As an artist, Chrystene Ells is used to going out and creating new work with her neighbours in Regina. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept her indoors, glued to the news, she has started a project to make and share art based on what she’s been seeing on TV and online.
“I started to become obsessed with the news around the protests, and then the backlash against the protests, and all these incidents I just found alarming and overwhelming,” she said.
That’s when a friend suggested she start a journal and write about what she was feeling.
“And I said, OK, but I don’t think I’m going to write. I’m a visual person — so when I see some of these images in the news or on Twitter or elsewhere, they’re seared into my brain.”
So Ells picked up her pens and paper and started drawing — trying to limit herself to 20 or 30 minutes at a time, working on a small enough scale that she sometimes needs magnifying glasses to see the details.
As an American by birth, and with friends all over the United States, she has often chosen to focus on the protests and political events happening in her country of origin.
“The first picture I did, which was so shocking to me, [was] of federal agents gassing moms in Portland.… I was just in Portland visiting friends six months ago,” she said.
The idea of lightning striking the iconic statue, she said, “was such a great metaphor for what’s happening right now in the United States.”
Now, she says sharing her art and hearing from other artists in turn has become a way for her to process the overwhelming pace and scope of current events.
“It’s been like group art therapy for me, because so many people are engaging with it and sharing my work, making comments and adding comments of their own,” she said. “There’s conversations. And there just seems to be a lot of care and support.”
Ells says she is one of many artists who are looking for new, physically distanced ways to engage with issues in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her art, which she has been posting on social media, has inspired responses from friends and strangers — everything from other pieces of visual art to poetry and commentary.
“I think there’s kind of a mini-pandemic right now of artists not knowing what to do,” she said.
“Since quarantine, there’s been this sense of helplessness — like the world is spinning out of control in ways we can’t really grasp.… I think artists are really struggling right now with how to serve, how to be helpful, how to apply what they do.”
And Ells thinks anybody who is struggling to keep up with the news these days could benefit from taking a step back and engaging with it from a new, creative perspective.
“I think everybody is, to some degree, more anxious this July than they were last July,” she said.
“But these drawings I’ve worked on over the past couple of weeks have helped me to process all this information and not feel so overwhelmed. It brings it down to a bite-sized thing that I’m looking at.”
Some of the Sunshine Coast’s young musical-theatre talent will be showing what they can do when they hit the stage this weekend at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons. The production team Synergy at Play, led by Varya Rubin and Bill Moysey, has been running a two-week performance intensive for youth, preparing for their show, A Little Bit of Broadway. There will be three performances: Friday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Aug 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Seats are limited due to ongoing pandemic protocols. Tickets are $15, $10 for kids aged six to 12, five and under are free. Available at email@example.com.
Music to our ears
There’s a passion to hear live, in-person performance here on the Coast after close to 17 months of doing without. Shows are selling quickly. You cannot get tickets now to see the Rogue Arts Festival show with Brothers in Farms and Staggers and Jaggs at the 101 in Gibsons on Saturday, Aug. 7, the Brandon Isaak concert at the Clubhouse Restaurant in Pender Harbour on Aug. 8, or the SoulShine Garden Concert with Dawn Pemberton on Aug. 12. But there is still plenty to enjoy. Here are just a few of the musical offerings in coming days (check the Coast Reporter’s Community Calendar and Coast Cultural Alliance’s website for more). Shows marked “free” may also feature a handy tip jar:
Charlotte Wrinch plays the Clubhouse Restaurant at the Pender Harbour Golf Club on Friday Aug. 6 from 5 to 9 p.m. On Sunday, Aug. 8, The Burying Ground will be there with its great, toe-tapping vintage jazz-blues from 2 to 5 p.m.
The Roberts Creek Legion is opening its stage for individuals or groups to play on Friday, Aug. 6 from 4 to 8 p.m. To reserve performance or jamming time, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Burying Ground plays there Saturday, Aug. 7 from 4 to 9 p.m.
At noon on Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Sechelt Summer Music Series behind the library, hear the reggae rhythms of Pete Catastrophe, followed at 1 p.m. by the Wanda Nowicki Trio. Free.
The 1 p.m. show at Music in The Landing at Winegarden Park in Gibsons features the Gambier Island acoustic duo, Kansas and Johnny. At 7 p.m., electric grit-blues maestros Georgia Fats will get you smiling and swaying. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Free.
The vocal and guitar stylings of Martinez will be on tap from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Tapworks in Gibsons, Saturday, Aug. 7.
Slow Sundays in The Creek, behind the library in Roberts Creek, has another creatively varied lineup for Aug. 8. The Whirlwind Woodwind Quintet starts things off at noon, with teen singer-songwriter Kaishan performing at 1 p.m., and the Martini Madness Band at 2 p.m. Free.
Indoor seating is still limited, but the Coast’s two main movie theatres have reopened. Raven’s Cry Thetare in Sechelt is screening films nightly, as is Gibsons Cinema, which is also running weekend matinees. Check your local listings.
Officially unveiling the latest installation in downtown Timmins windows are (left to right): Timmins James Bay MP Charlie Angus, Coun. Cory Robin, who represents the city on the BIA board; and BIA chairman Jamie Roach.
(Bob McIntyre, MyTimminsNow.com staff)
Six sets of two posters each that are showing up in vacant store windows in downtown Timmins are the work of two Toronto artists. They are, however, on the theme of “Living in Timmins.”
The artwork is financed by a Toronto-based organization dedicated to brightening up downtowns.
Timmins BIA executive director Cindy Campbell says that group will issue a public call for artists this fall.
“Based on Northern Ontario and especially Timmins’ participation,” she points out, “they’re specifically reaching out to indigenous and northern artists to become part of the roster so their artwork can be shown across Canada.”
Campbell says any time someone stops to look at the art, they could realize that there’s potential in that store space.
“All of a sudden that maybe Mom and Pop business idea that was in the back of your head becomes a reality,” she remarks. “‘If I can showcase my products like they’re showcasing what they’re doing, I have a chance at a business.’”
The art was officially unveiled on Wednesday at the following addresses:
The annual Skeena Salmon Art Show is set to kick off this Friday (Aug. 6) at the Terrace art gallery before moving along to Hazelton in September and Smithers in October.
The fourth annual show will have a wide variety of different types of art on display, including painting, carving, jewelry and sculpture.
“This exhibition unites communities across the northwest, showcasing our collective love for salmon,” said Dave Gordon, Skeena Salmon Art Fest president, adding that he is excited that the show will also stop in Hazelton and Smithers this year.
“As sister communities along the Skeena, we rely on salmon to sustain our cultures and natural environments. We very much look forward to seeing how artist communities will come together to celebrate salmon through art.”
Several esteemed artists will have their work on display at the show, like Stan Bevan, Alex and Michelle Stoney, Carly Nabess, Cathrine Blackburn, among others.
Up to $2,000 in prize money is available in the juried section of the exhibit, with this year’s jury composed of Mike Dangeli, Vanessa Gill and Theresa Schober. For the People’s Choice Award, members of the public are encouraged to vote for their favourite artwork.
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