In Good Company

Today marks 10 years since the 2nd In Good Company Festival. The first In Good Company Festival held in 2007 celebrated the contributions of women in the arts. In 2008, In Good Company returned to celebrate the creative contributions of immigrants to the cultural landscape.

Both Festivals highlighted the past achievements and early ‘pioneering’ spirit of non-traditional creative expression. For women it was hand-work such as stitching and quilts, personal correspondence, paintings and compositions that had rarely if ever been performed for a public audience.

Present day artists, performers, musicians, writers were given forum for their work. Multiple stages throughout the community were used from large scale venues to black box theatres, intimate galleries and the region’s largest stages. Traditional dance shared the stage with contemporary and classical disciplines; a funk band paired with a world music group; classical Indian dance as well as a classical theatre movement workshops; many, many opportunities to discover the incredible talent contributing to the community’s creative conversation.

The main goal of the 4-week Festivals was to give public space to the voices that are often sidelined, but there were other important reasons for the efforts – including the payment to the performers and contributors. To pay artists for their work validates their efforts and contributes to the region’s creative economy. To that end, multiple partners stood with the Festival including Foundations, Art Councils, private sponsors and the region’s established arts organizations to ensure the contributions were compensated.

In ten years it is extraordinary to realize that the conversations from In Good Company are still part of the public conscience. Creating the capacity for these conversations to begin and in some ways blossom occurred because the invitations were extended and accepted.

Here’s to all the capacity builders who create the opportunity for dialogue – especially through the arts.

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Gord Downie. Land and Sea. Poetry and Music.

Canadians possess a fierce pride of identity. One vital thread of our complex cultural history is so young that we can reach back and be within a generation or two of touching those pioneers who, along with the First Nations strong voices before them, helped forge our identity. And from those markers we can draw a direct line to each generations’ cultural benchmarks. Our sense of self as Canadians is etched on the landscape where we first identified with these distinctly Canadian heroes. The Canadian Shield, the Rockies, the Great Lakes, three Oceans and the Hudson’s Bay.  From which birthed the Group of Seven and their compatriots who painted what we felt, to poet Al Purdy considered by some the quintessential voice of Canada , giving words to those same feelings. Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and on to the Tragically Hip. Their music echoes the rough wildness of the land, laced with the most sophisticated and graceful turns of phrase. Land and sea. The poetry and the music. The Hip sound like our Canada. Just as Emily Carr’s and Tom Thomson’s paintings look like our Canada. gd

Like Purdy, Gord Downie’s poetry and lyrics do not shy away from the stark, the harsh, the vulnerable, the real. Without pretense. On a cold February night in 2013, a friend and I sat in Koerner Hall, Toronto, for a fundraiser supporting the preservation of Al Purdy’s A Frame cabin. Al Purdy’s home at the edge of Roblin Lake in Prince Edward County Ontario had always welcomed artists and would continue to be an education resource and home of cultural discovery. A place of legacy and cultivation. Gord Downie performed.

“I am drinking yellow flowers

in underground sunlight

and you can see that I am a sensitive man.”

You could be forgiven if you attributed this line to a Hip lyric. It is from Al Purdy’s “At the Quinte Hotel”. The thread from Purdy to Downie re-stitched. I marveled and also reveled that for Canadians, a poet’s home was worthy of preservation. That our cultural stars believe in the importance of place – identity, legacy, cultivation.

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Gord Downie reading ‘At The Quinte Hotel’

Flashback to early summer 2000. I am spending the better part of a week recording soprano Barbara Dunn-Prosser and pianist Brian Jackson at The Bathouse, the recording studio created by The Tragically Hip. Dunn-Prosser’s ‘Till We Meet Again’ was the first classical recording we were told, to be recorded at the studio. I opted to stay on-site, immersing in the space that had an extraordinary Canadian pedigree, trying to absorb as much as I could to  in some intangible way, infuse it back into the recording. The state of the art studios, driveway basketball hoop, wild rhubarb patch through the path out the back door, Lake Ontario at its front doorstep and the warm Bathouse Team. Creating the capacity for Canadian musicians to fulfill their artistic visions. A place of legacy and cultivation.

I’ve never met Gord Downie but he has had a tremendous influence on my creative career. It’s very Canadian to feel a familiarity with our cultural stars.  Lyrics and poetry resonate because they are drawn from our collective landscapes. Our stories are intertwined. Yet we are also determined to etch out our own destinies and this is what Gord Downie continues to inspire. Brilliantly. His path and that of the Tragically Hip, have been uniquely theirs. We can’t help but say, uniquely Canadian. This final summer tour solidifying our collective identity, securing their legacy as they write their own history.  Gord Downie continues to be the author of his own story. And in doing so, he has become the hero of ours.

(You can see Gord Downie read ‘At The Quinte Hotel’ in a wonderful short film shot in 2002, here: https://youtu.be/vPKeczB3wrg )

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Al Purdy’s A Frame Cabin

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The Bathouse Recording Studio

Shimmering Website!

There are a handful of creative folks whose life work is an ongoing source of inspiration. When the day starts to sag I like to take a break and rediscover these colleagues. On my mind today was poet, author, performer Molly Peacock, so I clicked over to her website – which I have frequented often in the past – and, wow what a change! A beautiful reworking has occurred.

Clearly creative, gorgeous in its simplicity, tasteful and informative, outlining the many ways that Molly lives an artist`s life. Check out her upcoming events, the release details of her next book and then, just as you are about to leave her site, click on the `Furthermore` section. Here you will find a link to the show we created together called The Shimmering Verge. Turn up the volume on your computer and listen to a short selection from the show which includes original music composed and performed by Andy Creeggan.

www.mollypeacock.org

Prepare to be inspired!

The Uncharted Mystical!

Authors Shelly Siskind’s and Gerbrig Berman’s recent book collaboration stokes the ego to push past self-imposed borders and open yourself to the possibilities of living ‘to the full range of your potential’. Sigh.  There are mornings as I sit at my computer my mind drifts to that time when I impetuously, courageously would leap into opportunity. I wonder where that somewhat naive but doggedly determined person I’ve been now slumbers?

Turns out that sometimes a good creative nap is necessary.The quiet rejuvenating before the next creative wave rolls in. ‘The Uncharted Corners of Consciousness’ by Siskind and Berman is full of exercises, thoughts, meditations, personal exploration and revelations. All to assist us to move ourselves to live as fully integrated, present beings. This is a hard task in the busy world, and most especially for those of us who have a creative bent. How do we eek out the time in full days for our ‘art’ or is it that we need to constantly give ourselves permission? Siskind/Berman suggest that the ego is key to this. ‘Ego Management’ (my term!) can be a full time job in itself! In releasing the burdening power the ego has over us, we can move to the uncharted, the mystical unknown, wherein lies all our personal power. On the other hand, a strong ego can be exactly what motivates us! This poem by Siskind/Berman strikes the right note:

Artful

I am eating too much

and writing too little.

Shepherding a flock

that no longer needs tending.

I pour my creativity

into a house that already

brims with artful

Cooking meals devoid of ingenuity

Fearing that my epitaph will read,

‘Famous for her chicken’.

I will be reviewing this book for an upcoming Fall publication and will post the link here. In the meantime, I’m going to continue working through the chapters, drifting off into periodic naps as the creative waves begin to roll in.

Find this book on Amazon.ca The Uncharted Corners of Consciousness by Gerbrig Berman and Shelly Siskind