Oct 062012

By Sande Waters

Here I am back at home and work, almost one week after the residency.  I have wonderful memories of my new friend and fellow artist in residence, Shirley Serviss, and our explorations on Gabriola Island, getting to know each other and our collaborative artwork.  I found the environment at The Haven and on Gabriola incredibly encouraging and supportive.  I have never experienced anything so positive before.

On Sunday, September 30th I presented an all day workshop for eight women on ‘Honouring their Divine Goddess’.  The workshop unfolded with a relaxed sharing and discussion by everyone as to what exactly the term Goddess meant and how one becomes conscious and honouring of femininity.  As the discussion took place I photographed each person with the objects and symbols they had brought and also created portraits that they felt conveyed their individual expression of femininity.  After lunch we proceeded to make a variety of art, which communicated each person’s ideas and expression of femininity.  Everyone really enjoyed playing with an assortment of materials and viewpoints.  All the while I was photographing the process of art making and the works created.  This was an amazingly fun and imaginative group of women who were really open to communicating both verbally and artistically.  I have made an individual photo journal of the workshop for each participant and mailed it to them, as well as emailing them all their individual photographs.  I hope they enjoyed the day as much as I did … it was a delightful experience.

I would like to send a thank you to everyone who made my stay at The Haven so special.  Hugs to Rachel Davey and Mary Holdgrafer who helped make everything run so smoothly.

Oct 062012

By Sande Waters

Last week in the Phoenix Auditorium I presented an artist talk about my work to a very supportive and interested Gabriola audience. The talk lasted about forty-five minutes as I worked my way through the ninety-five slides in my powerpoint presentation, explaining the thread of continuity through my work over the last twenty years. My new friend and fellow artist in residence, Shirley Serviss, read a poem she had written in response to one of my paintings titled ‘Goddess Listening to her Ovaries’. I am giving this painting to the Haven in appreciation of the amazing opportunity to be an artist in residence.

The Goddess Listening To Her Ovaries

Nice girls paint flowers not
goddesses with bright pink vulvas,
with large drooping breasts, with
flabby underarms and sizeable asses.

Nice girls don’t. Don’t know the names
of body parts between our waists and knees,
keep our legs crossed, not splayed open wide.
We hide our vulvas and vaginas, our
breasts, our bra straps, slips and garter
belts, the tops of our nylon stockings.

We try to please, bat our lashes, and smile
politely, keep our opinions, our rage,
caged inside. Nice older women play the same
game once our ovaries stop dropping eggs
every twenty-eight days like clockwork,
once our wombs stop nurturing life.

Or do we celebrate our aging bodies, silver
hair, our well-earned wrinkles, proudly
bare our arms and wear our rounded bellies
without worry, draw attention to our selves.

Shirley Serviss

Sep 292012

By Shirley Serviss

How did two weeks pass so quickly? Yesterday, I was berating myself for not accomplishing much during my time here, so I made a list of what I’d actually done. By the time I was on the second page of my list, I realized it had actually been a very productive time!

One of the highlights for me was the opportunity to get to know my companion Artist in Residence, Sande Waters. I found our discussions about art and life very stimulating. On the same page philosophically, our approaches are very different as she expresses herself visually and I use words. What happened as a result was that she ended up incorporating text into her artwork and I ended up writing a poem inspired by one of her goddess paintings, and adding words to a painting that she cut into pieces. My poetry is usually quite narrative so it was a stretch for me to write a poem that was primarily word play, using the way women’s bodies are often objectified and transforming those words into empowering ones. Actually hand-writing the words onto the page in indelible marker, after she had glued the images on, was a huge risk for me. What if I made a mistake? The beauty of literary art is that it can be easily revised or deleted. Visual art scares me because of its finality.

Sande assured me it didn’t have to be perfect.

So, now it’s time to re-enter my real life, which is always a difficult transition. Back to the classroom, back to marking assignments, back to meeting with patients at the hospital, back to trying to develop affordable housing for artists in Edmonton. I hope I have developed enough of a writing discipline here to carry on with my pilgrimage manuscript and continue writing poetry. A huge thank you to The Haven for the privilege of being here and to those of you who attended my workshop and presentation.

Sep 232012

By Shirley Serviss. Shirley is speaking about the Artists on the Wards program at The Haven on Saturday, September 29 at 7:00.

“Shirley!” Someone is calling my name, but nobody knows me here. Sande and I have been to the Farmer’s Market and have stopped at Folklife Village to get milk and wine. I turn as the woman who hailed me comes over and introduces herself: Kathy Ramsey, president of the Gabriola Arts Council. She recognized me from my photograph.

Sande has joined old friends for coffee, so I follow Kathy back into Artworks where she introduces me to Jaki Deere, one of the art therapists who will be working in the Gabriola Arts Council’s Creative Art Therapy Program. We quickly discover that one of the groups she will be facilitating is for people who have, or have recovered from, cancer. I have been working with cancer patients through Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute’s Arts in Healthcare program for a number of years. Jaki has lots of questions for me, and I want to know more about what their program involves, so we find ourselves upstairs having coffee as we volley questions back and forth until Sande comes looking for me.

There are numerous arts in healthcare programs across Canada, but little opportunity for us to connect and share information. Some of us belong to the Global Alliance for Arts and Health (formerly the Society for Arts in Healthcare), an international organization based in the U.S. but attending their annual conference, while very worthwhile, is often too expensive. Their medical system is completely different as are their funding programs. Fortunately, we now have a Canadian organization: Arts Health Network. Based in BC, the network has links to programs across Canada on their website (artshealthnetwork.ca). I hope it will allow us to more easily share ideas and experiences so that we can learn from each other and not have to keep starting from scratch every time we create an arts initiative.

Anyone who is interested in hearing more about the Artists on the Wards program of the Friends of University Hospitals in Edmonton, is welcome to attend my presentation at The Haven on Saturday, September 29 at 7:00. If you slip away early to attend Regina’s 60th birthday party at the other end of the island, I won’t be offended.

Sep 212012

By Shirley Serviss

“This is me,” one of the women in Eric Bibb’s songwriting workshop sang at Wednesday night’s concert.

Sande and I have been talking about the freedom of being ourselves at this stage of our lives — not having to be whom or what anyone else expects us to be. We have been discussing how older women in our society are treated as though we are invisible, how our changing bodies no longer fit the feminine image of beauty presented by the media if, in fact, they ever did. How we disparage ourselves: our round bellies and flabby underarms, instead of rejoicing in the strength and wisdom we have gained from our experiences and the confidence it has given us, the bodies that have supported us, perhaps borne children. Enjoying our sexuality now that pregnancy is no longer an issue. Having fun creating our own “look” unbounded by the fashion dictates and need to fit in.

We want to capture this somehow, in a joint project as it is something that interests us both, but haven’t quite figured out how to do that. Perhaps we could tie it into Energy — The Haven’s word for 2012. Although I, for one, am still waiting for the promised “post-menopausal zest.”

Sep 202012

By Shirley Serviss, artist in residence.

I live surrounded by sound. This time of year the students are celebrating being back at school with all-the-beer-you-can-drink parties at the fraternity houses next door, down the street, and across the back alley. STARS helicopters hover overhead landing on the hospital roof a block away. Sirens from ambulances, fire trucks and police cars add to the cacophony of the busy streets and avenues nearby. I hear the comings and goings of condo neighbours: voices in the courtyard, doors closing, a child crying, a dog barking.

Here, at The Haven, there is silence. The occasional bellow of a ferry’s horn, drone of a boat or an airplane overhead. I can almost hear Sande’s brushstrokes, her fingers on her computer keys, it is so quiet.

I had forgotten the absence of sound — the sound of silence, as Simon and Garfunkel put it — the strain it puts on your ears as you listen, listen, listen, listen harder, trying to tune into the frequency of something. How, at first, you feel as though you are in a dead zone, before you start to pick up the smaller sounds of nature.

All I can hear are my thoughts, the words in my head. Exactly what a writer needs to hear.

Sep 142012

By Shirley Serviss, one of The Haven’s two artists’ in residence for 2012. Check out events here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I’ve been mentally making lists of everything I need to pack, wondering how I’ll ever get it into the one suitcase and carryon I’m allowed on WestJet. Normally, when I go to my favourite writing retreat, I drive so space isn’t a problem. I take along half a dozen books I hope to read or use for reference, a quilt to snuggle up in, decorative items to make myself feel at home, a special mug, my own coffee grounds and filter, word games to entertain myself with in the evening, an alarm clock, snacks to sustain me between meals, my SADS light and, of course, my computer, small printer, reams of paper, stacks of research files, and drafts of several writing projects. Sometimes even my Yoga mat, imagining that I’ll exercise every morning and art supplies thinking I’ll finally take up sketching!

This doesn’t even cover clothes, shoes, boots, a coat, umbrella, toiletries and earrings. Obviously, this time, something has to go! Would anyone notice if I wore the same outfit every day for two weeks? Perhaps I can dress in layers for the flight—many layers. What is the weather forecast anyway? Something else to check.

I’m excited about meeting Sande and possibly coming up with a joint project for The Haven. Rachel has been a faithful e-mail correspondent since her first phone call to tell me I’d been selected (which I still have stored in my call-messaging system to listen to on bad days). It will be great to meet her in person.

Never having been to the Gulf Islands, this is a whole new adventure for me. I’ve also been hearing great things about The Haven over the years and look forward to checking it out for myself. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

Sep 112012

By Shirley Serviss. Shirley and Sande Waters are The Haven’s 2012 artists-in-residence.

Monday, September 9

I’ll be at The Haven a week from today and I’m in panic mode. I’m frantically marking the first assignments for the course I am teaching for Grant MacEwan University-all 49 of them. I still have to finish preparing my lectures for this week. It’s a course I’ve never taught before so I can’t just reuse materials or wing it. I teach again the day after I get home so hope to have that session prepared before I go as well.

Besides teaching three days this week, I spend two days at my part-time job as a literary Artist on the Wards for the Friends of University Hospitals. I will be giving a talk about our program while I’m at the Haven. I’ll also be facilitating a workshop on memoir. The materials I need to bring for that workshop are either in one of the piles of papers on the chairs in my office or maybe, if I’m lucky, in my filing cabinet.

I’m the president of an organization that is planning to build a facility in downtown Edmonton that will house arts organizations and also contain studios and live/work spaces for artists of all ages, family configurations, income levels and artistic disciplines. We have been working with a consultant and an architectural firm on the first phase of the feasibility study which we will be presenting to the City by the end of the month. I have to proofread the document one more time and meet with our consultant to revise the concluding summary.

I say all this not to bore you with my To Do list, but to illustrate the benefit of artist residencies and retreats. They allow artists to put aside all the day-to-day claims on their time and focus on their art. Perhaps some artists are better able to carve out such spaces in their regular lives. Perhaps they are able to limit their volunteer commitments and social interactions. Perhaps they don’t have to earn an income to support themselves. I’m not one of those artists. Having a dedicated period of time away from the distractions of my home allows me to immerse myself in my writing.

The residency at The Haven will give me the opportunity to forget about my students, the housing project, and the hospital and focus on a manuscript that has been sitting in draft form in a box for far too long. Being on the island will give me the distance I need to give me perspective on a prairie pilgrimage. Being in a new and unfamiliar place will give me a chance to reflect on my life when I’m not totally immersed in it.

I can hardly wait.