Micro-Digital Arts Exchange Program

We’ve been on our toes! Nimbly dancing back and forth trying to catch fluff in the wind – making the most of an ever-changing reality and trying to imagine and invent our way through it.

This spring we had been planning to begin our return to the Interlake, sending artists to research and interpret the Interlake in a collaborative spirit through film, music, performance and visual art. When this came to a halt due to the pandemic, we still wanted to continue our work in the Interlake and lay trail for a new iteration of our Chautauqua programming. We wanted to connect with our rural counterparts and friends, to do something meaningful for the communities for our artists in times of peril and need.

Out of this was born the Micro-Digital Arts Exchange Program

Out of this was born the Micro-Digital Arts Exchange Program which paired artists with local schools to do small residencies in virtual classrooms. We reached out to many of our previous school connections in the Interlake and made some more as well. We asked about their students, their challenges and what would be a good fit, artistically. We then paired some of Winnipeg’s finest artists with the classes. Workshops were designed and held throughout June.

In Arborg, a poetry workshop was hosted collaboratively by Winnipeg’s Poet Laureate Duncan Mercredi, Claire Therese Friesen(I Dream of Diesel, A Short History of Crazy Bone) and Daniel Jordan (Red Moon Road/Jonny Moonbeam) to help grade 10 students write their own poetry anthologies.

Also in Arborg, Joseph Pilapil from the Travelling Sign Painters started a mural club for high school students with art and guidance teacher Rachel Orbanski. Together the students designed a mural that they are now working on securing funding to paint in the fall at the school.

Way up in the one room school house of Peonan Point, four students and a keen principal partnered with Ellen Peterson to learn about and build their own crankies- an extension of Ellen’s own creative process and research as she develops Daredevils.

In Eriksdale, Kristian Jordan (Red Earth), visited a grade 7 classroom. Although most of the kids are busy farming, a few were engaged in a four class introduction to photography + writing.

In Selkirk, our newest connection, two residencies took place. GMB Chomichuk (Red Earth) worked with Elementary students to create their own comics, while Hanwakan Blaikie-Whitecloud collaborated to share videos of skateboarding and storytelling.

In Riverton, were doing things a little differently. Emily Solstice Tait is working with Averie Johannesson and the dancers her studio of Partners In Time’s competitive team. Together these dancers are working on building a dance video. They are Exploring dancing outdoors and building their own choreographic voice through creative prompts offered by both Averie and Emily. A great source of joy in dance is being collaborative and supporting one another to be daring. This Micro Digital Arts Exchange is giving all the dancers something to look forwards to and a chance to grow in their art form.

While schools struggle to maintain interaction with students in this strange and distant time, participants in these programs benefited as did the artists. We built relationships and explored new ways of delivering programs- ways we hope to continue to refine and offer throughout the coming year. As producers and creators we have found that the digital platforms we have all been exploring to maintain connection, are great solutions to lessening geographical distance- means of maintaining and building relationships between rural and urban, ways of making art accessible, ways of collaboration. In the past our touring has been about face to face connections, and this will remain a pillar of the Chautauqua; however, we are excited to our impact and reach via virtual platforms in addition to our regular work.

The micro-digital exchange provided a way to take what I love to do, meet with young creatives and remind them of the power they have when they use their own voices to tell their own stories. I would love to have a small group that met regularly in this way, say 10 for 20 times, so that we could produce work together over time. Technique and voice are very different skills and given the time to work on both students could be the authors of some very meaningful and insightful work.  – Gregory  

It was tough for the students to make it to every class as we are in the midst of a pandemic, but when they should up, they were engaged and eager to learn. I like being able to help future art students / enthusiasts develop and giving them new ideas to their work.   We were able to record some sessions for future students. It was a cool experience all in all.  – Joseph 

This is a different kind of isolation, not the kind I became accustomed to when I worked in bush camps, this one instills fear and makes one judgemental, it takes time to understand that becoming “bushed” or if you prefer cabin fever syndrome, is a state of mind and that place you go to can be a dangerous place to find yourself. – Duncan 

Although I was unable to meet the students I worked with during the micro-digital exchange directly, I was struck by how clearly they came across through their art.  Each photograph opened a window into how they saw their surroundings.  Their unique perspectives worked just as effectively as expressions of themselves.  – Kristian 

This was an all-new experience for me: new subject matter taught to a new group of students via a medium I’m still getting used to. It was challenging and fun, and the timing couldn’t have been better. When everything around seemed uncertain, having a chance to do some work, especially a new challenge, was energizing and gave me some badly needed hope for my professional future. The students and the teacher at Peonan Point were wonderful and I had a great time getting to know them, as well as a little bit about their corner of the province. I very much hope to visit them in person some day. – Ellen  


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