Founded in 1981 by Rahul Varma and Rana Bose, Teesri Duniya Theatre is one of the very few culturally-inclusive companies in Canada. It is also one of its kind in Quebec due to our production of plays by visible minorities, First Nations, as well as dominant cultures.
Guy Rodgers, Christie Huff, Paul Knowles and the AIG team at the ArtistsInspire Grants launch in Laval on May 23.
I am pleased to introduce ELAN’s new Administration Manager. Deborah Forde is already well known to many of you. Previously Executive Director of the Quebec Drama Federation, she brings ELAN a wealth of knowledge about grant writing, budgeting, financial management and HR. Deborah’s addition to the team will allow me to have more time to work on the exciting new project I shared with you last month. All of ELAN’s staff and board join with me in welcoming Deborah to the team.
I also want to congratulate Christie Huff on the extraordinary work she has done with ELAN to connect Arts and Education. Christie worked closely with me for many months to write the initial grant application that launched the ACE (Arts, Communities and Education) Initiative. This year, thanks to new funding from the Secretariat for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers, twelve schools and communities around Quebec connected with artists to co-create learning experiences that participants told us were extraordinarily meaningful. On May 23, after celebrating an innovative ACE project with artists Jason Selman & Melanie Garcia at Laval Senior Academy, ELAN launched a new project funded by the Government of Canada, called Artists Inspire Grants (AIG).
The largest project ELAN has ever undertaken, AIG is designed to distribute $1,500 micro grants to hundreds of schools serving English-speaking communities in each of the next four years so that thousands of students can have inspirational experiences with artists. To coordinate ACE and AIG, ELAN has created an ArtEd Team, managed by Christie Huff, in collaboration with consultants Jennifer Cooke and Paula Knowles, and ELAN’s Program Manager Amy Macdonald. This work is challenging and exciting. You will be hearing much more about it in the years ahead.
Jimmy Baptiste is an Arts Facilitator, Muralist, Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Graffiti Artist who facilitated an ELAN Quebec ACE project at Richmond High School, in Richmond, this Spring. Below are his reflections on the project, and on the importance of including art in education.
ACE: What is your artistic practice?
Jimmy Baptiste: I’m an Arts Facilitator, a Muralist, an Illustrator, a Graphic Designer, and a Graffiti Artist. I do mostly arts-based projects with students or people from the community around street arts, graffiti, visual arts and graphic design.
ACE: How have you incorporated your practice into the ELAN ACE project you are currently involved in?
Jimmy Baptiste: The ELAN ACE project that I was involved in directly fits the type of practice I have been doing. In the last fifteen years, I’ve been going around to different schools, community centres, YMCA’s and universities, and creating different art-based activities.
Often, we will go focus on a specific subject or theme that the organizer wants to explore, and from that, we will try to envision visuals, from which we will design the artwork that we want to do. I accepted the project when I first met Paula Knowles from the ELAN Art Ed Team, even though I wasn’t sure how a project that revolves around the theme of geography would work. The teacher and I began to brainstorm together, and the project ended up coming together very nicely.
ACE: Can you describe the project that you worked on?
Jimmy Baptiste: In this project, we were exploring natural disasters, and the human response to them. The project touched on three different subjects: English Language Arts, Geography and Art. To incorporate the English component, the students had to write a page on the natural disaster that they chose, why they chose it, and what their reflections were on the project. They then had to add a quote onto the poster, and a visual. It was really about trying to create something impactful from the first view; to affect the viewer and impart a message on the impact of natural disasters that was both immediate and contextual. The students were pretty clever, and I was quite impressed with their play on words, whether it was to modify the font, melt the words into the image, or use puns. We had a week to enact the project, and while it usually takes more time to do a poster project, the students did great within this time-frame. I think that once they felt as though they had structure and were aware of how to implement the themes they were wanting to develop, they were able to really explore their creativity within the time and project boundaries. Throughout the week, I was accessible to the students; I would move through the classrooms throughout the week to discuss the development of the project with each student. There were also different blocks throughout the day when students could come and work on the project when they didn’t have other work. At the end of the project, we had a vernissage, and parents were invited in to view the work of their students.
ACE: How do you see the students and the teachers that you are working with growing through your project?
Jimmy Baptiste: One of the things that I really liked was to have the teachers participate in the project. It’s a cool moment to see students and teachers working on equal ground. It is a humanizing moment that destabilizes the traditional teacher-student dynamic and encourages co-learning. I think that this perspective creates a healthy environment and motivates the students to understand their school environment differently.
ACE: How has your own practice deepened through this project?
Jimmy Baptiste: Definitely. Every project that I do enables me to further evolve. I see the value in this project because the theme was new for me, and it was a good challenge to adapt my arts facilitation practice to work within geography curriculum.
ACE: Can you think of an example of co-learning that you witnessed and participated in through this project?
Jimmy Baptiste: Yes, I can think of a few. During this project, I was working with a boy who had high energy and found it hard to focus. I learned from this project of the importance of creating dynamic learning so that he was always engaged; it forced me to adapt my material. I also think that I witnessed co-learning with the teachers working alongside the students on developing their themes through the posters. The teachers and students were bouncing ideas off each other.
ACE: What is your vision of the future relationship of the arts to education? What do you think is the value of integrating the arts into education?
Jimmy Baptiste: I think that as we move into the future, jobs that focus on creativity are becoming more and more important. With the advent of artificial intelligence, it will be important to develop skill sets that highlight creative innovation, and not just repetition or patterned thinking; the arts can promote this. I also think that projects like this one are great to refresh teacher-student relationships and expose students to thinking they might not usually have access to in their community.
ACE: Did you observe any changes in particular that indicate the community or school will continue to support the arts?
Jimmy Baptiste: I hope so! I had really excellent support of the teachers and the principal throughout my project. Also, I was hosted by a really lovely teacher-couple and received great feedback from parents.
Since 2014, ELAN has been researching the shifting arts media landscape. Our findings, including our 2018 Digital Solutions report, have shown that creators and producers lack tools and time to capture the possibilities of new technologies to promote their work.
In fall 2018, with funding from Industry, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED), we began work on a prototype listings feed called ARTS2U that responds to these needs. ARTS2U uses scraping technology and manual data entry to compile information on arts events into one easy-to-access location. The prototype is being tested with arts producers, arts organizations, and media.
Now, we’re connecting ARTS2U with similar projects across Canada. With support from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Strategy Fund, we’re setting up a network to share knowledge and encourage collaborations. Long-term, we believe that developing strong relationships and fostering compatible approaches will lead to better digital tools for artists and arts organizations.
Stay tuned for more information about the ARTS2U prototype and network in the coming months! If you have any questions or comments, get in touch with Program Manager, Amy Macdonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative connects artists with schools all over Quebec. Sometimes, artists are paired with schools in regions that are located far away from their hometown. This provides intercultural exposure for both the artist and the community in which they are working. This intercultural exposure creates an excellent innate learning opportunity for the students and community, in addition to their benefiting from the expertise of the artist. This inherent benefit goes both ways- as well as to having an opportunity to develop facilitation skills, the artist can also be positively impacted by being in a different community.
ACE residencies are different than other artistic programs that are delivered in rural communities in that they follow a long-term model, instead of the more typical short-term residency. ACE artists typically work in the community for a month on a project. Afterwards, the partnership can grow: if the school administration is keen on having artists continue to come to their school, ACE will work to continue to send an artist into the community in subsequent years. Also, the artist might return to the region through the relationships they have formed with the school, and other community partners.
This obviously benefits the school and community by continuing to expose their students to the arts, enabling these students to gain the health and academic benefits of having arts in their education. The practices taught by the artist can also be enacted during periods when there are no artists-in-residence. An example of a community that has had multiple ACE projects in its school is the remote community of Chevery-Harrington on the Lower North Shore. This community has had an artist come to their school every year through ACE for the past three years. ACE and Netagamiou School are trying to make this a five-year partnership.
This year, ¼ of our ACE artists were artists-in-residence in the communities in which they were based, while many more were based in rural areas close to the communities-of-residence of the ACE artists. Artist, playwright, actor and director Laura Teasdale was based in New Richmond, on the Gaspé Peninsula; graphic designer, graffiti artist, and muralist Jimmy Baptiste was working Richmond, in the Eastern Townships; and musician and composer Louise Campbell enacted her participatory arts practice in Grosse Île, in the Magdalene Islands.
As mentioned, ACE projects in rural communities don’t only benefit the schools, they also benefit the artists. Reflecting on her experience, Louise acknowledges that the remoteness of her ACE project benefitted her artistic and teaching practice, saying, “I enjoyed getting to know the people in Grosse-Ile for somewhat selfish reasons. I have always lived in medium to large-sized urban centres and being in Grosse-Ile for a month was a small taste of what it might be like to live in a small community. There are benefits and drawbacks to every place, and the trick is to take advantage of the best parts of every place you go or live. Animating an ACE project in Grosse-Ile was an opportunity for me to question my regular ways of doing things and find a way to make music with the people in Grosse-Ile that was the best way for them to make music”. While in Grosse-Ile, Louise also created a musical piece for use in an exhibit in a local museum, “People of the Sea”, which commemorates those lost at sea from the community.
In New Richmond, Laura Teasdale created an enduring partnership both with the New Richmond High School, and with other schools in the region. News of her impact spread, and communities up the coast have requested that she works in their schools next year. She wrote of her project that, “there is something magical about going to a remote area to do this kind of work. It feels like an epic adventure. You are so far away from your everyday life, it gives weight and importance to the work. You are there for no other reason, so you become completely absorbed in the project. And everyone in remote small towns knows each other, so it is easy to make connections quickly and to become invested in their lives. I felt surrounded by synchronicity. Like I was exactly where I needed to be and where they needed me to be”.
Jimmy Baptiste reports that though it is always had for him to leave his community in Montreal to facilitate artistic projects in other regions, it always feels worth it because of the exposure to new thinking patterns challenges him to be more flexible with his facilitation practice. He writes that, “I love working with ACE outside of my community because I get to discover and see new places that I might not be able to see otherwise. Furthermore, working with students from different places create an interesting and beautiful dynamic since they get to discover new art techniques”. In all the 2018/2019 rural ACE projects, connections and new patterns of artistic and faciliatory practice were established, to deepen professional development.
ELAN has two artist-in-schools projects, the ACE Initiative and the Artists Inspire Grants (which are also supported by LEARN), under the umbrella of ELAN’s Arts Education Initiatives this year. Both projects can support artist-residencies in rural communities, and the impact and duration of a project through either initiative can be extended through drawing on other funding sources, such as the Culture in the Schools program. Applications for both programs will be open by June 2019. An ELAN Art Ed artist-residency can benefit both the artist and the school; get your application ready to see your artistic and faciliatory practices, or students, grow next year.
ELAN launches ArtistsInspire Grants (AIG), a $2.2 million investment for Quebec official-language minority schools to create arts and cultural opportunities. Visit the new AIG website at artistsinspire.ca.
ELAN Quebec, in partnership with LEARN, officially launched ArtistsInspire Grants (AIG) today, a micro-grant program that will fund artistic and cultural activities in 300 official-language minority schools throughout the province of Quebec. Eligible public elementary and secondary schools are encouraged to apply for this funding, with $1500 available per school for each of the next four years, starting in 2019/2020.
“Access to arts and cultural expressions allow us to hear stories and see ourselves in multiple ways, showing us an infinite possibility of bright futures. Our government knows that it’s important for parents in minority communities to provide their children with an environment in which they can thrive in their own language and culture. We are proud to implement this program, which will not only increase the number of activities offered, but also immerse students at official-language minority schools in the cultural life of their community.”
— Mélanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie.
“The ultimate goal of the program is that through the hands-on creative experiences that artists facilitate, teachers, students and community members in the province are inspired to develop their creativity capacity in ways that lead to individual and community outcomes for learning, wellbeing and socio-economic development.”
— Christie Huff, Lead Consultant – ELAN’s Arts & Education Initiatives.
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ELAN (English-Language Arts Network) est heureux d’annoncer le lancement du programme de subventions Artistes Inspire (AI), soit un investissement de 2,2 millions de dollars destiné à créer des activités artistiques et culturelles dans les écoles de langue officielle en situation minoritaire au Québec.
En partenariat avec le programme LEARN, ELAN Québec lançait aujourd’hui le projet Artistes Inspire (AI), un programme de micro-subventions qui financera des activités artistiques et culturelles dans 300 écoles de langue officielle en situation minoritaire au Québec. Les écoles primaires et secondaires publiques admissibles au programme sont invitées à faire une demande de subvention. Un montant de 1 500 dollars par école est disponible pour chacune des quatre prochaines années, à compter de 2019/2020.
« L’accès aux arts et aux expressions culturelles nous permet de découvrir des histoires et de nous voir sous de multiples angles, nous montrant ainsi mille et une possibilités pour un avenir prometteur. Notre gouvernement sait qu’il est important pour les parents des communautés minoritaires d’offrir à leurs enfants un environnement où ils peuvent s’épanouir dans leur langue et leur culture. Nous sommes fiers de lancer ce programme, qui permettra d’accroître le nombre d’activités offertes, en plus d’inviter les élèves des écoles en milieu minoritaire à une incursion dans la vie culturelle de leur communauté. »
— L’honorable Mélanie Joly, ministre du Tourisme, des Langues officielles et de la Francophonie.
« L’objectif ultime du programme est de susciter, par l’entremise d’activités créatives offertes par des artistes, l’intérêt des enseignants, des étudiants et des membres de la communauté à développer leurs capacités créatives afin de favoriser, tant sur le plan individuel que collectif, l’apprentissage, le mieux-être et le développement socio-économique. »
— Christie Huff, consultante principale des initiatives en arts et éducation chez ELAN.
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When actor, playwright and performance art facilitator Laura Teasdale first came to New Richmond for an ELAN ACE Initiative project, both she, and the teachers, were unsure of what the project would look like. Everyone was instead concerned with the desired outcome: promoting unity in the community. The Cascapedia Bay is a region with long-standing Mi’kmaq, Acadian, Irish, Loyalist and Scottish roots, and encouraging shared citizenship was important, in an area where as Laura states, “every internet source shared a different story of who founded the place”. Laura’s passion and speciality are creating historical plays. In consultation with the teachers of New Richmond High School, she decided that it would be thought-provoking to create a historical play that celebrated the history of the founding of the community. With this in mind, she, and the students of New Richmond began to gather stories from the local Seniors and Elders of the community, which they turned into scripts and songs.
Though intercultural unity was the main priority for the community for Laura’s project, the intergenerational component has been important as well. Laura recalls that when she first visited some of the seniors and Elders, their eagerness made it seem as though “they had been waiting all their lives to share these stories with someone”. Connecting to the elderly in the community in turn helped the students connect with their own histories.
In addition to being drawn out of their selves by connecting to the larger narrative of the space, in the act of performance, students also became more confident to articulate in different ways. Laura recalls an example of a girl who was initially very shy, who would not perform. Through Laura’s drama workshops, she began to emerge from her shell, and now has a speaking role in the performance. Laura also reflects on how the students at large have softened through her workshops, so that both the louder kids and quieter kids now make space for each other to perform and respect each other’s performances. Such empowerment is the magic of art, Laura believes. While the students are empowered to connect to themselves and relate in different ways, the Seniors and Elders are also empowered to connect and relate to their community first through being listened to, and then through hearing their stories relayed back to them in ways that honour the uniqueness, skill and culture that each community has brought to the area.
Laura decided through observing the empathetic process of the students in documenting the stories and creating the performance that perhaps, ultimately, the goal of the project could be celebrating diversity, “making the students feel good for being themselves” rather than promoting unity. The unity would come instead from the shared act of development and viewership. Just as all human populations in the area are united in relying on the Cascapedia River, which bore witness to their economic developments, so all spectators of the performance would be united in witnessing the students re-enact the histories of their diverse ancestors. The students also decided to use the River as the narrative cherry on top of their performance.
Laura states that when she first came to the community, she knew nobody. She realized that to find connection, she would need to open herself up to the peoples of the Bay de Chaleur; documenting the stories of the locals was one way in which she achieved that. The willingness of the community to welcome Laura demonstrates their shared pride in their histories, and their willingness to be vulnerable. The community made space for Laura, as it also made space to listen and celebrate each other’s unique strengths and capacities. The community performance took place April 17th, and the performance and songs created have been preserved, so that the community can appreciate them in future years.
Laura Teasdale is an actor, playwright, musician and drama teacher hailing originally from the Maritimes who has facilitated two ELAN ACE projects, one in the Eastern Townships and another in the Maria, Gesgapegiag, and Cascapedia/St. Jules villages of the Gaspé Peninsula. Below is an interview taken while she was facilitating the project in Gaspé, featuring her thoughts on the project and the importance of art in education.
ACE Initiative: What is your artistic practice?
I am an actor, playwright, musician and drama teacher. A passion of mine is writing historical theatre and creating community-based theatre events.
ACE Initiative: Can you describe the process of, and the project that you are working on?
When I first met with community coordinators at New Richmond, they were undecided on the kind of art project they wanted to have, but they knew very clearly what they wanted to see come out of it: a sense of pride in the community. Students at New Richmond come from the nearby villages of Maria, Gesgapegiag, and Cascapedia/St.Jules. The Mi’kmaq, French, English, Scottish and Irish all lay claim to the founding of the area. As a history buff, this intrigued me. So, I asked the community if they would be interested in creating a performance based on the history, and they said yes. To develop the play, the students and I have been going to local Seniors’ homes and speaking with Elders. We’ve then turned these stories into performance pieces. There were three phases of this project, first we had a phase where I was introducing drama and comedy and storytelling through workshops. Then we had a phase where we were documenting the stories and creating the script. Now we are in the rehearsal phase. All of the elementary students are performing, and some senior high students are supporting with music and dancing. Local musicians are also volunteering to play in the house band for the show. I am here for 5 weeks total.
ACE Initiative: How do you see the students growing through your project?
With the kids- it’s the way it always is with kids, when there is music and art. It’s really apparent to me when I’m with kids who don’t have these things. There have been students who were initially so shy, and who would never perform who are now really engaged.
For example, recently, a girl who is so shy, and who I thought I might never break through to started singing to me. Her teachers tell me she seems to be flourishing, even though she still won’t perform in front of anyone but me. I thought, how is this going to impact the course of her life? There is another kid who I pegged as the sharpest knife in the drawer, and who I realized couldn’t read, when we were reading a script. But he had such high emotional intelligence and really thrived in my workshops. It makes me think, that if he had arts regularly in his education, he might understand his worth and abilities differently like, “reading is a struggle for me, but I’m worth it”. In general, there has been a real growth of self-confidence in the students, through creating the play, and exploring facets of their personality through the drama, comedy and storytelling workshops.
ACE Initiative: How has your own practice deepened through this project?
I think that deepened is really the word. When you are up in front of the students all day teaching, it’s like acting. Any teacher would tell you that. And I came here knowing no one. So, to connect, I needed to let all the newness of the community touch me. Not acting in front of them, but being really me there with them. This investing in connection has in turn made this project about more than just teaching. It’s connected me to the community which in turn is influencing my work.
ACE Initiative: Can you think of an example of co-learning that you witnessed and participated in through this project?
The teachers and I have been continuously surprised at what the kids have been coming up with. They’ve been creating all of these songs and scripts from the stories of the Seniors and Elders- it’s been really lovely to see. And in documenting the stories, the students have been learning history from their Elders. I know that everyone has been working to be open, and this in turn is helping me to be vulnerable and take more risks. The teachers tell me everyday what exercises and games they will continue to use in the future.
ACE Initiative: What is your vision of the future relationship of the arts to education? What do you think is the value of integrating the arts into education?
I am going to advocate for integrating arts into education for the rest of my life. I started teaching about twelve years ago. I’ve been an artist my whole life, and I didn’t think that teaching was my calling. I still don’t. It’s really hard work! But I find that now, I can’t stop. I can’t un-see what I’ve seen. The compassion and closeness that these projects engender. Art is play and playing is so valuable for developing authentic communication and relation skills. It also empowers kids and makes them less self-conscious. This impacts those who aren’t even going to get on the stage. Having the opportunity to think creatively and develop empathetic skills is also so good for the brain. Also, selfishly, I know that if we aren’t promoting creative thinking in schools, we won’t have art in the future to enjoy.
ACE Initiative: Did you observe any changes in particular that indicate the community or school will continue to support the arts?
Definitely. Throughout the process, the teachers have been super supportive, and they’ve been very willing to participate in all of the workshops I’ve been doing and lend a hand in the production. The principal, when I first arrived, seemed sort of hesitant. But then people in the school and community started coming up to him and were like, “Hey, who is this person? She’s doing stuff!”. And he’s been on board and has been very instrumental in helping me. Just recently, he told me that if the school can’t get funding again through ELAN, he would like to find other funding to bring me back. A community up the coast (Gaspé) also just reached out about having a project in their school. The community of New Richmond has also been coming up to tell me of the joy that they see in their teachers and students through the project. So, everyone has been super supportive and helpful. Even today, I had two teachers and people from the local Irish association volunteer to perform with the older kids in the band. That everyone has been so involved and good to me indicates how much this sort of project is needed in communities like this one.
Lisa Theriault is an artist originally from Charlottetown, PE and currently living and working in Montreal, QC. She received a BFA from Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB) in 2014. She co-founded the online project space Closet Gallery in 2017 with Philip Mercier. She has exhibited and curated works for galleries across Canada, including AKA Artist-Run Centre (Saskatoon, SK), Galerie Sans Nom (Moncton, NB), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, NB), Saint John Arts Centre (Saint John, NB), and the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown, PE). She recently completed the Ease on Down the Road Artist Residency at Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre (Sackville, NB) and is currently curating the exhibition “Fast Forward” for the Young People’s Gallery in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.
How did the idea for Closet Gallery come about? What has been your experience so far? Has Closet Gallery provided any insight into people’s consumption of, and relationship to, art online?
Closet Gallery was a project I started with my partner Philip Mercier in 2017. We moved to Montreal a couple years ago and, to be honest, had been receiving a lot of rejection letters in terms of exhibiting artwork and were having trouble finding opportunities as artists still early in our careers. We were talking about ways would could make our own exhibition space and we came up with the idea of a project space in our closet that would be live streamed. It really combines our interests well, since Phil also has a fascination with live streams, the awkwardness in what happens before and after, and the variety of live streams that you can find, and I have some experience working at art galleries. We started inviting artist friends to install projects in the closet that we would live stream. The projects generally have to be considerate of the tiny space, the time-based quality of a live stream, and the low-resolution of the webcam. We’ve had some really interesting projects including a floral arrangement that slowly rotted over a week, a series of ice sculptures with an ASMR audio track, and a live performance using collected prints of self portraits.
The most recent performance by James Player was the first time we live streamed something NOT in the closet. It was a 24 hour live stream from his bedroom, where he improvised music and had invited “guests” throughout that would jam with him. I think he really had a headache at the end of the 24 hours, once the music stopped! I really loved that this project was outside of the closet and it allowed the community aspect to grow. That’s the fun part about Closet Gallery, is you get to work on something weird with your friends in your (or their) home and test things out. You never know what it will look like through the webcam. A lot of people stopped by during James’ performance and it really felt like a community supported marathon.
What can you say about the state of spaces available to emerging artists in Montreal? Are there too few, do they lack in certain qualities? Do emerging artists have to be more ‘creative’ in making space for art?
I think there is actually a very confused idea about what an “emerging artist” even is, and that’s where the difficulty begins. It is often defined as a professional artist in their first five years of practice, but I think this lacks some nuance. In my opinion—and this is still vague unfortunately—an emerging artist is an artist who is early in their career and is still in a stage where they lack access to opportunities and resources to develop further. I think this is where “exclusivity” in the visual arts is perpetuated because some have more access to those initial experiences as well as work-space, materials, and resources to be able to produce strong work in those “five years”. I’m interested in finding ways that visual arts venues can embrace developing artists and what the terms could be for finding people who have the ambition and the potential, but can’t get off the ground.
Are there other examples of unconventional artist spaces that you can recommend, or that you’re inspired by?
Absolutely! There is a gallery in an old carriage house in Saint-Henri called Calaboose that was founded by Garrett Lockhart and Danica Pinteric. They are very thoughtful in how they present everything, through their website and the way they include personal touches in the unique architecture of the space. In terms of online galleries, there is Galerie Galerie (also based in Montreal) that has a nostalgia to their online presence that is reminiscent of early internet days, and they share a variety of interesting projects. There is also localhost gallery, a gallery you can visit in the game Minecraft (you can also find video documentation online). They rebuild the gallery within the game for each exhibition and get artists to make works for the virtual space; I think it’s brilliant.
How did you get into the different media you work with, like seriography, digital art and animation, and sculpture?
I’m very indecisive and I like trying everything I can! My interest in visual art started with drawing, and while I might do initial experiments or tests, I generally have a very meticulous approach to art-making and I plan things out. When I was in school for my BFA it exposed me to new mediums, and silkscreen printmaking, animation, and video seemed to have similar characteristics of planning that I’ve enjoyed working with. It’s been interesting for me to find ways to combine these techniques and it’s still something I’m working on.
One of the themes you work with is industrial development, and the human imprint on ‘nature’. How do you engage with “regional histories”?
I’ve lived the majority of my life in the Maritimes—in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. My family has especially long ties to Nova Scotia as Acadians. I think the things that have interested me there visually come from their major industries: farming, fishing, tourism, forestry. They have such an impact, sometimes with only one or two industries being the main economic drivers in a community, that it is certainly a big part of the identity of these places. I think this is the case for a lot of smaller towns too. I’m always learning more and I’m interested in ways places can thrive without relying on one industry, especially if it’s an industry that’s harmful to the environment. The climate crisis is a big concern and I think artists have a real role in offering perspective as a positive force. Society needs to do more with less and in a sustainable and creative way, and that’s exactly what artists are best at!
Can you talk about some of your current or upcoming curating projects? You’ve previously worked with some galleries across Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick: can you talk about some of the shows you’ve previously curated or exhibited in?
Who’s Your Mother? is an exhibition I was invited to co-curate at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown, PE) with the gallery’s curator Pan Wendt in the summer of 2018. It is an exhibition of works by women artists from Prince Edward Island from the gallery’s collection, with works by nearly 40 artists on display. The title of the exhibition Who’s Your Mother? is a play on a well-known greeting used by Islanders, “who’s your father?”, as a way to find out if you have mutual relatives or acquaintances. This was such a meaningful exhibition for me to be a part of because there is not a lot of information readily available about these artists. It was eye opening to see the work that was being made in the place where I grew up, that I had no idea was there, and learn more about the history. We spent time in the gallery’s archive, other local archives, and doing nearly two dozen studio visits to purchase new works. After working on that project, I proposed to curate another exhibition in the Young People’s Gallery at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. It’s a small and narrow space near a staircase and I thought it would be a great place to show video works. The exhibition is called Fast Forward and it’s a series of short videos about the future by artists from Eastern Canada. It will be open this Summer.
In terms of works I’ve exhibited, I most recently completed a two-week residency at Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre (Sackville, NB). It was in the same community where I did my BFA and I’m already familiar with the Centre, so I really was able to get to work right away and I had things prepared ahead of time. I had been working on larger drawings that are detailed landscapes, that use an isometric perspective similar to what you see in architectural drawings or video games. They are meticulous but also loosely bring together a variety of strange structures, piles, and materials that come to my mind. I’ve experimented with making elements from these drawings into animations and I wanted to try and push that further. During this residency, I learned to use a video mapping software (video mapping is a process that uses software to shape video projections into unusual shapes and/or around objects) so I could project animations onto plinths from the gallery. They have a more physical presence and form a narrative through the moving animations. There is documentation of the project online. I’m really interested in continuing with this technique and working on improving my animations, trying different objects, and including miniatures that could be illuminated to bring these different imagined places to life.
Related to the previous question: as an emerging curator, what has been your experience in soliciting galleries, connecting artists and ideas, and proposing shows?
I’m still relatively new to curating and my first experience curating was during a yearlong internship at Mount Allison University, just after I graduated. It was perfect because I had nearly eight months to work on the exhibition (while doing other tasks for the internship) and the former Director/Curator, Gemey Kelly (who created the internship program) was excellent at giving support while giving me the responsibility to do it all myself. I learned about the timeline in planning an exhibition and communicating with everyone along the way. That initial curating experience really gave me the confidence to curate something again in the future. I’m still figuring out how to best approach galleries as an independent curator, because it’s still intimidating to me. I’m lucky that I’ve had opportunities so far that have come from applying to calls or from people that have supported me over the years.
Being an artist myself, I think it gives me an understanding of how precarious it is for artists and how important it is to put the artist first: respect their point of view, respect their time, be upfront about what’s being provided so they’re not left with the awkwardness of asking, and of course pay them. I find artists from a combination of what I see in exhibitions, through online research, and by asking other artists or curators for recommendations. It can be challenging to curate a thematic show, because you don’t want to oversimplify works or direct them to much, but I think it has a strength as an opportunity to connect artists with common interests while offering multiple viewpoints.
What else are you working on now / what’s next for you?
I’m going to be focusing more on my art practice and I’m starting a new body of work about utopian islands that will be a series of drawings and a video/sculptural installation. I just got the very exciting news that I received a Research, Creation, and Exploration grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres de Québec (CALQ) to support the project. It’s the first grant I’ve ever received to support my work and it will make such a difference!
Lisa Theriault website: lisatheriault.art
Closet Gallery website: closetgallery.ca
Follow ELAN on our Instagram:@elanqc
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This year, we’re celebrating ELAN’s 15th Anniversary, which we’re marking at our Annual General Meeting on August 26, 2019! In this series, we’ll be sharing a bit of our history, and featuring some of our long-standing collaborators, team members, partners, and community members who have helped shape ELAN into who we are today.
In 2000, the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) advised the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) that they were negotiating a matching grant agreement with Canada Council to increase support for minority language communities. PCH asked QCGN if English-speaking artists would be interested in negotiating a similar agreement.
In May 2001, several dozen representatives of the English-speaking artistic community were invited to a meeting at the McCord Museum. The problem for English-speakers in Quebec is not language retention but population retention. During the preceding three decades, hundreds of thousands of English-speakers chose to move away from Quebec in a steady exodus that left the community enfeebled, fragmented and vulnerable. The challenge in Quebec was to build a sustainable community so that artists and cultural workers could stay in Quebec rather than leave. A consensus was reached that, in some areas at least, English-speaking artists are a minority in need of assistance.
In October 2001, a draft agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) for an initial three years of support was signed by PCH and Canada Council. The resulting IPOLC program distributed a considerable amount of extra money to English-speaking artists via regular Canada Council programs. Six volunteers were appointed to a committee to negotiate with Canadian Heritage and Canada Council. During their regular meetings, the idea of an English-Language Arts Network began to emerge.
Between November 25-27, 2004, Quebec Arts Summit launched a process of creating a multi-disciplinary network for Quebec’s English-speaking artists. QAS assembled more than 200 artists, government officials and community partners. It was the first time that representatives of the entire English-speaking arts community had been brought together. They concluded that the creation of an English-Language Arts Network could help create conditions to empower English-speaking artists to live and work in Quebec.
ELAN incorporated in April 2005, received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and created a small website. Our offices were located in the Atwater Library with the Quebec Writers’ Federation.