In Honour of our Elders
March 2022 article by: Manon Doran
Let me tell you about the birth of the "In Honour of our Elders" project.
When working in a group, the creative process takes many forms. Participatory art: we collaborate. Engaged art: we make a claim. Community art: we involve a group. Cultural mediation: bringing together an audience with a work of art. Interchangeable? Complementary? The qualifiers of this type of artistic project change over time. In my opinion, the essence of this kind of work remains the same: the act of creating a work in collaboration.
Community-engaged arts projects are still under-recognized. These creative experiences are often multidisciplinary, multi-generational and cross-cultural, guided by an artist. It is this type of project that makes art accessible to all. This inclusive approach fosters a dialogue, an opportunity to build (or rebuild) our relationships and develop our skills. By often having a collaborative element, these projects allow us to learn to work together in a playful and creative context.
The benefits of supporting and participating in these types of projects give communities a boost towards being more vibrant, innovative and resilient.
The pandemic isolated us and made participatory art projects complicated, if not impossible. Since my theatre work was on hiatus, I had time to imagine other ways to "connect" and collaborate even at a distance. The "In Honour of our Elders" project was born out of my passion for creative correspondence, my desire to contribute to doing good and letting seniors know they are being thought of.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had to do a serious about-face. Normally, I work with the Vox Theatre Company. All work opportunities were cancelled, the children at home were in virtual school, my spouse was working from home. A new rhythm of life took hold.
I missed creating terribly. For me, creating is collaborating, contributing. I wondered how I could do my part in this time of crisis to do good for others and myself. How is it possible to collaborate from a distance? I had a "flash" while thinking about the possibilities offered by the mail. The "beta" version was born from a monthly creative exchange with my loved ones. It felt good and what a joy to receive a notebook.
The first year of the pandemic highlighted the isolation and vulnerability of the elderly. Driven by a desire to let them know we were thinking of them and to bring a little joy to their daily lives. I turned the idea of creative correspondence notebooks into gifts for seniors. Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, the project came to life. We created notebooks for each senior registered in the project based on what he or she likes. In collaboration with several local seniors' residences and schools, there are 125 notebooks to fill with your artwork. Many volunteers are already participating. The notebooks are currently at St. Paul's School in Casselman where each student is adding their creation. A big thank you to Mrs. Anne-Marie. Now we need you to participate in this committed art project that will bring joy to the seniors of the region. Visit this link to participate. This participatory community art project feeds my heart and will help bring smiles to the faces of Elders.
Learning to collaborate is essential to help us face today's societal challenges. These spaces to dream of a better world are becoming increasingly rare, which makes engaged art projects even more important and valuable. Participating in this type of project gives us the chance to live a moment of hope.
Manon Doran is a Franco-Ontarian visual artist from Eastern Ontario. Participatory art and repurposing are at the heart of her practice. Her creations have taken many forms over the years: mosaics, installations for the Festival of Lights, series of mixed media collages, puppets and sets for children's shows.