On being funded

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG

I know it’s taboo, but I’m going to talk about money.

In particular I’m going to talk about the money I received last week from the Ontario Art Council through it Exhibition Assistance program.

I’ve tentatively arrived at the “career” of artist as I navigate my middle years – a journey partly of necessity and partly of design. I’m emerging as an artist, so to be validated by the province’s premier arts granting body is cause for celebration. It’s a milestone coupled to my time as Kitchener’s Artist in Residence in 2014.

The grant is based on recommendations by local arts organizations, usually galleries or artist-run centres who assess applicants and suggest funding to the OAC. I applied through the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and its senior curator Crystal Mowry  for support for the final exhibition of my Kitchener residency project called Neighbourhood Voices in the Rotunda Gallery at City Hall.

interactive video installation

The exhibition of 16 photographic portraits of everyday Kitchener people along with of an interactive “Story Mixing Station” was a gateway into a collection of personal stories gathered over the residency. The work encapsulates the way in which our stories intersect to create a third narrative or meta narrative of community life. You can read more about the Story Mixer in my earlier post, “Mixing Messages in Kitchener.” The stories can be viewed outside the mixer on this YouTube playlist:

Although the application for exhibition assistance is quite simple, the idea of it was daunting.

Here’s the official description of the program: “This program is open to Ontario-based professional visual artists, craft artists, media artists and artist collectives who have a confirmed, upcoming public exhibition. Exhibitions in Ontario, in other Canadian provinces and in international locations are all eligible.”

Writing an application to someone you know, someone you see regularly at openings, someone who has THE creds in a world in which you are a newcomer, someone such as Crystal Mowry, is way harder than writing for a faceless, nameless jury – at least I thought so.

Since entering into the community of art makers in Waterloo Region, I’m surprised regularly by the generosity of my colleagues – a willingness to share ideas, experience and work. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the mentorship so willingly offered by Crystal in the application process.

Preparing the application was less work than other grant applications I’ve been involved with, but Crystal’s attention to detail and insistence on proper form gave me more valuable take-ways than any grant writing workshop I’ve attend.

Average income for Canadian artists from all sources is a little over $31,000 annually; so, funds granted by the Ontario Arts Council are crucial to enabling artists to create and exhibit their work. Equally important though, is the networks and development of art making in individual communities nurtured by these grants.

For me, there is much to be thankful for in the grant:

  • The money, of course
  • Validation as an artist
  • And the mentorship of experienced artists



Mixing Messages in Kitchener

interactive video installation

As part of my residency at the City of Kitchener in 2014 I developed an interactive video installation for two gallery shows that gave visitors the chance to mix together two of the video stories I created as part of the year-long project, Neighbourhood Voice. The mixing of the stories creates both resonance and dissonance with the lives of the people both in the story and the viewer. This deepens the connection between the viewer in the storytelling and creates a unique of the of the stories each time they are played.

I intentionally paired the stories to reveal my reflection of filming and editing each of the story and intersection of the experiences. The storytellers  – a 90-something war veteran and 30-something full-time mom – in the video below are both deeply connected to their community, but in vastly different ways. How they choose to play out their connect offers insight into the passage of time, the importance of symbols and moments in our lives connect us to the place where we live.

The video is an example of the how one person experienced these stories.

For more Neighourhood Voices checkout the series playlist on my Recent Videos page.

Telling stories with single images

Imagine a cube van transformed into a camera. This project reminds me of early landscape photographers who traveled North America documenting the natural wonders. The images captured here are post industrial natural wonders … people who have survived.
The narrative is a bit sentimental, but the beautiful silver images, great storytelling are worth every second.

iPod digital storytelling brings out the geek in me

iPod Mobile Digital Storytelling Lab - image
iPod Mobile Digital Storytelling and Media Lab
Since I first put my hands on a serious camera, I’ve struggled with the Geek Factor – that thing where you want to touch the gear. It’s like walking around in fear you’ll buy a Leatherman Tool on an whim – the one with belt holster.

Then my son – whom I consider as far from Geekdom as one can get – got a Leatherman as a gift and was all ga-ga over it. Suddenly I was freed. Freed to indulge my gear fetish – in a healthy way.

One of the pieces of gear I consider a healthy choice is the iPod Touch I’ve been using for about a year now. It’s become my go-to, universal media tool.

In fact I recently used it to produce a 14 minute personal-story documentary in collaboration with inREACH, a social agency that offers support for young men who are trying to break connections with gang activity.

I use it extensively in my work as director of the Latitudes and Longitudes Digital Storytelling Project. I shoot still photos and video; write blog posts (like still one); edit video and record sound. At the digital storytelling project one of the greatest challenges is providing workshop participants with suitable technology environment for creation of their personal narratives.

In the past this has meant a fulling equipped computer lab with professional grade software and hardware – a tall order indeed for start-up art projects such Latitudes and Longitudes. This is where the iPod Touch comes in. I recently bought six basic iPods to form the basis of a mobile digital storytelling and media lab that I will be using in my future work.

First up is Local Food Bytes a series of two digital storytelling workshops designed to capture community stories about local food and its impact on peoples’ lives. The freedom afforded by a mobile media lab will allow me to hold these sessions at a neighbourhood coffee shop that offers a community meeting room and free WIFI to patrons – Misty Mountain Coffee Company on Queen Street South in Kitchener. You can get more details and register on the Latitudes and Longitude website.

I’ll also be using the mobile lab with a new project at inREACH, as well as at a Grade 5 classroom project funded by Arts Smarts Waterloo Region.

1+1+1 = All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up
Colour Mixing Experiment

I’ve been taking classes with Kitchener artist Alan Daniel. Alan is a master of technique and a marvelous illustrator. You can see his illustrations in the much-praised books The Story of Canada and recently in Fireside Al’s Treasury of Christmas Stories.

One of the tasks that Alan set for me was to learn how to mix a wide range of colours using the three primary colours – red, blue and yellow.

The accompanying image is of one of my mixing experiments using acrylics on wet watercolour paper. I love the way the colours spider across the wet paper, but unlike watercolours you can lay down heavy layers of paint while the paper is still wet, getting a more textured effect.

So much to learn, so little time.