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.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

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.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

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.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

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.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

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.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

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.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

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.

Quarry Query, projection mapping installation, 2019.

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.

A behind-the-scenes view of the door to Closet Gallery and the server used to broadcast the live stream. The project Invitation for bodily being by Mischa Grieg is displayed.

Lisa Theriault working on the work Quarry Query during a residency at Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre.

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.

Snow Removal, coloured pencil, ink, and gouache on paper, 2019 20” x 16”.

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!

Pipes, Potatoes, Confetti, Squiggles, coloured pencil and ink on paper, 2018, 19.5” x 27.5”.

Tubs, Nets, Slides, Piles, coloured pencil and ink on paper, 2018 19.5” x 27.5”.

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 stands in front of the work Quarry Query.

Lisa Theriault website: lisatheriault.art

Closet Gallery website: closetgallery.ca

Follow ELAN on our Instagram:@elanqc

SEE OUR PREVIOUS FEATURES & SHORTS:

Black Theatre Workshop (Organization Spotlight)

Erik Nieminen (Feature)

Vallum Magazine / VSEAL (Organization Spotlight)

Graham Krenz (Shorts)

Jingju Québec (Organization Spotlight)

 

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.


Writers’ focus group.

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.

Visual Arts focus group.

TV and film focus group.

Quebec Arts Summit trio.

Funders from Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

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.

 

Photos by Patrick Saad.

ELAN is marking its 15th Anniversary this year, and what better way to do it than by celebrating the work of our members! We’re looking for Performing Artists to take the spotlight during our 15th Anniversary celebrations!

We welcome short performances in Dance, Theatre, Music, Spoken Word/Poetry, and Video Art, with the following criteria:

  • The set up and strike should take no more than 1 minute;
  • The piece should be no more than 5 minutes;
  • A maximum of 5 performers for ensemble pieces;
  • An artist fee will be offered based on the number of participants to be confirmed.

Performances will be held between 8 PM – 10 PM, on the evening of our Annual General Meeting on AUGUST 26, 2019. Performers/groups will have the opportunity for a 30 minute rehearsal each at the Rialto Theatre in the afternoon.

We encourage a diversity of applicants, from various disciplines and regions in Quebec. Travel bursaries will be offered for those outside of Montreal.

We are accepting digital applications only, of the following materials:

  • Documentation of the proposed work: If you’ve performed the work before, please include video or photos of this particular work. If it’s a new work, include some photos (roughly 5-7) or video of previous performances to give the selection committee a better sense of your work.
  • Text description: A brief description of the performance you are proposing. If there is dialogue involved, please submit a script.
  • Brief bio: A brief bio of performer or collective.

Video submissions can be a hyperlink (for example: YouTube or Vimeo), a zipped folder, or a file (if you are sharing it from a cloud service like Dropbox, for example, please leave it up until we’ve confirmed that it’s downloaded).

Please email your submissions to: communications@quebec-elan.org.
Emails MUST include the following subject: “ELAN 15 Video Submission – Your Name”.

Submission deadline is JUNE 30, 2019.
We will be responding to applicants mid-July.

A key component of an ELAN ACE project is to encourage multidirectional learning. Inviting a student-journalist into a project to document its progress is a great way to empower leadership skills in younger people, and have the artist and the community learn from the student-journalist’s unique perspective, voice and artistic skill-sets. Melissa Landry was the student-journalist for Lisan Chng‘s project at Metis Beach school. She did a fabulous job capturing the stories emerging from the various stages of the project. Below is a piece that she wrote reflecting on the impact that the project had on her.  

The Impact an Intergenerational Community-Based Art Project Had on My Life.

Pulled by a chubby hand I was lead to a table supplied with a plethora of colourful beads and tiles of glass.  “Can you help me?” the little one asked as he grasped a pile of sparkling golden tiles from their neat container and scattered them into a mess. From the perspective of this two-feet higher set of eyes, I watched him salsa dancing in his chair, holding a facial expression I swear to have been the most excited look a child could have, and got lucky to catch a glimpse of childhood wonder. I smiled. From ear to ear. And said “of course! let’s do this together.”

In the midst of the lower st. Lawrence stands the teeny, but yet impactful, town and community of Metis Beach. And at the centre of this small town lies a gem, known as Metis Beach School (my former high school). Over the years, this lively school has proven to serve as an inviting scope for community-building activities, and community projects relating to art have certainly been no exception.

During my graduating year at MBS, I was blessed with the privilege to be taught by mosaic artist, Lisan Chng, whom I, at the time, had become greatly inspired by. While working on the project she had hosted, I remember being in a state of awe seeing the fullness of enthusiasm and passion that she had in her marrow for the craft. So, after being informed by my mother that Lisan was going to host yet another community-based project, “Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors”, I headed into it with excitement. This specific program was made possible by multiple sponsors and was set to be an intergenerational mosaic project where adults and children would work alongside each other. Adults on mirrors, and younglings from kindergarten to elementary level on flower pots. Though I must say, even knowing this, I walked in on all this excitement with a completely blind idea of what exactly to expect.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

First off, in my spur-of-the-moment decision to join this project, I followed my mum into it not knowing at the time the group’s label was preceded by “Senior”. As a freshly-turned 18-year-old, discovering I had involved myself into what was, in fact, a “senior’s” group,  quickly hit me with a bout of laughter.  “I guess I’m just an ‘extra Jr. Senior'” I giggled to myself. But shortly after emerging into the unfamiliar group, in both demographic and faces, I was pleased to find that I still found a comfortable spot to fit right in.

Still salsa dancing on-top his chair, my eager little partner squealed “It’s sooooo SHINY!!!!!” And soon after, with an opera-singer voice, he sang “like a pot of goldddddd!!!”. (What a voice indeed I tell ya). It was while seeing these silly moments, of a now-hopping-around-the-room child being simply careless, free and undoubtedly hyperrrr, that I discovered within myself that I find an abundance of joy in with working with kids.

Currently, my life motto is to “go with the flow”, “follow whatever path is ahead”, “take opportunities as they come”… basically, my current life plan is to have no plan. I don’t yet know exactly what I want out of life, what I want to do or if going to college/university will ever be part of it. So now I’ve been focusing on trying new things and figuring out what works for me. Anything and everything. Heck, for the past six months I was working in a lobster processing plant, and I discovered it was seriously the absolute best. This project was also the absolute best.

In experiencing the emotional baggage of a recent hardship,  you could say my spirit was like a “caged bird” before being granted the opportunities walking in on this whole experience provided me. Of helping little hands, of doing my best to capture precious moments with pictures and with writing this very article. In short, I needed something new to learn, or people new to meet to get me out of my rut. And this project, consisting of the niche community of senior volunteers and young students, along with a wonderful artist host, had created just the environment I needed to spring me back into motion. It was the fun I had designing my mosaic mirror. The new techniques and skills I learned. Speaking with all the wise “senior” ladies I met (who I swear are still so young at heart). And most definitely, it was the kids.

After every session I found myself arriving home pooped, tired, exhausted, hungry, sleepy… and well, you get the point. But at the same time, I was never so empty but yet ever so full of joy and happy energy from the crowd of children who had surrounded me for that past couple of hours. It was something I looked forward to each week. Being utterly pooped. Needing 100 naps. Just seeing those adorable faces and the pieces of our hard work come together. Or not…

As a step of this project, we had to glue beaded patterns the kindergarten students created onto the tops of flower pots. Easy as 1,2,3. right? 1. Apply glue. 2. Stick pattern on. 3. observe completed pro… uh ooh. Pretty pearly pinks and blues and rainbows of colours had started to droop right off the glue, well, the “kamikaze-slide”, that had just been slathered on. Shortly after, sort of in a panic, we were forced to observe the un-kind effects of gravity. Not so fun. I’m not lying when I say tears of stress started leaking out of our eyes at the sight. But all the while, Lisan was already coming up with a way to fix our encountered problem — thicker paste. She’s a superwoman, I swear. This is how Lisan somehow managed to inspire me even further. By demonstrating perseverance at it’s finest! As a bonus, this also served as a learning experience for the younger ones — sometimes things in life don’t quite turn out to plan.

After about two months of trial and error, creativity and plain hard work, everything was complete. A group picture was taken with completed pieces as faces all-a-smiled and everything was cleaned up. (However, I beg to question if grout ever truly leaves any space it dare enters…). It was simply finished. With its bittersweet taste and all. And I could tell I wasn’t going to be the only who would feel a little weird about not having to mark the next project dates on the calendar.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

“Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors” was a community-based project I won’t forget being involved in. I won’t forget spotting heads of youngsters and those with strands of white working together with smiles. I won’t forget how the loving and eager volunteers, even some who were not at first confident with their ability to work with kids, came in and made it all so much more fun. (They seriously made cutting tape seem like the “fun-est” thing in the world). I won’t forget one of my little partners gasping at how SHINY his pot turned out or the what seemed like a hundred hugs and cat drawings I got from the kids for helping them make what they did. They were proud of themselves. I was definitely proud of them. And I certainly won’t forget the impact it has had on me as a young adult.

Getting to be a part of something so impactful has both given me more confidence in myself and has shown me a little more of the direction I hope life’s current takes me towards. I mean, I still do not know what I would like to do with my life. (Do any of us?) But my biggest takeaway was in discovering that teaching children stems from a passion I didn’t know I had. They’ve stolen a place in my heart, and their drawings are still on my fridge to prove it.

Due to the positive outcome I’ve seen this project have in-close and personal for everyone involved, I hope it will serve as a launch-pad for more intergenerational art-based projects for not only this community but also perhaps those which neighbour to spring up. Because hopefully, and just maybe, I believe if opportunities like this would continue to arise, others might be given the same chance to learn something new. About a craft, or even, about themselves.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

ELAN is hiring a Communications Assistant for our Annual General Meeting! This position is for an 8-week summer contract, from July 8-August 30, 2019. With the day-to-day supervision of the Communications Coordinator and the Membership Services Coordinator, the AGM Communications Assistant will work with ELAN staff to prepare for our 15th Annual General Meeting and Anniversary celebration. This will involve organizing event logistics, communicating with members, assisting with outreach initiatives, and assisting on the production of our AGM package and booklet. Deadline to apply has been extended to June 7. Interviews will take place in mid-June.

Annual General Meeting Communications Assistant

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Lisan Chng, of MosaicJam International, says that for her, the community atmosphere and self-confidence that grow out of facilitating artistic practices are just as important as the creative practice of mosaic-making itself. Community-building was a core aspect of the project that she organized for Metis Beach School, which received funding and support from ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative, to encourage those of different generations and linguistic backgrounds to learn from each other in her Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors project.

In the project, Lisan first gave mosaic workshops to local seniors of the community so that they could make mosaic mirrors. The seniors then shared the skills they gained in making the mirrors with the students of Metis Beach School by teaching them how to grout and tile pots. Throughout the process, Lisan relays, both the students and seniors gained self-confidence through developing ingenious ways to make the art, which they then shared with the other members of the group. An example of such an occurrence was when a student with autism proved that she had a natural knack for mosaic setting and demonstrated her ability to other students and adults. Such multidirectional learning, which encourages a community atmosphere and the development self-confidence, is a core tenet of the ELAN ACE Initiative’s project model.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Another way in which multidirectional learning was introduced in Lisan’s project was through bringing in a student-journalist, Melissa Landry, to document the project. Lisan states that, “with Melissa onboard, I was able to completely focus on the workshops without having to think of capturing photos of moments at the same time. Having someone independently writing about the project really makes this project special for me. ACE Consultant Paula Knowle’s idea of presenting a timeline of the project with photos and comments from the participants was also a valuable idea. It helped me to communicate the story of what we are doing to everyone in school, and also to all participants. These are ideas I can implement in future projects as well.”

By welcoming a student-journalist into the project, Lisan increased the intergenerational connection that she values in her projects and encouraged multidirectional learning; she herself realized the benefit of welcoming someone into the project with communications expertise to relieve herself of the task, and of the importance of documenting and sharing content to broadcast the impact of the project to broader communities.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Melissa Landry, meanwhile, was able to develop her journalism, documentation and curation skills. Melissa states that: “this opportunity gave me a solid introduction into what journalism entails and provided for me a safe place to try it out for my first time. And because it was intergenerational, I got to work with both children and seniors which I believe doubled the value of this experience. Learning in this environment helped to sharpen the multitasking skills required in the documenting process between taking pictures, logging writing ideas, and washing little hands”.

Melissa Landry’s mother, Andrea Landry, also reflects on how the project developed her daughter’s self-confidence and her ease in working in diverse environments. She writes that, “from the moment we entered the beautiful Metis Beach School cafeteria, I knew the “Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors” project was going to be magical for us. Most interestingly for Melissa. As the workshop progressed, I could see that taking part with the lovely seniors and adorable children had invigorated her. Just as mirrors reflect us and plants bloom when they are planted in pots, I was grateful to see her grow from this experience.”

Inviting a student-journalist into her project benefitted Lisan’s goal of promoting the growth of intergenerational community and self-confidence, extended the multidirectional learning already present in the project through having Lisan further learn and benefit from Melissa’s counsel and skills, enabled Melissa further hone in on these skills, and ensured that the successes and moments of reflection of the project were well-documented and shared. Similar benefits can be gained in other ACE Initiative projects that invite-in student-journalists to document their progress.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Jessica Houston is an multimedia artist and participatory arts facilitator. She facilitated two ELAN ACE Projects this year, the “Magical Garden Window” project at Sunnyside Elementary in Stanstead in the Fall of 2018, and the “Future Landscapes” mural at St. Mary’s school in Longueuil, Quebec, this Spring! Read on for her reflections on her most recent project, and her practice. 

ELAN ACE: What is your artistic practice?

Jessica: My multimedia projects examine questions related to our changing natural world, and our nature within it. I have traveled from pole to pole—using photography, painting, oral histories and objects—to evoke nature and culture entanglements. Through a variety of interventions, my works challenge the premise that we are separate from nature, looking at ‘it’ from a distance from a position of privilege. My projects often include site-specific oral histories that amplify the memory of a place and evoke land as a living process. I have worked on projects involving communities and their relationship to their environments in the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and Italy.

ELAN ACE: How have you incorporated your practice into the ELAN ACE project you are currently involved in?

Jessica: In my current project “Future Landscapes” with the students at St. Mary’s school, we have been working on envisioning our future. Based on discussions around environmental issues, including climate change and sustainability, the students created a 15-foot long mural depicting what they would like to see in the future.

Teaching is very much an extension of my artistic practice. I have worked with communities around issues of sustainability and their relationship to place in the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, Iceland and Europe. In terms of thinking about the future, I recently deposited a time capsule in a glacier in Antarctica containing 22 handwritten letters to the future from contemporary thinkers across disciplines. No one from the present has read the letters.

Photo: Jessica Houston

ELAN ACE: Can you describe the project that you are working on?

Jessica: This collaborative piece at St. Mary’s School involved group discussions around ecology and sustainability, and thoughts about what present-day decisions will impact their future. As a group, students decided about what future they wanted and how to give their ideas vision. They delved into questions of color, scale and composition, as they painted a 5-meter-long mural of their future landscape. This work includes an Arctic with ice, biodiversity of animals, electric cars, wind and water energy, forests, mountains with minerals left in them and not extracted, and revolutionary zero energy architecture. This mural is an artwork onto itself, and it will be used as a setting for a film that the students are making that involves a robot in the future. It speaks to the way art engenders the capacity to envisioning things differently than they are. This four-day art marathon was invigorating for the students and teachers alike. The project will culminate in a school-wide event where the gymnasium will be transformed into a science museum.

ELAN ACE: How do you see the students and the teachers that you are working with growing through your project? 

Jessica: The teacher that I am working with said that he was able to see different aspects of his students emerge through artmaking that are not apparent to him during other school activities. In both school projects that I have carried out, the art experience engenders in children the capacity to imagine things differently than they are. It is this ability to envision that is so important to our democracies and societies. It is also crucial for our own path as human beings.

There isn’t a lack of data supporting the evidence of global warming, clearly, we need more than data to move forward into a sustainable future. The value of imagination is pivotal to our ability as humans to respond empathetically to our world. The process of making a collaborative mural required students to think about the entire composition, and how their piece fits within and contributes to the whole. Working together, students experienced ecological thinking through the artmaking process.

ELAN ACE: Can you think of an example of co-learning that you witnessed and participated in through this project?

Jessica: The students learned a lot from one another, and I surely learned a lot from the students. Mostly, I am heartened by their spontaneity, curiosity and ability to think freely without too many censors. Of their own accord, they come up with many viable solutions to environmental issues. They surprised their teachers, who had a different idea of the future. As a result, they changed their narrative for the film they will make with the robot moving through the future landscape.

ELAN 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?

Jessica: Students’ ability to be whole human beings is awakened in the practice of making art. They use empathy, imagination and agency when making things. These elements are essential to imagining our future – art should be a core requirement to any school curriculum.

Photo: Jessica Houston

This is the first story of a new ELAN series, “Lessons Learned”. In this series, we will be highlighting insights of key stakeholders in our ELAN Artists Community Education (ACE) Initiative project on facets of the projects they are engaged in. This story was written when Louise Campbell was in Grosse Ile. 

Photo: Louise Campbell

When Musician and Participatory Arts Facilitator Louise Campbell first arrived in Grosse Ile for an artist residency supported by both ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative and the Culture in the Schools program in the Magdalen Islands, she used music to introduce herself to the community. Campbell grew up in Southern Alberta, and she says that there were many similarities between both locales, namely the big skies and wind. Contrasting her experience in Southern Alberta with her current hometown of Montreal, she improvised music to help the students of the Grosse Île School and community understand and relate to her background and the idea of making music and art inspired by place.

 

Throughout her project, Campbell maintained the theme of connecting to place through improvised sound and colour in order to help the students deepen their understandings of their community. She writes that the people of Grosse Ile, “have a very strong sense of place; working through sound can highlight this and give [the residents] a way in to making music based on their own experiences”.

 

Stories emerged out of the brainstorming sessions that Campbell partook in with the students of Grosse Ile School. Many of these stories centered on the sea, from students’ favourite memories of time spent with friends and family at the beach, to tragedies evolving out of the reality of living in such close relationship to the ocean.

 

Such maritime tragedy is part of the lived and mythic experience of the Island; known as the “Island of a Thousand Shipwrecks”, community members have recently opened an exhibit called “People of the Sea” that remembers and commemorates the lives of those lost at sea.

 

Louise and the students of the Grosse Ile School developed short narratives that delve into the range of experiences the students associate with their home through the medium of radio play. To better express the narratives, they began to build up a repository of sounds, a sound library, using Foley-style sound effects, boom whackers, loop pedals and sounds recorded in the natural environment.

Photo: Amber Mckay

The efforts that are being taken in the project to narrativize experience and understand the natural landscape are central to relating to place and its natural elements in ways that broaden understanding and empower the students to think of the natural environment with both awe and understanding.

 

During her residency, Louise also developed a special educator-student relationship with a young student with extreme sensitivity to sound. Similar to empowering the students to articulate the natural environment in clearer ways through sound and narrative, Louise helped the student understand and appreciate his sonic environment more through developing ways with him to first manage, and then play within his experience of everyday sounds.

 

Louise recalled first arriving and playing clarinet for a class, and having the student react very strongly and negatively to her music and sound in general. Following this class, Louise showed the student how to use an equalizer on his computer to neutralize sound to adjust the balance of specific frequencies, in the hopes that he would be able to adjust the sound so that it would be more comfortable for his hearing. Louise states that “once I had done this, in ten minutes, he went from being quite mad to being very content and started having a lot of fun playing with sound”.

 

With consent from his teacher, Louise invited the student to take a break from his classroom when he was done with his schoolwork to help with the recording of sounds for the sound library. She recalls that the first time that she first gave the student this responsibility, “I heard him stomping around and slamming a door and running water; creating all these sound effects”.

 

Since then, the student has started to mix sounds effects to create music, including a short piece featuring the sounds of a wind storm and another of a train leaving the station. He has also thrown himself into pitch and rhythm games using boomwhackers, showing exceptional aptitude and taking great pleasure in playing these games alone and with others. Louise reflects on the importance that creating a positive association to sound for one student can have on the community at large, saying that this student, “has been a huge part of my experience here, and is one of the ways in which I think I am really creating an impact through my project. In such a small school, one kid affects so many others. If I can have him understand sound as fun and interesting, it may help him develop important coping strategies to deal with this acute sense of hearing”.

 

Before leaving Grosse Ile, Louise has been teaching as many people as possible how to help the young student equalize, edit and mix sound with software downloaded onto his computer, as well as play pitch and rhythm games using boomwhackers. She hopes that this, and the momentum built up around contributing and using the sound library to create both music and stories, will encourage the students of Grosse Ile to experiment with sound in order to understand themselves and their environment in deeper ways after her residency ends.

 

Louise states that she believes that creative approaches to learning are essential to help diverse peoples integrate into schools. She also believes that creativity helps people process their life experiences. Through helping the student with sound sensitivity relate to sound in both more manageable and healthy ways, Louise is helping him be and feel more in control and successful now, which will help him later in life. In helping the students of Grosse Ile understand their environment better through sound, Louise is encouraging healthier relations to the natural environment. Both facets of her project encourage more complex relational learning through the sound. The skills developed through recording and mixing sounds will hopefully serve as catalysts for deepening learning of sound, to create stories that help both locals and newcomers relate to the realities of Grosse Ile into the future.

Photo: Louise Campbell

Follow ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative on Instagram: @elan_quebec_ace_inititiatve