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Algonquin professor brings hope to the world through her art –



When the great philosopher Plato called art a mere imitation and the “greatest danger” for humankind, he wouldn’t have imagined, not even in his wildest dreams, that one day art would be a saviour, a creative way to cope during the tough times.

With the world in a state of confusion and chaos due to the Coronavirus pandemic, art has come to the rescue. All of us, in some way or the other, have consumed art during quarantine; some for sanity, and some to find happiness and hope. Madonna’s statement, “art can heal if allowed to exist,” never felt more true.

While everyone was looking for hope, Andrea Emery, a graphic design professor at Algonquin College, was busy creating it through art.

“My friend sent me a text message. She said she was having something sent to me but didn’t tell me what it was. Her message read, ‘I saw this and immediately thought of you,’ ” Emery said.

A week later, a small envelop arrived in the mail. It was a 5×7” sketchbook from the Brooklyn Art Library, part of “The Sketchbook Project.”

It was November 2019 when Emery received that message from her friend Laura Brisson. It would be a life-changer.

The innovative sketchbook project allows artists to order a sketchbook and fill it with their art. After completion, the sketchbook needs to be sent back to the Brooklyn Art Library, in New York.

Once submitted, the sketchbook is catalogued and becomes a part of the creative library.

One can also choose to digitalize their sketchbook. To create the digital sketchbook, each page is professionally photographed and added to the online digital library- preserving it in the virtual world forever and making it accessible to anyone around the globe. Since 2006, the library has successfully collected 36,000 artists’ books from more than 135 countries.

Emery, who thrives on art and doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t drawing, painting or sewing, couldn’t think of any ideas to fill the sketchbook when she received the gift that November.

By March everything turned upside down.

During the start of the pandemic, Emery began noticing how her friends used their time in isolation. She also read an article by the American film director Julio Vincent Gambuto where he described the pandemic as “The Great Pause.”

Gambuto suggested using this period to rethink what was important to us. This idea struck Emery and she used it as her inspiration and the title of her book.

Andrea Emery's artwork from The Great PauseAndrea Emery's artwork from The Great Pause

Andrea Emery’s artwork from The Great Pause Photo credit: Andrea Emery

“I started to draw pictures of things we were doing: making bread, cooking, making and wearing masks, working from home, gardening. All these interesting things,” she said.

Just like everyone else, Emery was going through a low phase during the quarantine. To motivate herself, she began uploading her work on social media. This helped her complete the sketchbook by May. She also received an overwhelming response from friends and social media followers who asked her to replicate the booklet and print copies.

Reluctant at first and waiting for the long backlog of digitizing her sketchbook, she finally decided to print the booklet.

“The plan, at first, was to print 25 copies with four blank pages to be filled by the buyers. But when I told my friends about it, I had pre-paid orders for 200 booklets in just three days,” Emery said.

After making enough profit to cover the printing cost, she decided to get another 150 copies printed, this time donating the profit to Highjinx, a non-profit shop which helps the vulnerable in Ottawa. The copies were a hit and were sold out in under two weeks with many people buying the booklets as gifts for friends and family.

The Great Pause was shipped across Canada (Nova Scotia to British Columbia) and all over the world (Ireland, England, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, Japan). The final batch of 200 copies is up for sale on Etsy.

Overwhelmed by the response, Emery said: “I am honoured that so many people can relate to my illustrations and love my booklet. It makes my heart feel so good!”

Two weeks ago, Emery was informed her work will become a part of the City of Ottawa Archives Collection of COVID-19 objects, adding a feather to her cap.

“I am thrilled and honoured that my work will become a little part of history,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is as close as I am going to get to having my work in a museum.”

Currently, Emery is waiting for her booklet to be digitalized at the Brooklyn Arts Library.

“It is a wonderful initiative and a great undertaking. I can’t wait to be able to visit the library and thumb through the sketchbooks myself,” said Emery. “I feel honoured to be included along with so many other artists from all over the world!”

Up and coming artists can be a part of the worldwide initiative through The Sketchbook Project.

Check out some of Andrea Emery’s artworks on Instagram.

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Calgary community ups its art game with powerful youth murals –



What does 2020 mean to you? 

That was the seed planted in three young Calgary artists and it grew into huge, colourful, thought-provoking murals now on display in the northwest community of Sunnyside.

“This is the first mural I have ever done,” Daniel Volante told CBC News.

“I have never used spray paint before and I have never done anything this big before, so it’s been quite the process. I am learning a lot.”

Daniel Volante, 17, is calling his mural Dreamer. It’s about wanting to do a lot but having COVID-19 restrictions put everything on hold. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

The 17-year-old’s mural, Dreamer, is bookended by the art of two other teens on shipping containers at a Sunnyside park just southeast of the Kensington Safeway.

Volante says he’s spent several hours a day for three weeks putting together his contribution to containR, a pop up arts and culture hub organized by Springboard Performance.

“I wanted it to look dream like. A lot of the colours are vibrant. I used a blue to outline everything,” he explained.

This is Jaxson Naugler’s mural. He wanted to show a connection between humans and nature. (Mary Annan)

“I found this piece in myself. It’s a pretty personal piece. I was inspired by how I felt during the last four months. I’ve been dreaming and thinking a lot. I want to do everything but in the last four months stuck at home, it’s just not coming out. That’s what this piece means to me.”

And that’s exactly what Springboard was looking for, the artistic director says.

“What does 2020 mean to you? That was the starting point,” Nicole Mion said.

“The best art comes with what is most meaningful to you. That’s a great place to always start.”

The murals will be at the Sunnyside location, just southeast of the Kensington Safeway, for a few more weeks. (Mary Annan)

The containR program started in 2009, perhaps ironically, as a way to combat vandalism.

“While it started as a way of deterring tagging, it became a way of sharing incredible art,” Mion said.

Springboard had a call out for artists. A jury narrowed the applications to three.

Daniel Volante calls his piece Dreamer. This is near the start of his mural. (Rich-Belle Banasen)

Their canvas is a shipping container about nine feet by 40 feet (roughly three by 12 metres).

“The point of containR is to connect communities with art,” Mion said.

“You can see performances, you can play music, you can see family theatre, you can see a whole series of murals. Like any park, you go to play, you go to connect in the way you feel comfortable.”

Kate MacLean wanted to make a statement about equality and beauty in her mural, called Eclipse. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Another artist, 15-year-old Kate MacLean, was uncomfortable with some of what she sees as media representation of people of colour.

“The Black woman on the left depicts the sun. The Asian woman on the right depicts the moon,” MacLean explained.

In an eclipse, they are together. So that’s what MacLean has named her piece.

“I wanted the opportunity to paint people of different ethnicities. Different kinds of people are equally beautiful.”

Kate MacLean works on her mural, called Eclipse, which shows two woman of different ethnicities side-by-side. Her message is everyone is beautiful. (Rich-Belle Banasen)

Jaxson Naugler wanted to make a point about interconnectivity in his art.

“A human and a tree. The person’s face turns into a tree. That’s the most important connection,” the 17-year-old said.

“I also added some trippy, colourful stuff on the other side to show that, yes, these two things are connected, but also everything in the universe is connected.”

Jaxson Naugler, 17, is a Calgary-based visual artist. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Naugler says it’s reaction to his work that he most enjoys.

“My favourite part is just hearing what people think it means,” he said.

“Everybody thinks it means something else. It could mean a thousand different things. People’s interpretation is my favourite part.”

The murals will be on display for a few more weeks.

Teen artist Jaxson Naugler works on his mural, which depicts the connection between people and nature. (Rich-Belle Banasen)

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Art meets recreation – Smithers Interior News



The Bulkley Valley Pool and Recreation Centre has been splashed with some colour.

The outside wall facing the highway is now home to a new mural done by Raven-Tacuara Professional Arts Collective. It is now halfway complete.

Raven-Tucuara is a First Nations art group based in northwest B.C. They say their name is humble nod to the Eagle-Condor prophecy of a united First Nations peoples across the Americas.

Facility Manager Tamara Gillis said this mural project has been in the works for a number of years now and they have been seeking grant funding to make it happen.

“This year we supported an application of the BV Community Arts Council to Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation grant program for this project,” she said. “We are very pleased that the grant funding was awarded.”

The art piece does have First Nations influence and Gillis said the artists ensured that protocols for image design were followed.

“Public art has many benefits and is an excellent way to bring joy and pride to the community,” Gillis added. “We are pleased that our building will be showcased with this large scale mural and enhance the highway corridor through the Town of Smithers. This mural will benefit both locals and those travelling though. This is especially true during this strange time of COVID-19.”

One of the five artists working on the mural is Facundo Gastiazoro. He’s an Argentinian born with a Wichi/Lebanese background. Wichi are First Nations peoples of South America. He currently lives in Smithers.

He said the inspiration for the piece came from children playing.

“Water and the joy when you dive in,” he said. “That moment of being in the air and being super happy, that is the inspiration. I remember being a kid and knowing that I’m going to splash everyone and it is fun and lovely and everything is OK and beautiful.”

Stephanie Anderson is also part of the collective working on the mural and is from the Laksilyu (small frog) Clan. Her family is from Witset and she currently lives in Terrace. Her artwork has won regional and national awards and has been shown across B.C. including at the Vancouver (YVR) airport.

She said there is something special about working close to home.

“I find Smithers to be an awesome, colourful, friendly community,” she added. “I like having my artwork closer to home and also I like putting up some work in Wet’suwet’en territory. I find the community work to be a big draw.”

The one wall is done and the team is waiting for the stucco on the wall facing the arena to be fixed before adding more artwork there.

“It is really awesome, I like how our design has come to life. It is vibrant and really fun,” Anderson said. “We tried a new technique and overlaid the design over the base colours and are happy with the results.”

The other two artists in the collective working on the mural are Amanda Dionne Hugon and Travis Hebert. The collective also hired a student, Robyn Lough, to join them on this project.

There is currently no completion date at this time as the collective is waiting for the repairs to be done on the wall and their canvas first.

Raven-Tacuara are also commissioned to do a mural honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on the sides of the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre building later this summer (See article Page A12).

Bulkley-Nechako Regional DistrictSmithers

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Raven-Tacuara Professional Arts Collective working on the mural. (BV Regional Pool and Recreation Centre Facebook photo)

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Group giving out food, essentials, art supplies to Sudbury's homeless community –



Once a week, on Tuesdays, Memorial Park in downtown Sudbury is briefly transformed. 

A table set up by Myths and Mirrors Community Arts staff welcomes the city’s homeless community, offering a hot meal, and an assortment of items — from first aid kits and water bottles, to hand decorated journals, candles and art supplies. 

“People deserve nice things, and that’s what we really believe in,” said Abbey Jackson, one of the organizers.

The weekly redistribution, as the group calls it, is a reinvention of a Myths and Mirrors program Jackson co-founded in 2019, called Sudbury Street Arts. It offered a drop-in space for people living in poverty, to warm up, use Wi-Fi, and have a hot meal — and make art together. 

People who are living outside … [were] denied a dignified experience of the pandemic.— Abbey Jackson, Sudbury Street Arts co-founder

Like many programs, it was put on hold because of the pandemic. 

“We were kind of battling with that because we felt like we had already made the commitment to this community,” said Cora-Rae Silk, the artistic director with Myths and Mirrors. 

So last month, Silk and Jackson decided to continue the program, in a new setting, hoping to meet people’s immediate needs, as well offer small comforts and opportunity for creativity.  

Pandemic amplified challenges 

The need for programs like Sudbury Street Arts is greater than ever, Jackson says. She herself was previously homeless in Toronto, and knows first hand how difficult it is to get by day-to-day. She says those challenges have been amplified as many services were scaled back, or simply not available, during the pandemic.  

Abbey Jackson is the co-founder of Sudbury Street Arts. She wants to give people living in poverty in Sudbury the dignity they deserve as they navigate the pandemic. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

“People who are living outside and living in extreme poverty were in a lot of ways denied a dignified experience of the pandemic,” Jackson said. 

“People are put in this position where they have to grovel, they have to beg. It’s humiliating just to use a bathroom, find a place to stay and eat a meal.”

With Sudbury Street Arts, Jackson says there are “no expectations, no conditions.” 

Adam McMillan has been homeless for eight months. He agrees the pandemic has presented extra challenges.

“When the rich people feel the pinch and the normal people are really struggling, the homeless people really take the brunt of it,” McMillan said. 

Adam McMillan stopped by Memorial Park for a hot meal, and also took some other supplies. He’s been without a place to live for the past eight months, and says the pandemic has hit homeless populations hardest. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

‘Beautiful things can happen’

On Tuesday afternoon, McMillan grabbed lunch — a bowl of chili and a muffin — along with some other items to put in his backpack, including pencils and a small green notebook. He says he plans to draw, and write songs. 

Organizers hope many, like McMillan, will find moments for creativity.

“We want people to not only be safe and be as comfortable as they can out here, we also want them to be able to do things that they enjoy,” Jackson said. 

Along with food and hygiene products, people can help themselves to items like books and art supplies. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Jackson says she knows many talented artists within Sudbury’s homeless community, but she says the opportunity to put those talents to use if often out of reach, as people focus on the “full time job” of survival. 

“We know that if we can provide the support and the means, even the materials to make art to people who can’t afford them, then some beautiful things can happen.” 

A group in Sudbury has started giving out food, hygiene products and other items, once a week, in a downtown park. It’s a re-imagination of an arts program that was put on hold because of the pandemic. 8:27

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