Eleni Kilbride

2021 International Women's Day Nominee - Eleni Kilbride

Give a brief bio about yourself/ your background/ your history.

I was born and raised in Brandon, MB, and I have mixed Ojibway and European ancestry from Swan Lake First Nation (SLFN). I am a mother and a stepmother to four children. I am married to a supportive husband who has encouraged me through every aspect of pursuing my education. I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life raising a family and advocating for my children with additional support needs.

In terms of my own upbringing, I grew up with one brother who is a political science major here at BU. My dad is a musician and has been writing and playing music for as long as I can remember. His passion for the arts has influenced and inspired me countless times over the years. My mom is a teacher for the Brandon School Division. Growing up I used to spend a lot of time in her classroom and admired her patience and passion for teaching. She is also an avid reader who has always ensured no one goes without books!

What education have you taken?

I graduated from Vincent Massey High School in 2007. My journey at Brandon University began soon after with a four-month old baby. Two months into my first year, my child was hospitalized due to epilepsy (many years later she was also diagnosed with autism). Learning to navigate neurodiversity as a parent took precedence over several years and led to my interest in child development. As a result, I enrolled in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Assiniboine Community College (ACC) and graduated with distinction. This year I will be graduating with my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (Honours) with a minor in Psychology.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I am proud of being the recipient of both a provincial and federal scholarship in the 2020/2021 school year. I was presented with the Recognize Scholarship from the Manitoba Arts Council and awarded the C.D. Howe Scholarship from the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

Ever since I was in kindergarten, I would say I wanted to be an artist. Having a child at a young age did make me question the practicality of that venture. However, once I saw how supportive the community is here while simultaneously learning about the many mothers that are actively engaged in the contemporary art field, I knew it was something I wanted to stick with.

What is your philosophy in life?

For one, there is no timeline for how life should go. Sometimes there are setbacks and it’s hard not to get discouraged. Don’t give up. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that you can’t pour from an empty cup. This is something I am still working on but find so important for the sake of my mental health. In these challenging times especially, it applies to everyone – don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

First and foremost, I plan to finish off this year homeschooling my three daughters. As soon as I am able, I look forward to gaining more field experience and finding a balance between working as an ECE2 and practicing artist. In both roles I feel creative expression will be a vital tool for coping with the effects of the pandemic. In this regard I would also like to give back to my community, SLFN. In the more distant future, I hope to pursue grad school for my MFA in painting.

What do you #ChooseToChallenge?

I #ChooseToChallenge gender biases in autism research.

Nominator’s Comments:

Eleni Kilbride is currently completing her Thesis Exhibition year to obtain her BFA from Ishkaabatens Was Gaa Inaabateg Department of Visual Art at Brandon University. Her thesis exhibition focuses on technically and aesthetically compelling figurative paintings depicting her three children and their different developmental stages, learning styles and personalities. Eleni’s artwork comes from her intersectional identity as Indigenous woman, artist, student, and mother. She works collaboratively with her daughters, who act as art director and physical contributor. Through her artwork and its eventual display in the Glen P Sutherland Gallery, Eleni is decolonizing art practices, taking away the myth of the artist genius by honouring the art work of children, valuing a collaborative process, and welcoming in families and children to spaces that are often rigid with rules.

This year during the pandemic, Eleni has been home schooling her three children while completing her thesis year. She has taken on this incredibly difficult task and reflected on it through her artwork simultaneously, exercising control (through paint, through parenting) and allowing for the messy uncontrolled aspects to be embraced and incorporated in her artwork. Eleni is hard working, kind, generous, and thoughtful. She is modelling her passion and drive for her three daughters and for her peers in the Department of Visual Art.