fire and water

A new piece by Guest Blogger Denise Lysak.

I will start with the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single person contemplates it, bearing within her the image of a cathedral.” I think this is a perfectly good place to kick-start this blog titled ‘fire and water’.  

The Moving Gallery is just a tiny structure with windows, walls and wheels OR maybe, if you let yourself imagine, it is so, much more. With every artist that worked on this project – the Moving Gallery became a living, breathing exhibit and exploration around the theme of water. It was infused with original works of art: all informed by thoughts, sensibilities, care, connections, history, brush strokes, stories, photos, sketches, reflections, impulses, charisma, and courage.  

 

four children sit on a brown leather couch, adults are standing and chatting to each other behind them. Three of the children are eating, the fourth (on the left of the couch) is looking at the camera and smiling.

Photo Credit: Opening Day for the Moving Gallery, June 2017 | Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre, Sioux Narrows, Ontario, Canada

 

Chalkboard with writing on. The top reads: Water is.... below words placed on in various places read: reflective, life source, rain, refreshing, l'eau, fun, getting polluted, tears of... pain joy, puddle and more

Photo Credit: Chalkboard Wall, Moving Gallery, Design and Build by Chrissy Sie-Merritt

 

two tree trunks made into stools are in front of a table. On the wooden table are iPods and headphones. Above the table is a painting. On the left wall are photos hung on string and a bucket hanging from the ceiling.

Photo Credit: Cherry Orchard and Photo Wall by Nicola Cavendish | Podcast Station by Ian Ross | Drop of Water Painting by Chrissy Sie-Merritt

 

A woman in a white dress with colourful stripes on the bottom - a Jingle Dress - crouches on a rock at the side of a body of water. She dangles the fingertips if her right arm in the water.

Photo Credit: Jingle Dress Photo Gallery by Kate-Lynn Paypompee

 

Photo of an oil painting of sunset over a body of water with clouds in the sky

Photo Credit: Original Painting by Chrissy Sie-Merritt

 

headshot of a caucasian male with short salt and pepper hair. He wears glasses that are black rimmed on top and without rims at the bottom. He is wearing a collared, striped shirt. There are windows in the background.

Photo Credit: Ian Ross – Governor General’s Award-Winning Playwright | Creator of Podcasts for the Moving Gallery

 

a small, low wooden table with water and blue coloured bubbles in it

Photo Credit: Water Sensory Table | Design & Build by Crissy Sie-Merritt

 

The MOVING GALLERY, is a tiny mobile studio fitted with art installations: iPods with recorded podcasts, visual art pieces, interactive exhibits, chalkboard walls, mechanical flipbooks, and ‘selfie” corners – created and developed by amateur and professional artists, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Canada. The Moving Gallery travelled to fairs, farmers’ markets, festivals and forts throughout the summer of 2017, in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.  

With the Moving Gallery, audiences and artists came together in a tiny space and as you took your first step in, you were submerged in the soundscape by Gerald Laroche.  Sounds of crashing waves, rain drops and the call of the loons supported an immersive experience. The tiny studio engaged audiences in a sensory experience, from hearing and seeing to touching and feeling.  

In 2020, fires have raged and continue to destroy vast swaths of land, endangering town, cities, human life, wildlife, natural and built environs. Our work as creators is to create conversations, to evoke critical thought, to challenge perceptions, and, yes, at times, to simply entertain. The installations that were part and parcel of the Moving Gallery, celebrated in part our nation’s sesquicentennial in 2017 and the larger gift of water.  And, it is in that polar opposite that moves me to discover the dichotomy of fire and water.  

 

Fire and Water word map with many words written on it - easiest to make out are: Word, Moving Gallery, Ebb, Art, Time, Cloud, Lake, Paintings. There are many more words on the poster that are not as easy to read.

There are words in the “cloud” that jump out at me: scorched earth, evacuate, climate fire, ash, water and life. The word cloud hints at a serene landscape – with the green of mother earth veiled by the light and airy atmosphere from above – all while taking another turn around the sun, in that idea of a year.  In our utopia, this would fairly represent planet Earth and all of its inhabitants, creatures great and small. Our world view tells a very different story and suggests a reality that is far from the idyllic imagery suggested above. How do we reconcile the two?  With art.  With art that opens windows to the world.  With art that boldy illustrates the world we live in and challenges, all of us, to imagine and build an even better one.  With art that touches our souls, heals our minds, and moves our bodies to act.  Now.

THE WHO’S WHO, MOVING GALLERY                     Artistic Curator Denise Lysak

PRIMARY CREATORS                                                      TINY STUDIO DESIGN TEAM

Nicola Cavendish | Writer                                              Erik Arnason, Eduardo Aquino, Shawn 

Wanda Easton | Photographer/ Blogger                     Bailey, Chrissy Sie-Merritt, Shawn

Gerald Laroche | Soundscape Artist                            Sinclair

Kate-Lynn Paypompee | Photographer                       Elyse Hartman | Gallery Guide

Ian Ross | Storyteller

Chrissy Sie-Merritt | Visual Artist

Building Community Media

Today’s blog is an introduction to next week’s Expert Chat – My Voice Counts: Building Community Media In the Internet Age, by Victoria Fenner.

 

beige and brown portable radio with blue buttons and ed dial on the front

 

I’ve lived in a community with its own community radio station for most of my adult life. 

For the first part of my life, that was coincidental.  My first experience with community radio was at university.  Back in the 80s, that was the most common form of volunteer produced community radio.  Though based on a university campus, the mandate of campus based stations was to serve both the campus and the community. 

In recent years, especially the past ten years or so, there is a new trend developing.  Small towns all over Canada are starting their own stations.  In places like Picton, Cobourg, Stouffville, Huntsville and Haliburton, people have started their own non-profit based radio stations.  

What this means is that people can turn on the radio and hear people on the air from their community.  They can hear their own local musicians, sometimes even playing live from the studio.  It’s also not uncommon to hear poetry, radio drama and sound art on the airwaves.  The best thing for me, as a listener, is that I get to hear what my neighbours are doing. 

As a producer of sound art, it also means I can get my work on the air. My neighbours can hear me. I can also hear about exhibitions coming up, events in the community and also (if there are shows that do information programs), I can hear what my town council is doing to make sure my community is a healthy community for arts to flourish. And call them to task if they’re not.

There are many things that community media does beyond art – in this column I’m focussing mostly on performing arts because the mandate of SPARC is to promote performing arts in rural and remote communities.  Community media – radio, television, internet based or even good old fashioned newspapers, can do that.  

It’s important to have media which supports your community. A growing number of communities are realizing that the best way to ensure that the needs of the community are being met is through community ownership of its own media.  So they’re setting up their own community media organizations.  Some have radio stations, some have internet portals and some of them even have their own standalone over the air TV station. 

If this idea intrigues you, there are a few organizations who can help.  If you want to learn more about community radio, the National Campus and Community Radio Association (ncra.ca) has a list of all its members (mostly in English speaking Canada), as well as resources to read about how to set up a station.

For francophone communities, you can go to the website of ARC du Canada – Alliance des radios communitaires (https://radiorfa.com/ ).  There are also many Indigenous community radio stations in Canada.  You can also check out the website of the Community Radio Fund of Canada, https://crfc-fcrc.ca/ , an organization set up twelve years ago to help fund community radio across Canada (disclosure – I am on the board of the CRFC).

I’ve used radio as my first example because that’s the medium to which I have dedicated most of my life’s work.   Right now, I’m also branching out into community television and exploring new concepts like video gaming and virtual reality with one of my colleagues.  (another disclosure – I also work in community television too with the next organization I’m going to tell you about).

 

old fashioned television with dials on the right and rainbow stripes across the screen

 

If you’re interested in television, video gaming and virtual reality, check out CACTUS – The Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (cactusmedia.ca).  CACTUS was established about ten years ago by a group of people who saw the need to support the emerging community television sector beyond the usual model of community channels owned by the big cable companies. For a whole bunch of reasons, many of those stations have been closed down, leaving communities without a way to reach each other on television.  

CACTUS’s vision includes working with communities to help them develop community media across all platforms – not just radio and television, but also community based virtual reality and video games. 

Whatever distribution method you choose, the important thing is that it’s media produced for your community by people IN your community.  Because that’s what real community media is.  It’s not just some corporation creating media FOR you.  It’s about media created BY you.

If you would like to learn more about community media, I will be doing a webinar for SPARC where I can answer your questions about what’s involved in starting a community media organization in the place where you live. 

Details about the Expert Chat: Wednesday August 26 at 7pm on the SPARC Member Network Facebook group page (click here).

VF bio:

Victoria  is a community builder through media arts.  Whether she’s facilitating an arts camp, running a community radio, television station or community internet portal; or helping community groups develop their fundraising plans, she enjoys helping people find their unique role within a shared purpose.  She integrates principles of socially engaged arts practice in her projects, conducting story circles, acoustic ecology  and participatory media arts workshops.   She is also a radio journalist and environmental sound artist who is constantly exploring new ways to listen.  She lives in Barrie with her partner, singer songwriter Edward St. Moritz. 

Making Things Count: Pandemic Postcards Documentary

Graeme Bachiu takes us inside his pandemic documentary journey.

I decided fairly early on in the pandemic (late March or early April) that I was going to have to do something while I was stuck at home, projects cancelled and clients gone radio silent with 4 and a half year old twins trying to grasp junior kindergarten delivered by hardworking teachers suddenly thrust into an uncomfortable situation. Yet I noticed on social media some interesting stories in Haldimand Norfolk as the pandemic progressed.

Of course, I knew that I’d have no real ability to produce content in the conventional way, the before pandemic way…I’d have to come up with a new way of doing things. I collaborated with some close friends on some text message brainstorming and put together a bit of a plan.

on left is a photo of a senior man, on the right he stands at a window, with assistance, and looks at guests outside

Roy Alton, a long term care home resident in Dunnville who appears in the documentary, visiting with his family through a window.

 

For over a year I had been delivering low-key one-on-one cellphone filmmaking training sessions and I figured that would be the most likely way to capture content and stories for a documentary film. I created a six minute tutorial video which I sent to my eager potential storytellers and asked them to answer some questions by speaking directly to the camera at a quiet moment. I wanted the end product, a series of vignettes about how people were coping or in some cases thriving, to be personal and introspective. I set them loose on shooting some b-roll and asked for everything to be uploaded to Dropbox at which point I would begin to do some editorial.

Of course, there’d be some revisions and re-shoots and I enlisted my regular team of professionals to do an audio mix, colour correction and some motion graphics. We accomplished this all on shitty rural internet, using Slack to keep the team in touch and the wonderful folks at frame.io to pass our footage back and forth. We shot some footage ourselves, observing strict distancing, leading me to believe that this is the first 100% socially distanced documentary series produced during a pandemic in Ontario…and possibly in Canada?

split photo - on the left a photo of a man in an audio recording set-up, on the right the same man sits at a desk

Filmmaker and Musician Craig F. Watkins, from Delhi, has made hilarious music videos from his basement during the pandemic.

 

After I finished a provisional edit on the first episode (I had about 4 planned) I contacted Bell Media who I had a previous business relationship with and they were very excited, opting to purchase and air three episodes. In the middle of a serious public health emergency I was able to produce an hour and a half of interesting stories with a rural perspective, get it sold and aired on a national broadcaster and pay my crew. We turned the entire production around in 5 weeks…timely, quick, entertaining and poignant. It featured child care workers, a long term care facility, songwriters, cafe owners, people thrust into working in agriculture and some of the first people in Canada to test positive for COVID-19, all told in intimate stories and knitted together with sea shanties, old-timey banjo music, brass quintet music from 150 years ago and funk songs about not showering in 10 days. I figured what the hey, the broadcasters have never been more desperate…time to up the weirdness. If I didn’t have kids I would have shaved two weeks off the turnaround.

Executive Producer Carole Aeschelmann and I have a passion for telling stories about the rural areas of Ontario and Canada and, aside from the thrill of creation and the pride of doing something different and unprecedented I take great pride in generating some revenue for the people who work with me.

A blonde woman in a light green top plays guitar and sings. She is sitting in front of a wood pannelled wall.

Singer/Songwriter Whitney Fowler from Cayuga talks about running her cafe during the pandemic.

 

Making Things Count: Pandemic Postcards is now available to Bell Fibe subscribers on Bell Fibe TV1, channel 1.

The Elephant in the Room

A blog by guest blogger Denise Lysak on COVID and its impact on the Arts

poster of elephant holding an umbrella over a flower - text says - In a world where you can be anything, be kindPhoto Credit: Be Amazing

I live in rural and remote northwestern Ontario. I live off-the-grid on a small tea-coloured lake that is home to more fish than people and the most common species are northern pike, pickerel, perch, large and small-mouth bass. The fish share their space with an abundance of wildlife – from water mammals like beavers and otters to large birds of prey. Almost every day in the summertime, you can see rabbits, pine grouse, painted turtles, red squirrels, geese, ducks, blue jays, woodpeckers, loons and if you are lucky – trumpeter swans.  On rare occasions, our paths have crossed with white-tailed deer, foxes, lynx, wolves, black bears, and yes, even moose. 

The world we live in is the boreal forest and it spans 50 million hectares in the Canadian Shield.  The physical features of the Canadian Shield include rocks, bares and plateaus. The Canadian Shield has uplands which are high or hilly areas, and there are also a lot of rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands.  Here social distancing can be the norm, 365 days of the year and that is certainly true pre COVID-19. But to be sure right here, right now, COVID-19 is the elephant in the deep, dark woods.  

I have been at home in the performing arts for decades.  My church – for many, many years was the theatre at MTYP at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where two rivers meet. My favourite seats were in the balcony and from there I could watch the artists and the audience. There are other sacred spaces, homes to creative endeavours and incredible works, that hold me and keep me…the ruins in St. Boniface, the cage beneath the 232-seat black box Gas Station Theatre in Osborne Village, the Leighton Artists Studios at the Banff Centre, the number 14 bus in Vancouver, BC, the Oodena Circle at The Forks, the On The Rock tiny studio in Nestor Falls, a long ago rehearsal hall on the 5th floor of the old PTE building on Princess Street (that is now the downtown campus for Red River College), and the Cargill Theatre in St. Paul/ Minneapolis– just to name a few. 

The elephant in the room is like the house hippo. Real or imagined? Well, it must be real. Each and every space listed above is shuttered. Artists are at home. Creators in a “gig economy” are facing financial hardships with no end in sight. Seasons are cancelled. Symphonies are not playing music and the only sound you hear, is silence. Careers are on hold. Our makers, our artists, our musicians all have names.  They are not just statistics or numbers on a pie graph.  

On the radio today, I heard that after four months – The Louvre is opening. The Louvre Museum, is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement. This good news story sent me on a google expedition to see what else might be opening in the near future. It turns out that much closer to home, both the Lake of the Woods Museum and the Douglas Family Arts Centre is now open to the public. I love the Lake of the Woods Museum and I have yet to visit the Douglas Family Arts Centre.  I will put that on my must-see list for later this fall.  Why, wait – you might ask?  Back to that elephant in the room and the coronavirus that when somewhere, can be anywhere. 

My personal choice is at odds with the very tenets I hold most dear.  Art and culture live in a continuum. Without either we wither – we are simply empty shells existing across time and space. Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences. Research has shown art affects the fundamental sense of self. Painting, sculpture, music, literature and the other arts are often considered to be the repository of a society’s collective memory. I know so many people who need each and every one of us – to take up space in galleries, studios, theatres and museums. Their very livelihoods depend on it. And, yet – like the willow I bend. I fear that if I act too much like the oak – I will break.  For me, for right now – the elephant looms large and is still very much in the room. The pachyderms have taken over the very spaces that I once entered and exited with freedom, excitement and wild abandon. I am going to wait this out, with patience and kindness. I will find ways to act – to help keep the lives of people I know, as intact as possible under the circumstances.  There are “donate now” buttons to google. And, there are gift cards and subscriptions to purchase. I will also join in important conversations with leaders in the industry, with elected officials, and with arts and cultural funders. 

Now is the time to act, boldly and swiftly.  During this very, long pause – this unscripted intermission we need policies that support professional artists and arts organizations from all disciplines.  Guaranteed incomes for artists and operating funding for organizations should replace the old standby that is often called “project funding”. I once sat in a room filled with people – back when workshops and conferences happened without hesitation. One of the sessions encouraged us to look at the outline of a purple cow. This purple cow represented what could be – if only we allowed ourselves the free will to get past the very idea, that the cow was purple.  Imagine how different our world could be, if we challenge each and every one of us, to come to this new normal with every good idea that has ever been raised. To change perceptions and to challenge the status quo.  Let’s strive for something better, fairer and more just.  Let’s dig deep and do the hard work.  I am happy to say that the elephant in the room has now been replaced with the purple cow.