7th Generation Image Makers

The signature interdisciplinary arts and media program at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST). Since 1996, 7th Generation Image Makers has provided urban Aboriginal youth with access to high quality arts programming and professional arts training in a culturally supportive and safe environment. As with all programs at NCFST, 7th Generation Image Makers adheres to a service model that is culturally-based and respects the values of Aboriginal people, and the right to self-determination. 7th Generation Image Makers is committed to creating opportunities for Aboriginal youth to develop and maintain artistic literacy in a variety of creative disciplines and technologies. We maintain a talented collective of professional artists who often return as artist facilitators and mentors. Aboriginal youth work with artists, mentors, and elders to engage the community from an Aboriginal perspective through artmaking. The history of this program is grounded in carrying on traditions of image making. We are dedicated to working with diverse groups of Aboriginal artists, serving community members who may be new to Toronto, or who have always called the city home. Our programs facilitate knowledge transfer and skill-building, enabling youth to develop their artistic practice while at the same time fostering relationship-building.


September – July

Urban Indigenous Ways of Knowing objectives is to provide youth with opportunities to travel out of the city to other communities and explore how we can access and apply cultural ways of knowing within urban spaces. For participants attending the trips and workshops, this program aims to provide transformative first-time experiences for youth who face barriers when accessing cultural programming and traveling for ceremony. Past trips included Crawford Lake Conservation Area, Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Woodland Cultural Centre and various Indigenous communities close to the Toronto area.

During these field trips some of our youth experience for the first time participating in ceremony, traveling to sacred sites and meeting with Elders and knowledge keepers. In addition to the field trips, youth are mentored by Indigenous Artists, to prepare for the creative component of this program to be involved in a large group project for youth to design and paint a mural. The anticipated long-term impact is that the workshops within this program will continue to be memorable and transformative experiences for Indigenous youth ages 16-24. The program impacts how these participants locate themselves and indigenize space when they are in the city, while also allowing them to connect with knowledge keepers growing their bundles and ways of knowing. When the youth collaborate on the large scale creative component, they are able to see how ideas can be visualized, and how this process carries on not just the tradition of image-making but also visual literacy. This component of the program allows youth to see themselves reflected in the urban landscape in a positive way, and re-Indigenize the landscape.

In the spring of 2018 7th Generation Image Makers was invited by Leslie McCue from the Fort York National Historic Site to participate in the Indigenous Arts Festival through a live and interactive painting installation.
Taking place on National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21 and 22, 7th Generation Image Makers painted four murals in the park over two days, while also encouraging up to 1500 student visitors to participate in the painting.

September – July

Throughout the history of 7th Generation Image Makers, mural painting has remained an integral part of our programming. This practice has helped raise awareness of the Indigenous community in the city through the platform of street art aesthetics to capture and promote Indigenous perspectives within the urban landscape of Tkaronto. reGENerate was developed in 2017 as a mural making and arts entrepreneurship program that would re-establish 7th Generation Image Makers as a hub for Indigenous muralists. As a shared space, the goal is to create a program that would foster new relationships that youth could carry over into professional networks. The objective is to provide ten Indigenous youth aged 16-24 with the skills and experience they need to navigate the arts and culture sector as professional artists. This is done through a series of weekly workshops lead by the Arts Program Coordinator and various 7th GIM alumni. In this regard, participants received mentorship from former youth who are now professional artists.

September – July

The moon regulates various cycles here on earth, and Indigenous people have followed these cycles in the form of a lunar calendar for centuries. While there are variations on the teachings and names of each moon, the common-thread follows thirteen moons per year each carrying different stories within them. This calendar can be identified by observing the shell of the turtles back; connecting the lunar calendar to various teachings, ceremonies and creation stories of North America existing on the back of a turtle. From this it is clear that there are strong traditions of not only visual language but also visual literacy that are meant to increase our understanding of creation as an ongoing process. By integrating this calendar into the fabric of the 7th Generation Image Makers program Here on Turtle’s Back, participants are exposed to a variety of cultural teachings pertaining to each of the moons. This is done through monthly workshops with an artist, facilitator, or Elder where stories and teachings of that particular cycle are shared in the format of a workshop or presentation. Participants learn about a particular sustainable medium and respond visually to the teachings. The remainder of the month’s weekly workshops are used to complete a particular project with the guidance and assistance of the visiting artist instructor. The objective of Here On Turtle’s Back is to provide participants with the opportunity to explore a variety of ancestral practices, while also discussing the relationship we have with our materials as artists. The content of the program is based on the moon teachings of each facilitator. The moon teachings for the program are informed sometimes by the geography or location of the facilitator’s community, ceremonies associated with that moon, or materials that reflected the movement/changes that occur in the natural world during that moon. This allows for diverse program content that provides participants with a broader understanding of Indigenous teachings across Turtle Island.

September – June


The Doris McCarthy Gallery of the University of Toronto and 7th Generation Image Makers of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto Youth Artist in Residence Program is a pilot project that began in the fall of 2018. This program offers workspace, a stipend, and access to the University of Toronto Scarborough courses, events, staff, and faculty to an Indigenous youth with an interest in post-secondary and portfolio development. The residency will culminate at the end of the academic calendar year with a presentation of a completed bodywork by the artist in residence.

This initial pilot is open to Indigenous applicants aged 16-24 who are current or former members of the 7th Generation Image Makers Program at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. The artist-in-residence is selected according to criteria developed by the 7th Generation Image Makers in partnership with the Doris McCarthy Gallery Director, and Indigenous Elder of UTSC.


All My Relations program allows youth to experience working with horses and  learning about the historical relationship Indigenous peoples had with horses and how that relationship is still thriving today. These lessons consist of a number of film screenings, arts activities and talking circles. This program is a unique and powerful program encouraging participants to see themselves and the horses through the lens of the Seven Grandfather Teachings.

April – May

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto has participated in Doors Open Toronto for several years, and 7th Generation Image Makers has conducted various art installations and activations at our head office during the weekend event.