I've just returned from a reconnaissance mission in Kirkland Lake.
To be honest, I wasn't sure how it would go.
I went to meet with people I'd never met, to see if they'd be interested in attending the upcoming exhibition of my work, Parallel Lines; and participating in my intercultural arts workshop — bringing together youth and seniors of all cultures to explore who they are, where they come from and what matters to them through storytelling, song, painting and self-care activities.
Given that Parallel Lines has been predicted to evoke powerful memories and deep seated emotions, I created the workshops to offer people a tool for self expression and healing; and also to assist in bridging communities.
This community is remarkable. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
My hosts: artist, Cesar Forero; Dr. Antonio Visbal; and their son, Eric, are three of the most kind and generous people I have encountered anywhere. Even while fighting off the flu and juggling a range of obligations they welcomed me into their home and worked tirelessly to help me make the connections necessary for a successful outcome. I cannot thank them enough.
It looks like I will be conducting workshops for the staff and students at Kirkland Lake District Composite School; staff and clients of CMHACT Canadian Mental Health Association Timiskaming Cochrane; members and guests of Beaverhouse First Nation; and visitors to Museum of Northern History, Kirkland Lake.
The warmth of reception I received from everyone; their enthusiasm and belief in the importance of this project fills my heart with joy.
Together we really can make a difference. When we take the time to meet and talk and share stories together we develop empathy and compassion.
Racism and fear have much less power when we are no longer strangers.
I want to thank Chief Marcia Brown Martel and my friend Darlene Angeconeb, whose stories inspired me to design the workshop and develop the project further.
Many thanks also to the Kirkland Lake Contemporary Art Committee and the Kirkland Lake Multicultural Group for their tireless support, encouragement and dedication to the work and the concept.
Parallel Lines is an interactive art installation and social engagement project addressing reality, perception and choice. The title Parallel Lines refers to the physical and emotional bars of the prisons in which we periodically find ourselves. It also refers to how opposite sides of a road, in one-point perspective, appear to converge in the distance — just as seemingly opposing view-points can converge with a new understanding.
Featuring a series of encaustic paintings (painted with beeswax); a collection of prison beds reclaimed from the Kingston Penitentiary for Women; and a pathway of eggshells upon which Visitors may walk — Parallel Lines intrigues people of all ages and cultures. Storytelling is a key component of the work as well. Visitors are invited to interact with the installations, create their own works and share their stories.
I will be present in the gallery on various days, performing; inviting public participation; facilitating discussions and storytelling sessions. (Contact Museum of Northern History for details, dates and times.)
I look forward to seeing you there!
LeadingTone (the artist-run not-for-profit charitable arts organization of which I am Artistic Director) is getting back on its feet after several years of soul searching. I'm delighted and honoured to say that these workshops are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council; and that I, too, have been awarded an exhibition assistance grant from OAC.