The magic of HOPE in the ART

"An eye on you" by Megan Storrar

The paintings started coming in early in the day on May 26, and kept arriving right into the HOPE in the ART event, beautifully filling up the space in the Keyano Art Gallery.  They came from established artists and younger artists.

"Where are you going?"
by Susan Horton

by Malja Najmi-Beauchamp

by Mallaz Najmi-Beauchamp

"People should respect what we have"
by Liana Wheeldon

We had a fabric creation, one that made extraordinary use of words, and another that was a collaboration between three grade 7 students from Ecole McTavish.

"With hope anyone can reach the end of the tunnel"
by Albina Naumenko, Aneri Mavani and Davshri Lala
Grade 7 at Ecole McTavish

In one moment, the room had a few of us early birds, in the next, the space was buzzing with bodies.  They viewed the works on the walls, engaged in conversation with friends and strangers, and reflected on the messages about homelessness that surrounded them.

It was great to have Councillor Phil Meagher with us for much of the event.  He is a longtime and ardent supporter of the Centre of Hope.  It was his opportunity to see a tangible connection between the arts and the role that it can play in bridging understanding and appreciation for a social issue that affects us all, at one level or another.  He sure is getting hairy.  I hope that the Willow Square aging in place facility becomes a reality soon so he can get a haircut.  In case you don't know, during last fall's election campaign he pledged not to cut his hair until the project was moving forward.  Sadly, there has been little forward momentum in that regard.

I was so pleased that incoming executive director for Arts Council Wood Buffalo, Constance Scarlett, was able to participate.  I've had a chance to spend some time with her as we begin the transition process and I think she's wonderful.  Intelligent, articulate and approachable,  Constance is going to do wonderful things for the Arts Council and the region.

One of the highlights (among many) of the event was getting to meet photographer and artist Erin Stinson.  Her painting called "Judgement" is amazing, which goes along with her personality.  Our one degree of separation - we had a friend in common: Sarah Hagen, an amazing classical pianist from Vancouver - have dwindled down to nothing, and I'm so pleased.

Toward the end of the evening, a bunch of us sat down at one table and started drawing and writing.  To my left, Janice O'Leary, was creating a poem, as was Stephen Bryant (ED of Centre of Hope) across the table.  To my left, Doug Callingbull was drawing a stunning portrait of a rose.  It was incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating to just be in the moment, together.

by Doug Callingbull

Our deepest thanks to Barbara Rex from the Centre of Hope for crafting the vision and reaching out to Arts Council Wood Buffalo to collaborate on HOPE in the ART.  She planted the seed, and with many partners and collaborators, we enjoyed tremendous growth.  Thanks to the Northern Lights Health Foundation, the "I Am A Person First" Stigma Reduction Campaign, Boreal Artist Institute, Portrait Artists McMurray, Wood Buffalo Artists Forum, Fort McMurray Photographers, Keyano Theatre and Arts Centre, and everyone who came out.

Special thanks to our musical friends Samson Lee, Tanner Chubb and Matthew Dillman (all Les Mis vets) for adding energy and fun to the event.  And to the beautiful Katherine Lima, who performed a couple of original songs, "Lonely Old Man" and "Angels Among Us - Abe's Song", which was dedicated to a person who lived on the street and passed away in January.  It was lovely to see how many in the room gravitated to her as she sang.

I would encourage you to find 15 to 30 minutes and visit the HOPE in the ART exhibit at Keyano Art Gallery.  It offers a great opportunity to enjoy some peace in the middle of a busy day, as you reflect on the original creations, all of which speak to the issue of homelessness and how it impacts individuals and our community.


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