I adore small utopian ventures and grassroots projects that inspire change. Here are recent favourites:
“Sleeping with the Author,” In conversation with Ron Grimes. January 31, 2018.
Body & Soul: Creative Nonfiction for Skeptics and Seekers. With a forward by Alison Pick (forthcoming 2019). Two dozen of Canada’s finest writers and poets invite us into a dimension of our lives that’s hard to talk about, harder to describe. Edited anthology.
Native-Immigrant. Community collaborations that are hopeful, joyful and really down to earth. The outgrowth of a dream by Montreal-based artist, Carolina Echeverria, to bridge immigrants with Indigenous peoples. Visit our website to learn about all the iterations of our ongoing projects, and to meet other members of the collective in the global north and south.
TNQ’s diversity project, with conversation partners and co-mentors, Jagtar Atwal, Leonarda Carranza and Tamara Jong as well as members of their CNF writing group, based in Toronto. TNQ’s editor, Pamela Mulloy, and I have been engaged in deep listening, and in reflecting on who has access to publishing, and why. A beautiful project, still evolving.
Long before NI there was The Arpillera Project with Spanish-speaking immigrant women in Montreal. Celebrated in print and accompanying textile exhibit in Waterloo, ON (1999). My first opportunity to work with Carolina Echeverria.
The Artist as Activist and Creative Communities twin issues: The New Quarterly’s joint publishing venture with Alternatives: Environmental Ideas + Action (2006-07). Before the sensational Salon des Réfusés with Canadian Notes and Queries (CNQ) and the award-winning QuArc issue with ARC Poetry, TNQ teamed up with Canada’s foremost environmental magazine to produce twin issues, a public forum and a workshop for gifted youth. In partnership with Waterloo Unlimited at the University of Waterloo.
Multifaith stories project: 24 diverse faith practitioners share the big (sacred) and small (personal) stories that shaped their own faith journeys. A project commissioned by the United Church of Canada and published as the edited collection, Stories in My Neighbour’s Faith: Narratives from World Religions in Canada (Toronto: United Church of Canada, 1999). Adopted as a course text in colleges and universities.
O Mother, Where Art Thou? A quirky glimpse of the woman writer; video project with musician Bryn Scott-Grimes (2011).
Opening New Doors in the Waterloo Region oral history project: two years collecting the life stories of adults with developmental disabilities (1998-9) culminated in the “My Heart is Full” storytelling gala at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ontario.
Our Visions, Our Voices: unorthodox women writers who trace their roots to the Latter Day Saint traditions. Readings at public universities throughout the US West (March 2010). Co-founded by Joanna Brooks (The Book of Mormon Girl) and Holly Welker (Best American Essays) with support from participating institutions Arizona State University and the Mormon Studies Program at Claremont University. The University of Utah’s Marriott Special Collections Library now houses the writings collected on this 1,000-mile historic tour.
Rural arts ventures with visual artist Wesley W. Bates. “’Out of Hand’: The Life and Times of Rural Water” prints exhibit, part of the Ontario Society of Artists 2003 province-wide Water Project; We in Glass Houses and Urban-Rural Link interdisciplinary arts projects. See also the Walkerton Water Stories Project and the Stories Project.
Walkerton Water Stories Project (WWSP) and its offshoot The Stories Project (SP). Award-winning Community Arts projects that sprang up in response to the 2000 E. coli outbreak–an environmental crisis that changed the course of water history across Canada. Projects co-founded with storyteller, Mary-Eileen McClear, and visual artist, Wesley W. Bates, in partnership with Walkerton Healthy Community Initiative and supported by the Ontario Arts Council and the Walkerton Community Foundation. Featured artists included installation artist and water activist, Basia Irland (The Water Library), and singer-songwriter, James Gordon.
Awards: 2004 Community Arts Ontario Best Practices Award; Community Arts Ontario’s inaugural (2003) Entering into Print Dialogue Award; 2001 Ontario Arts Council Community Arts/Artists in the Workplace Grant.
Legacy: community and conference workshops, academic papers, consultations, touring exhibits, storytelling festivals, community water festivals, guest lectures, performances and publications.
Today: the 34 Water Stories Prints are on permanent display at the Walkerton Clean Water Center (WCWC), where water managers the world over are trained, while the projects’ ethnographic materials (interviews, etc.) are archived at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton, Ontario. To view the hands-on resource guide I wrote for artists and the general public; please click here.