This project is about the stories that are built from relationships and experiences. It is also about generating new stories and engaging individuals.
As an Elementary School Teacher, I know the power of shared stories. The curriculum in elementary school is around the theme of building a sense of community. I strive to teach my students to "think locally to act globally." This project has allowed me to give back something meaningful to my neighbourhood.
This project allows the community of Ranchlands be able to read stories and see images from community members. Stories are enduring and will be shared for years.
I've seen the power of art to connect people from across the world... In 2014, I was able to connect a school in Rwanda with a school in Calgary to share paintings about their communities. The connections that were made through art transcended location and language!
I paint with watercolours and the painting I create come from stories. Not only of where it was inspired from, but also the story once it has been created. For example, this painting is of a young gorilla who came down out of the trees to come visit me. He was very curious and made funny faces at me as I crouched down. Suddenly, crashing through the brush came a person with a humongous camera and unceremoniously rested his camera lens on my head to start taking shots. The young gorilla quickly disappeared into the trees and the large adult male, who seemed to be overseeing, sighed heavily and covered his face with his hands, as if to say, "seriously, more pictures!" Once back home in Ranchlands my cat Emma loved this painting! We spent many sunny afternoons creating this painting with her unwavering 'help'.
As a teacher, I have had the privilege of attending several outstanding professional development opportunities recently. Theseexperience (taking workshops with Canada Geographic, Inside Education, National Geographic, and the CBE Indigenous Land Based series) have had a tremendous impact on my life.
I have been asked the question, "Where do you have a sense of place?".
When I was asked this the first time, I thought of my time as a child. I grew up on a piece of property and most of my time was outside. I had a very strong connection to the plants and place of outside. The second time I was asked, I thought of my ancestors and the journey that brought me to this place. My ancestors moved to Canada during the early exploration of this land. Next, I thought of my feeling of contentment when I dip a paddle into the water. This sense is wherever I find that connection -that feeling.
Finally (and where I am sitting and ruminating on now) is the fact that I have lived in the community of Ranchlands in the NW of Calgary for over 11 years. Even though it is a place I have lived for longer, have spent more time walking around, spend more time being- I did not think of my connection until I have been asked several times. I wondered why and what would connect me to it more.
This has led me on a journey. I applying for a public arts grant last June through the City of Calgary. I have talked to all ages and a variety of groups in Ranchlands about lived stories of this place and people.
I have discovered many amazing things! One being the connections stories create in a community. Through the workshops and discussions over and over I found people first started sharing with trepidation, which soon evolved into enthusiasm and delight. Phrases like, "I think you're my neighbour!" "I got lost walking to the store when I first moved here all the time too!" "I think the lady you are talking about helped me out as well.." I also started to hear themes of the places, people and even a few animals.
Something that stood out the most was how much little actions and taking the time to connect can mean to someone.
I feel more connected to my community and the people who live here and I hope all the people who shared their stories do too.