We wrapped up our year as Artists in Residence with a sushi making workshop and community dinner and celebration where we reflected back on our residency and displayed archival materials from all the many projects and collaborations that have occurred during this wonderful experience.
June led us in a sushi making workshop, sharing traditional Japanese recipes and techniques with the group. A feeling of warmth and collaboration filled the room as we worked together, chatting while we prepped ingredients, seasoned rice, and got more and more hungry,
After we sat down together to eat our delicious creations, we chatted about our year and participants were invited to check out the display of archival materials we had created including photos, ephemera, quotes from participants, flyers and posters, and objects created during past workshops such as altered garments and our creative neighbourhood map.
It was satisfying and bittersweet to celebrate, look back, and remember our year at Mount Pleasant Community Centre. In some ways we feel like the year flew by, but when we look back at all of the projects and collaborations, it feels like so much has happened. The residency was a meaningful experience for us with plenty of delights and also some challenges and uncertainties. We met many creative and enthusiastic community members who are honoured to have worked with, and we learned and grew as community engaged artists. Thank you to everyone who collaborated with us, supported us, and shared your ideas, skills, knowledge, and stories.
photos by Sophia Wolfe
Our Contact Improvisation workshop was held over three consecutive Sundays and was led by guest instructor, Anne Cooper. Here's a little bit about Anne: she is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and improviser. She's been teaching in Vancouver for 19 years and performing here for 25. Anne loves to engage with people from all walks of life through teaching and dancing together. She has trained in dance with many notable teachers including Ted Robinson, Chick Snipper, Peter Bingham, Nancy Stark Smith and many others, as well as in voice/theatre.
She has been a company member of EDAM for many years and danced in the recent 'EDAM Dance Presents' and has also danced for Mascall Dance, Chick Snipper and Helen Walkley among others. She's performed in a number of dance improvisations with various dance artists and musicians as well as creating and performing in her own dance work.
This workshop invited participants of all levels of dance or movement experience to come together to learn about contact improvisation; an improvisational dance practice grounded in a few basic principles including: standing meditation, the small dance, intuitive movement, point of contact, and partner dance. Anne skillfully guided us through these basic principles over the course of the thee weeks.
During the first workshop we focused on listening to our own bodies and about physical impulse. Participants were rolling on the floor, walking, sitting, standing, crawling, and moving their bodies in new ways. It was very exciting to see a group of strangers work so collaboratively and effortlessly with each other! We ended the class with a collective improvisation where all participants were invited to dance with each other using the new skills and principles we learned that day.
The second workshop explored the same principles as the previous week with the addition of a new skill, falling. Getting to the ground without hurting yourself or your partner is very important in contact improv so we practiced different ways to get to the ground using mats. Then we applies what we learned in our solo exploration and tried getting down to the ground with our partners. This was tricker than expected and it took me a few tries to feel comfortable.
But with this new vocabulary we were able to explore a more dynamic range of movement in our improvisations.
What I find fascinating with contact improv is how intimate you can be with someone you don't know. There is a beautiful connection that can blossom from two people silently dancing together. The dance is about articulating your own curiosity while simultaneously listening to what your partner is offering you. This back and forth feedback loop is, what I think, creates trust and a sense of community. One participant reflected that "contact improvisation is a metaphor for life itself."
During the third and final workshop we continued to deepen our investigation into these principles and skills. Participants continued to find different ways of moving through the room, using their bodies in new ways, and dancing with different partners. We ended the workshop with a final group improvisation which resulted in a collage of varying tempos, rhythms, duets, solos, and energies. There was a very special synergy that emerged from the bodies in the room.
We had a lovely group attend our embroidery workshop and clothing swap, with many returning friends who we met at textile printing. Embroidery is a relaxing and satisfying activity, and it was heart warming to have our hands busy while we chatted and sipped tea around the table.
Like our textile printing workshop, we began with an introduction of the project and invited participants to choose from a table of garments which we had collected from local thrift stores to embroider on. Our intention is to donate these beautifully altered clothes back to the thrift stores with a meaningful handcrafted touch for it's next owner (and a little tag telling about the project). In this way, the intentions of sharing creativity and generosity will ripple gently outwards into the larger community.
We had embroiderers of all experience levels and ages, so we worked on lots of different skills and stitches from threading a needle to tackling the elusive french knot stitch. I wore my shirt with a subtle sashiko inspired embroidered detail to illustrate that even a small and simple touch of embroidery can add so much interest, beauty, and uniqueness to a garment.
Beauty, creativity, and experimentation ensued! Some participants chose to stick with a simple running stitch, using it to create diverse and effective designs, while others practiced new stitches they had never tried before, like the satisfying lazy daisy.
We were all blown away by this mother/daughter team who worked collaboratively to create a "dessert and night time" themed cardigan, featuring a doughnut, cherry cupcake, and moon and stars!
Our clothing swap continued, and we finished the day with a sense of support, warmth, and many beautiful garments to pass forward.
Our community curated library shelf is up at the Mount Pleasant Branch of Vancouver Public Library!
Each book on the shelf was recommended by a community member at our little free library pop-up. In this way, the shelf acts as an archive of the diverse interests, tastes, and experiences of participants, as well a means of interconnection and exchange between community members. Every book is available to be checked out!
A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to engage in this project and give us a recommendation, as well as the library for the enthusiastic support!
Thank you so much to all the enthusiastic artists who came out to block print onto textiles, swap clothes, sip tea, and chat around the table at this workshop! It was such a pleasure to spend the afternoon together getting creative.
We started out the day with introductions, and June and I touched on the overall intent of the project: to invite community exchange, connection, and generosity through creativity. For this workshop, we had a table full of garments from local thrift stores to print on. At the end of the day, participants had the option to either take their creation home with them, or leave it with us to be donated back to the thrift store with a meaningful handcrafted touch for it's next owner (and a little tag telling about the project). In this way, the intentions of sharing creativity and generosity will ripple gently outwards into the larger community.
In order to print on garments, we used stamps, sponge brushes, and textile block printing ink. Many beautiful tests happened on scrap paper as we experimented with different designs and felt out how much ink and pressure was effective.
As always, it was interesting to see the different approaches participants took, from boldly covering entire garments with a single repeating stamp, to carefully creating intricate symmetrical designs with many different images, to subtly embellishing a corner or pocket with great consideration and restraint.
Block printing was a new process for many of the participants, and there were a few moments of smudged designs or too much ink leading to blobs rather than clear transfers. As a facilitator, I have a lot of investment in participant's feelings of success, and so it was really refreshing to see the humor, patience, and willingness to keep trying and experimenting that came with these small mishaps.
At the end of the day, we had a beautiful drying rack full of garments to be passed forward.
We also had a clothing swap table at this workshop, with participants invited to bring something valued but no longer used to exchange for something new to them. Clothing swaps are not only a good way to update our wardrobes but also an act of environmentalism and community sharing. Lots of clothes were exchanged, along with encouragement, compliments, and style tips and recommendations.
We have another garment altering workshop coming up soon: Embroidery on Saturday Oct 19. (More info here). Hope to see you there!
We had a very damp but lovely morning at Mount Pleasant Farmer's Market hosting our Pop-Up Little Free Library and Book Recommendation Collection. Visitors to our table were invited to take or leave a free book, as well as contribution book recommendations which will be ordered by the Mount Pleasant Branch of the Vancouver Public Library and presented on our community curated shelf at the library this fall.
A pile of diverse book recommendations were gathered from from community members who stopped by to chat. It will be interesting and exciting to see the community curated library shelf come together featuring all of these wonderful titles. We found the books that people recommended or chose from the free library to be great conversation starters and ice breakers between visitors to our table. Hopefully the community library shelf will continue this experience of interconnection and community exchange.
We had many enthusiastic visitors to our yarn bombing pop-up table at Mt Pleasant Park Festival!
Lots of beautiful pom-poms were created. Some visitors stayed for over an hour to make five or more pom-poms each. It was a pom-pom marathon!
Participants were given the option to donate their pom-pom to our yarn-bombing project, or to take their creation home with them. A few awesome artists took the idea one step further by yarn bombing themselves!
At the end of the evening, we gathered up all the pom-poms we had collected to create a yarn bombing installation next to the park. As we hung up our installation, we were greeted by cries from nearby festival goers of, "Look! They're making art!"
What a delightful evening! Thank you to everyone who pom-pomed with us!
Thank you to everyone who came out to our guerilla art workshop yesterday! It was such a fun and inspiring experience to collaborate with all of the participants. Guerilla art is a playful way of brightening and animating the local neighbourhood. It is an art process which involves installing anonymous and mysterious artworks in public areas to intrigue and delight unsuspecting members of the public. Like random acts of kindness, guerilla art has the potential to create magical exchanges between strangers and make our neighbourhood a more interesting and lovely place to live.
The workshop stated out inside at the community centre with three stations set up offering different options for mini guerilla art projects. One station had collage and drawing materials to create bookmarks, with the intention of installing them at Mt Pleasant Library for library visitors to discover as little gifts.
Many beautiful bookmarks were created, including some with found poetry!
Another station featured pom-pom making supplies to create mini yarn bomb installations. This station was led by our friend Dierdre, a local yarn bombing artist who we met when she attended our Creative Neighbourhood Mapping Workshop. When we learned that Dierdre has expertise in yarn bombing we knew she would be a perfect guest facilitator at this workshop.
Dierdre even brought in a cat brush and showed us how to use it to make super fuzzy pom-poms!
At the third station we had loonies and supplies to write messages to fold up and tape onto them for lucky members of the public to find. It was lovely to read all the kind and supportive messages that participants choose to write.
After we finished creating, we went for a walk together to install our guerilla art. We started at the library to drop off our bookmarks, then set out walking together in the direction of Dude Chilling Park.
As we walked we looked for places to leave our message loonies. It was thrilling to imagine who might find them!
We also brought along some googly eyes to make impromptu faces in the world around us.
These googly eyes perfectly complimented a little guerilla art face which was already on a garbage can!
When we reached the park, Dierdre told the group about her yarn bombing installation which is on a fence near the tennis courts. We then added our own pom-pom yarn bombing to the surrounding area.
One wonderful participant whipped up this crocheted butterfly to add to our collection!
Overall the workshop was an inspiring experience where each participant's creativity, humour, empathy, and playfulness shone. We headed back to the centre feeling like we had brightened up the days of many strangers in our neighbourhood.
We had a lovely time hanging out in the community centre lobby, sipping tea with visitors and chatting about our finished creative neighbourhood map!
Visitors were able to check out the many points of interest, personal histories, and secret attractions around Mount Pleasant collected on the map, as well chat with us and each other about their own experiences of the local landscape.
The work will be up at the centre for the next couple weeks, so make sure to check it out if you are in the neighbourhood!
Our final creative neighbourhood mapping workshop took place with participation from Mt Pleasant Community Centre's Youth Inspire Program. Together we added many new landmarks to our growing map, including a universally missed swimming pool which used to exist nearby in Mt Pleasant Park, local schools, a skate park, and a 7-Eleven which was once a slurpee hot-spot before it closed and was replaced by a new business.
As conversation turned to changes in the neighbourhood, youth programmer Diana was inspired to print out and bring in a graph showing the changing demographic of Mt Pleasant residents over the last 30 years. We noticed a steep incline in the average income of Mt Pleasant residents, as well as a drop in families with children, changes which we found intriguing and troubling.
Next up, we will compile all of the many diverse landmarks which our amazing participants have created and install the finished map in the lobby of the centre for community members to check out!