4 weeks. 8 communities. A whole new expanded family. This sums up the last month for a group of rag-tag artists in the Interlake. Little did we know how when we set out about how rewarding this experience would be. As our tour wrapped up yesterday in Teulon, we can’t help but feel full: full of love, and full of inspiration.
In previous letters from the road I’ve repeatedly mentioned the theme of family, and though that theme may seem over used here, I feel it sums up the Chautauqua tour perfectly. Whether it was a bright high-school student not wanting us to leave, or an elderly community member asking one of us to dance, or a billet introducing us as “my girl” or “my son” we felt truly at home everywhere we went. The way each community welcomed us in with open minds and open hearts, showed us that art can live anywhere.
Reflecting back on the tour as a whole, the only regret was not being able to do more. At the end of each week we felt we had just begun to crack the shell that was the artistic potential of each community and begin to find our place within it.
When we entered our last week and I could feel tour coming to an end. I had an odd mixture of feelings. As the week progressed, it felt like each day was getting shorter and shorter, and it wasn’t because of daylight savings time.
We clung to each night as we were able to- not ready for the tour to end. Our last night was spent together at the Teulon Hotel playing pool, and dancing with what the bartender called the “special lights” on. You could say we lit up the town, or at least the bar! A local asked us who we were, and never did we feel more like heroes than when we responded, “we’re artists!” and explained to them our mission in their community- make connections, learn local stories, bring theatre and art to the rural and remote locations. We were very proud.
In each community we would learn about local history, and also engage in conversations about the struggles of the present and hopes for the future. This came to life in a new way as we prepared for our final presentation in Teulon- where we hosted an afternoon of performances and activities to help the town brainstorm ideas for its Centennial Celebration next year. We shared stories we dug up from research at the museum and demonstrated ways we thought they could teach this history, while engaging the whole community in making plans and dreams for the next 100 years.
On the drive home I felt a peaceful accomplishment- we had done good.
Today as I sit at home reflecting on the weeks that have recently passed, a few names still ring in my head: Patsy, Joel, Adeline, Merle, Emily, Ray, among many others. These people are what made our time so special. So in the closing moments of the Chautauqua tour I personally want to say thank you to each and every one of those people- and all the community members who supported us.
Each week I’ve ended these letters saying “Until next time, it’s been nice Winnipeg. Talk soon.”, but now that we’re back in Winnipeg for good it feels only right that I should address our other homes. So, it’s been nice staying with you Steep Rock, Eriksdale, Arborg, and Teulon. We will see you soon.
Chris Sousa and the rest of the TPM team.
Many thanks to our community partners and hosts and our generous sponsors!