WINNIPEG (CP) - The unlikely combination of hip-hop music and aboriginal dancers greeted Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean at an inner-city art gallery Monday where she encouraged young people to fight violence through art.
Jean spoke with members of the Graffiti Gallery, a studio space on a street that was, until recently, a stroll for prostitutes and a gathering place for the homeless.
It was Jean's third visit with urban artists in Canada - the first was in Calgary followed by Toronto in late April - to deliver her message that young people can use culture to change their communities.
"(I want) to really spend time with people who do things ... people who see arts as a tool ... to bring about change in communities," Jean said. "A tool, really, to sometimes save a life, change a destiny. This can happen."
Jean, who has promised to make youth a priority, also wanted to hear comments from the young artists on the difficulties creating art in a violent environment.
"Since I was installed as 27th governor general of Canada, I have vowed to give youth a voice, and to accompany young Canadians in an effort to build a better world, a better society," Jean said.
One of the young people Jean acknowledged was Patrick Ross, a former inmate-turned-artist.
Ross, 28, beamed as Jean gave him the nod during her address. He served five years for a home invasion nearly 10 years ago and learned to paint while he was behind bars.
The executive director of the Graffiti Gallery, which has operated for nine years, expressed his gratitude to the governor general.
"The seeds you plant here tonight, with the careful nurturing of this community, are sure to yield a bounty that will benefit the lives of many for many, many years to come," said Steve Wilson.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jean will be awarded an honorary doctorate of laws in recognition of her service to Canadians before she was appointed governor general.
Prior to working as a journalist for the CBC's French service, Jean worked for eight years in Quebec shelters for abused women.