture.

The ability of students to really experience what is around them in the physical world is being lost as they plug into an electronic world that invades every aspect of their senses. They look without seeing and experience nothing unless it can be found within the confines of their phone or electronic devices.

 

 

KAIROS BLANKET EXERCISE (Oct 2017)

Markham District High School, grade 9
Click an image to expand.

 

Artist in residence (2017)

The Artist in Residence program brings into the classroom, professional artists to work with a class or classes for a entire week. In the case of this particular project, I worked with a Grade 8 class in the mornning and a Grade 7 class in the afternoon. Like all my programs, I integrate First Nations culture and oral storytelling into my lessons.

After an introduction and project explanation, I told a traditonal oral story which I then then broke into sections. I feel that it is important to "tell" the story in a traditional manner so that the students experience an "authentic" telling that they can later incorporate into their art. Once complete each panel can be mounted sequentially to pictorially retell the story.

Below are selected samples of the panels which are 3.5 feet wide and 5 feet tall. The grade 8 class was responsible for the first 6 panels, whereas the grade 7 students tackled the last 6 panels.

Top Three - Grade 8 & Bottom 3 - Grade 7

 

Grade 12 First Nations Art Inquiry (2016)

 

 

Grade 11 First Nations Art Inquiry (2016)

 

Grade 12 FN Art INQUIRY

The following photos are a continuation of the project which started in 2016 with the grade 12 class from Unionville High School. We did these in April, and were destined to be shown on May 3 at the Aurora Cultural Centre. With such a short deadline, you can imagine that the students and teacher were pushing hard to get this competed on time.

Working with 4 other Indigenous artists we tried to immerse the students in as much cultural experience as possible. This included exposure to our art, traditional oral stories and culture. I am please to say that 3 out of the 4 sculptures depicted below seem to be a result of my telling of the Sky-Woman story. Although this could be a loose translation on my part. One depicts a woman holding a pregnant belly (Sky-Woman), a pair of hands hold a turtle shell with a muskrat swimming upwards, and a goose swept up by a whirl wind of air coming in for a landing. Each will incorporate glass as well as wood.

I would like to stress that we (the NDN artists) acted as inspiration and did perhaps give a little guidance during the design process ( I also contributed a small amount of carving to the goose’s wings), but most of the talent and hard work must be attributed to the students themselves, as well as Shane; the chainsaw welding teacher (who should be considered a true artist in his own right) from Unionville High School.

 

 

Grade 8 Art Class (Woodland Style)

 

As a traditional oral storyteller and artist, Ahsén:nase uses stories as a way of engaging student’s minds and hearts, he then helps to make connections to the art with these stories. Selecting the Woodland style art form for its step-by-step methodology, Ahsén:nase was able to take his students from a relative state of indigenous ignorance to a position of relative comfort. It all began with the “story”.

 

 

Stone Bridge Public School

First Nations Mural Project

Characters for the mural were based on our Woodland Style paintings that we created in a previous class. I then took these characters and incorporated them into an overall design. Adding a background that would highlight the students work, and create an overall pleasing theme.

 

Grade 7 Art Class
(oral story interpretation through art)

 

 

 

Grade 8 Social Studies
& Art Class

 

This program was a little different in that I was given the opportunity to help teach the entire unit on First Nations culture and eventual European contact. I worked with the teacher in a tag-team arrangement where I provided additonal information to help fill in different areas, gave an Indigenous point of view, and brought things to the discussions that normally would not be included. The culmination of this knowledge was expressed with arcylic on canvas and a celebration at the end that included fry bread!

I will forever be grateful to Ms. White for giving me the opportunity to do this. I found it a great learning experience and I personally feel that these students went away with not only a historical sense of FN culture, but an understanding of the issues and priorities of FN people today.

 

 

 

Coyote Boy: An original Trickster Story

Coyote Boy is currently being used in a number of elementary school classrooms in Southern Ontario as well as the Northern Cheyenne Reservation School in Montana USA, and is available from Goodminds.com. It was also selected for the 2016 - First Nation Communities Read - Recommendation List

The photo to the left/below shows the classroom bulletin board from Northern Cheyenne Reservation School.

In June 2017, Coyote Boy was performed as a stage play by the grade 5s of Stonebridge Public School, Markham, Ontario.