Growing up across northern Saskatchewan, with roots in the Northwest Territories, Chip McCrimmon has worked to infuse his Deninu K'ue First Nation culture into the world of art and technology. It’s a process that led him to launching HeroHub – a new start-up that seeks to play matchmaker between those who do good and those who want to do good. When he’s not creating, Chip is a student at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and, between classes, he explained to us, by email, why cultural context can help create better stories that inspire new ideas for a better tomorrow.
You’re a young and talented Canadian artist. Why is art important?
I think a big opinion I have about art and being an artist is very unique compared to a lot of others. I believe everyone is an artist in their own way, you do not have to be a professional, award-winning, acclaimed artist who when to art school at some Ivy League school. I believe everyone’s art is unique to them, and that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others – much like how we don’t compare our fingerprints, we shouldn’t compare our artistic ability. Everyone I meet always says “I could never do that”, but the thing that everyone doesn’t realize is that the greatest artists the world has ever seen all started without knowing what they were doing.
You’re a member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation. How has your culture informed your work?
A huge part of my culture is focused on the earth and everything that it encompasses. I have been very influenced by this in creating my art as I really want to portray the beauty of our environment and all that we coincide with, such as trees and animals. A key aspect of my culture is realizing why humans were put on the planet, and that is to be the caretakers of Mother Earth and all that live in it. We were put on this planet to help take care of it and all that encompasses it, not to destroy it. I hope to promote that part of my Indigenous culture into Canadian culture through my art.
As my art is made from wood, I have made it a priority and focus to help give back to Mother Earth as it has provided me with the ability to make my art through the use of trees. I pay for the planting of 5 trees per piece of art purchased. Additionally, I have made an effort to acquire my wood from things such as unusable wooden furniture from the street. In doing so, I am recycling it instead of it being thrown into the landfill.
But you’ve also been influenced by the Woodland Cree culture. Is there power in bridging cultures? Is there also a risk?
Great question. I think that every culture has strengths and it really comes down to one’s perspective. I believe we all need to be a little more interested in cultures other than our own, as there is so much we can learn about each other and the world. One of the biggest things I encourage others to do is be empathetic to one another, no matter if it is big or small, we need to be more understanding of each other.
Many young artists feel like the creative world isn’t a professional option. You’re working to defy that perception. Why? Can other young people follow in your footsteps?
Anything is possible. That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it is possible. You just have to work hard, persist in times of doubt, and fight for what you want in life. And honestly, don’t listen to the naysayers, I never have. I have been told countless times I cannot be an artist because I didn’t go to art school but guess what? I’m an artist and I’m making waves. To further communicate my point, I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes from Confucius who said, “Those who think they can, and those that think they can’t – are both usually right.” You just have to believe in yourself, because if you don’t – who will?
How do you handle feedback? What advice would you give to young reviewers and reviewees to stick handle what is often an emotional process?
The number one piece of advice I could give is to listen and hear out every piece of feedback you get, whether good or bad. Do not take anything to heart, but reflect and analyze the feedback so that you can become a better person. I believe life is all about growth in everything we do, and feedback plays a vital role in that process.
What role does nature play in your work? Why does nature matter to you?
I think it really comes down to my culture. But a huge theme I like to portray and communicate through my work is the beauty of nature, it is seemingly something we take for granted, especially considering how none of us would be here without it. Furthermore, we really don’t usually know what role we are playing on the planet. It is one of the most important, to be caretakers of all – human or not.
Do you think nature can be a tool in bringing together cultures and healing divides?
I think that nature is the one thing that connects everyone at the root of it, and if we can facilitate a way to use it as a tool, that’s when we will come together as one.
You’ve also launched HeroHub. You’re combining your passion for art with a passion for technology, with the goal of giving back to others. Why this platform and why now?
I have always been passionate about giving back and helping others, but I had an epiphany when I experienced a personal problem both as a volunteer and then as an employee for a local charity. I realized there was a massive disconnect between individuals and organizations. And instead of me burning myself out trying to change the world all by myself – if I could help empower individuals, businesses, charities, and non-profits, that would have a massive impact on the local community, the region, the province, country, and ultimately the World!
Do platforms like HeroHub demonstrate how art, media and technology can play a bigger role in creating a better balance between people and nature?
I am not sure if HeroHub demonstrates it itself, but we definitely help facilitate it by helping individuals in the community be more aware or have access to key information about organizations such as Nature Labs, animal rescues, or even organizations focused on climate change and wildlife. My goal is to empower organizations even more by helping individuals find them, support them, and ultimately help them make a difference. Individuals can’t do that unless they know what organizations and opportunities are out there for them, and then that’s where we come in – to bridge that divide between both parties.
You’re young, but you’ve learned a great deal through your work and life. What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you knew at 15?
The one thing I always tell people is to change their perspective about failure. The unfortunate truth is that you cannot have success without failure, and you will fail more than you will succeed. So, it is beneficial to change your mindset about failure and to realize that the most successful people in the world have failed. Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team, now he is considered to be the best basketball player of all time (Sorry LeBron fans). Another great example is Oprah Winfrey, she was literally told she would never be a TV anchor, now she is considered to be the greatest TV host ever, and she even owns her own TV channel.
I feel like everyone in society looks at failure as a bad thing, but I look at it as a good thing. I don’t wish it to happen, but when it does, I always take time to reflect on why it didn’t work out and figure out where I can do better for the next time. I do the same thing when I am successful too, I think that’s why reflection and self-awareness are so important and great habits/skills to develop over time.
About Chip:My name is Chipewyan "Chip" McCrimmon and I was born in Toronto, raised throughout Saskatchewan, and went to Bloomington, Indiana (USA) to play high school lacrosse. I then moved to St. Catharines, Ontario where I completed my Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Brock University, played for the Men's Lacrosse team, as well as the Welland Generals Jr. B Box Lacrosse team. I currently reside in Kingston, Ontario where I recently completed the Masters of Management, Innovation & Entrepreneurship program from The Smith School of Business at Queen's University.
I am currently working on my tech-startup, HeroHub; which is a charitable ecosystem that creates a greater social impact by connecting individuals to charities, non-profits, and their opportunities with 5 innovative tools. My mission & vision with HeroHub is to disrupt and innovate the non-profit industry by providing everyone with the tools to help make a difference in their local communities and across the World.I am Dene (Chipewyan specifically) and a member of the Deninu K'ue First Nation. My home community is located in Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories on the Eastern shore of the Great Slave Lake. Although I have recently completed a bachelor's & master's degree, my real education came from hunting, fishing, and trapping in the bush of Northern Saskatchewan where I was also influenced by Woodland Cree culture as well! I am very proud of my Indigenous heritage and I strive to be a great representative of my people and my family. View his gallery Favourite Book: The Art of War by Sun Tzu Favourite Documentary: Before the Flood Favourite Program:> League of Innovators
Chip McCrimmon is leading by example – demonstrating how your culture, your geography, your values can help create better art and more engaging stories. He’s also showcasing that visual storytelling can be about more than just the story you want to tell, but the narrative you want to build for your community.• How has your culture, your geography, your values shaped your style, your message, your story? • Can our story help shape the stories we want to tell? Can our experiences create the human element so often missing from nature stories and art? • Can and should more of us build on the visual stories we tell and work to advance the message we’re sharing? Or is it better to be the dispassionate journalist, simply reporting observations, even as an artist? • How can the world of start-ups and social ventures help storytellers and artists? Are there new platforms that can help an idea to morph and become sustainable? • Does the visual storytelling community need to take a page from the start-up world and embrace failure, as Chip suggested? Is that how storytellers can avoid burn-out and find new ways to remain in their chosen field? Over to you.