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Maple Syrup Art: Nature as Inspiration – Capilano Courier



Jason Arkell-Boles // Columnist

In the age of climate change, feeling terrified for the future is the new norm. Forests burning down, cities flooding, even the sudden mothpocalypse in Vancouver—hopelessness seems to be the trend of the year. However, unreported by social media and the news, new technologies are being produced faster than ever, technologies that can totally redesign the world. Instead of cities living beside nature, cities could become a part of nature. A few weeks ago I watched an episode of the docuseries Abstract: The Art of Design that featured Neri Oxman, a bio-architect and professor at the MIT Media Lab. This lab is a glimpse into the most exciting future none of us thought would exist. A future that’s one with nature. A future that’s plastic-less, pollution-less and maybe even harmless.

The MIT Media Lab represents the perfect intersection of science, engineering, design, art, and nature. With a diverse team of artists and scientists, the lab is venturing into the unexplored field of bio-design: the design of objects inspired by nature. One example, Mushtari, is a 3D-Printed article of clothing filled with synthetic microorganisms that transforms sunlight into consumable sucrose. Another is Aguahoja, an art project that proposes a new, growable, biodegradable material that could someday be a replacement for plastic. 

It blew my mind that neuroscience and biology are at the point where humans can grow structures. As Neri Oxman explains in the docuseries, humans are moving from nature-inspired design to design-inspired nature. I couldn’t believe people weren’t talking about this more. Immediately after watching the episode, I began research into bio-design firms within Canada. To both my surprise and disappointment, there isn’t a lot of bio-design present outside of the MIT Media Lab. 

Throughout Canadian art history, nature has been the muse of several great artists such as Emily Carr and the Group of Seven. While nature has always played a vital role in inspiring the works of Canadian painters, the desire to save and preserve the environment has become a new inspiration for artists. Take musician Grimes’ latest album Anthropocene, Margaret Atwood’s novel MaddAddam, or Brett Story’s documentary The Hottest August. Each project with its own perspective delves into issues of climate change, either based in reality, fiction, or avant-garde fantasy. 

In my own films, themes of climate change make it into every script. Even so, an issue for myself and many up-and coming-artists is feeling like we’re unable to incite real, physical change with the art we make. With clouds of wildfire smoke filling the skies, it’s hard for anyone to feel optimistic. In a world so uncontrollable and volatile, artists attempt protests, political works, films—but a true and radical change in society never occurs, leaving many hopeless.

If nature has historically been so important to the artists of Canada, why hasn’t bio-design—a beautiful collaboration of nature and art—been explored here? If humans, in theory, have the means to build inexpensive, organic—essentially utopian—structures and buildings, why haven’t we? I think the answer is a lack of communication between scientists, artists, designers, engineers, and in fact, all academic fields within Canada.

So if artists aren’t able to journey into bio-architecture, then what has the science department been doing in this regard? The answer: actually a lot. With programs like the Bachelors of Environmental Design and the BioProducts institute popping up at UBC, innovations are happening left and right. This past summer, using locally sourced wood fibers as the core material, the BioProducts Institute recently developed potentially the world’s first biodegradable N95 mask in the heat of a pandemic. But this is an art column, so, where can artists fit into this equation? The answer, I believe, is that artists should be a part of the equation, from start to finish. 

My roommate Naomi is one of many design thinkers in the graphics-based IDEA program at Capilano University. In their final year, IDEA has all of its students submit a ‘capstone project,’ which is an opportunity for each student to find a social, political, or environmental issue and solve it through design. This can come in the form of books, apps, ad campaigns, and websites. Naomi is trying to solve the issue of nursing shortages, by inspiring more men to pursue nursing careers. 

What these students do is impressive, but it’s hard not to think about what all these artists and designers could do if they were to collaborate with scientists, engineers, architects, and even neuro-surgeons. What if artists in all disciplines didn’t limit themselves to traditional art forms, what if they could begin to create art inspired by nature, by growing art pieces? And on the other end of the spectrum, what if scientists and engineers didn’t have to limit themselves to strictly practical applications of their studies? 

The freedom to explore artistic modes of thought can create beautiful objects that communicate artistically with the human body, similar to Mushtari. Through a collaboration of science, engineering, designers, and artists, the potential for projects using just local wood fibers is huge. If artists embrace the nature around them and start hanging out with scientists, engineers and architects, maybe they could truly change the world now, when we need it most. 

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Homeless artist gains support, reconnects with family, after his art is posted on social media –



A local artist who has been homeless for five years is gaining national attention for his artwork, and is getting help finding a home after one of his drawings was shared thousands of times on social media.

A Facebook post featuring Claudemier Bighetty’s artwork has been shared over 5,000 times, and resulted in a flood of support — including help trying to find him a home and reconnecting him with his family. 

Bighetty said people are recognizing him in the streets now. “When I’m drawing something out there, they’re like, ‘you’re that guy, you’re that guy from Facebook!’ Like some total strangers,” he said. 

Part of the credit goes to Jay Mousseau, who originally posted Bighetty’s pen drawing on Facebook after purchasing it off of him in a parking lot. 

WATCH | Claudemier Bighetty and Jay Mousseau share their story

Homeless for five years, Claudemier Bighetty’s life is slowly changing with the help of social media and some new friends. 3:46

In his original post, Mousseau highlights Bighetty’s tremendous skill and refers to him as the Indigenous Picasso. 

“Never judge a book by its cover … You never know someone’s skills or talent they have,” Mousseau said in the original post.

After that post gained widespread popularity, Mousseau set out to find Bighetty. He spent over a week searching for him until he was finally able to locate Bighetty under a Winnipeg train bridge, where he currently lives. 

“I showed him his post. I seen his face glow and light up, and I seen how happy it made him,” said Mousseau.  

Joshua Mousseau (left), Jay Mousseau (centre left), and Brandan Campell (right), visit Claudemier Bighetty everyday. The three men often bring Bighetty food, outdoor equipment, art commissions and good news when they visit. (Jonathan Ventura/ CBC)

Mousseau, his brother Joshua Mousseau and friend Brandan Campell have kept visiting Bighetty every day since they were first able to locate him. 

“I love these guys, they are the best thing that has ever happened to me, they keep my head on straight,” said Bighetty. 

The social media post currently has over 800 comments of support, but its impact goes well beyond likes and shares.

New fans of Bighetty’s artwork have dropped off canvas, art supplies, a working cellphone, food and have started commissioning original pieces. 

Recently, Bighetty’s work has been auctioned off online. His first piece sold for $225 to a buyer in Ottawa.

Mousseau has also started organizing with the Galerie d’art Riverside in Wakefield, Que., which will be hosting five of Bighetty’s original pieces. 

Finding family again

The post has done more than create demand for Bighetty’s art — it also reconnected him with family who’ve been searching for Bighetty but have been unable to locate him until now.

Bighetty’s son and brother reached out to Mousseau on Facebook, and was able to help reconnect the family members.

Claudemier Bighetty reunited with his brother Gordon Bighetty Jr. (Submitted by Jay Mousseau)

With the coldest months of the year approaching, Mousseau has started a GoFundMe campaign to help Bighetty find a warm home for the winter. 

“I wanted to lift him up, because that’s what we do as Indigenous people,” said Mousseau. 

He hopes that Bighetty won’t be on the streets for much longer. 

Recently, Bighetty has also been approached by Ndinawe Safe House to help him find a place to live and provide him with culturally appropriate support. 

Between help from Ndinawe and the GoFundMe, Mousseau believes Bighetty will be off the streets and in a hotel this week — a transitional step to finding a permanent home. 

For the artist, he says it’s all a bit overwhelming, but he’s enjoying the positive support and says that he’s going to continue making art.

“I’ve been through it all. I’ve seen it. I’ve been in and out, and … because of my art work, it’s keeping me grounded,” Bighetty said.

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Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre to host annual Christmas art show – Mayerthorpe Freelancer



The Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre is encouraging people to shop local this holiday season and is hosting a craft show next month featuring local artists.

The Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre is hosting a Christmas arts sale in November, with attendance by ticketed appointment to control crowds. (Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre)

The Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre is encouraging people to shop local this holiday season so is hosting a craft show next month featuring local artists.

The Deck the Halls craft sale will feature original paintings, pottery, photography, jewelry and quilted items, and run for three days from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22.

To accommodate crowd size limits and safe social distancing, people are asked to register for a ticket and attend during a designated 45-minute time slot. Tickets are free, and masks are mandatory.

After the three-day sale, many goods will be available in the gallery during regular hours.

Find more information and tickets at

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Teens behind latest art damage on Berlin's Museum Island – Assiniboia Times



BERLIN — Several teenagers sprayed graffiti on a piece of art outside one of Berlin’s most famous museums and that the vandalism was unrelated to the damaging of more than 60 other art works on the city’s Museum Island that were smeared with an oily liquid early this month, police said Saturday.

A huge granite bowl in front of the Altes Museum, which is part of the German capital’s museum complex and houses antiquities, was defaced Friday night by some teenagers and adults, Berlin police said. Two of the suspects were temporarily detained.

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Museum Island is a UNESCO world heritage site in the heart of Berlin and one of the city’s main tourist attractions,

Dozens of other exhibits at the Museum Island complex were vandalized Oct. 3. Investigators said they had watched hours of surveillance camera footage but not found any obvious sign of anyone applying the liquid.

Museum experts have said the motive remains a mystery and there appeared to be no thematic link between the targeted works. They expressed optimism that the apparently random damage can be repaired.

Berlin police said the graffiti sprayed on the granite bowl did not have any political content or appear related to the damaging of the other art works.

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