Kiyooka Ohe Art Center (KOAC) on July 4, 2020

I was, just now, sitting on the red couch sipping coffee, Max sprawled out on the cool floor beside me.  I was listening to an old Live From Everywhere session with Craig Cardiff on Instagram.  He was writing a song for a couple from Milwaukee, as they shared their story of meeting and falling in love and staying in love.  I got really emotional and as I came down the stairs, strangely, big tears were plopping down my cheeks and falling off my chin.  What?  What is going on?  I think they were blessing-tears.  I just feel so blessed.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a morning drive out to KOAC, in order to do some yard work with a group of wonderful volunteers gathered together by wonderful connector, Alice Lam.  I was surrounded by mostly younger folk and it gave my heart such joy to see these people working so hard to make something beautiful even more beautiful.  I hope to work alongside these people again.  Thank you, Alice.

Alice is seen, here, on our lunch break, eating a fresh lively salad provided by a fantastic start up that has its own magical story.  Through the pandemic experience, Inspired Go has been a company that stepped up and connected with community, in order to make things better.  In April they announced the #feedthefrontlines campaign, providing free meals to local healthcare workers. For each box sold they donated a meal, for a total of 6714 donated meals. What an epic moment in Inspired Go’s history! It is a beautiful thing to see people in our community do great things.  Over two volunteer work days, Inspired Go provided lunch, served up by my dear and respected friend, Wendy Lees.  Thank you!

Upon arrival, Katie,  Harry and Ricardo were there to welcome volunteers.  We received a lovely overview of the studios and the expanse of sculpture garden, beginning with a gathering in Katie’s studio.  There, she richly described her process as she works on pieces connected with the concept Cluster.

I was most intrigued by Katie’s description of the selection of materials and the process of editing, along the way.  I loved her description of vessels that might contain the cluster and her process of discovery.  In the raven piece above, I especially loved the creation of the nesting materials in the bottom section.  All the while, Katie is holding strapping that will be required to pull a new bench into place.  She is always and forever thinking and solving spatial problems.

Off we headed for our various assignments.  I couldn’t wait to get to work.

Below, we head out, passing Queen of the Night, Michael Sandle.

Joe brought the gravel to fill up the space where the bench would be installed.

I enjoyed Katie’s back story on the evolution of the bench.  My readers must take the opportunity to visit the Kiyooka Ohe Art Center.  Sit on this bench!  After shutting down mole/ground squirrel activity under the Ray Arnatt sculpture, Binder, and cutting out invasive weeds, we had our break for lunch.  It was during this time that I had the opportunity to look at the gardens and some of the mid sized sculptures.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for your homemade chocolate chip squares.  They followed our Inspired Go salads.  Yum!  Then, off to the woods in our mosquito net apparel!  What a fun bunch of hard working people!

It was at this point of the third huge pile of dead wood that the first loud boom of thunder began.  Our day was cut a little bit short by the huge foothills storm that raced through.  I’m sad that I didn’t grab a photograph of the dramatic sky at this point in the afternoon.  I hosed down my footwear and hopped in the car.  I had a chance to say good bye to Harry, but Katie was busying herself somewhere else on the property.

What an amazing day!

Through Covid-19, I have tried to support one visual artist, one musician and one gallery.  It was all I could do, although I wanted to do so much more.  As a result, I have purchased Janet’s Crown by Katie Ohe for my 65th birthday gift.  I am also, over time, purchasing Weeping Bees 2007, Brother Pear 1996, Monsoon2, 2006 and Untitled, 1977.  I’m over the moon about these acquisitions.

I don’t have a lot in the resource bin of life…but, I’ve always had enough.  I’m blessed that I was able to give my three children and myself what we needed, that we had food and shelter and I was, as a teacher, always able to make ends meet.  Often times it was the sale of my own art that provided us with what we needed at the end of the month and when things were really tough (I wasn’t always able to purchase art. lol), friends and family supported me.  Regarding visual art,  a lot of people don’t know that they can create an art collection if they budget a little bit over time.  Arrangements can be made with galleries so that the collector can surround themselves with beautiful art.  I have purchased works from various galleries in town including Gorilla House and Rumble House.

This has been the year of Katie. I purchased Katie’s prints through the Herringer Kiss GalleryKatie Ohe’s retrospective exhibit is now available to view by appointment at the Esker Foundation, until the end of August.  Do not miss this opportunity. I will always remember this year with gratitude.  Strange times often bring to the forefront of our imaginations what is beautiful about life.

It was a fantastic opportunity to spend the day out at KOAC.  What a privilege.  I highly recommend volunteer hours spent at KOAC and thank you, Harry and Katie, for this day.

Walk With Our Sisters: Calgary

I sit here eating a hot bowl of hamburger soup for breakfast, nursing a cold that after days, seems to hang in.  The soup is comforting and healing.

There are no photographs on this particular post, but a link, here, for everything you might want to find out.  Calgary’s Walk With Our Sisters memorial installation has been two years in the works (maybe more) and has traveled Canada.  It has just a few more visits and will be retired to Batoche. This stop in Calgary is an amazing opportunity for us to connect with the journey…to think about our sisters who are missing and murdered and to think of their families and friends.  It is important for us to honour their lives and their life force because these sisters remain with us, as long as we remember.

As you will see, there are opportunities for volunteers throughout the coming weeks.  All are welcome.  Orientations are offered, but it was made clear yesterday, at my own orientation,  no volunteer will be turned away.

As most of you know, at the onset of Canada’s 150, I decided that I wanted to embark on a journey of gathering knowledge and understanding about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.  I didn’t know how to begin.  Sable Sweetgrass hosted an online book club and this peeked my interest, so I began to read along and reflect on the authors and books that we were reading.  It was Sable who told me about the book club at Forest Lawn Public Library, hosted by Indigenous Pride with 12CSI and 12CSI Community Safety Initiative.

I attended my first monthly gathering at the library some time after that, intending to read a book a month, for a year, with a focus on Indigenous authors.  After bonding with this group and having my mind and awareness open up, I decided that I wanted to continue with the group and to enter into my own personal journey with Truth and Reconciliation and the 94 calls to action.  Michelle Robinson has been key in my life as an agent of change and her embrace is assisting me in becoming fearless in this journey.  I can not judge what other Canadians do with the knowledge of Residential Schools or with the initial shock of colonial movement across our nation.  I am responsible, first, to grow in knowledge and then to go forward to be a strong advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

I was invited to volunteer with Walk With Our Sisters and this has also expanded my knowledge.  As a result, I am inviting all of my readers to participate at some level during the weeks ahead.

Last week, a lovely group of women gathered to tie tobacco and I grew new friendships and new knowledge.  I really love the fact that working with our hands created such a warm community feeling.  My mother would have loved it.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation and was blessed by Autumn EagleSpeaker’s clear and welcoming approach. Autumn is a strong woman who is a source of inspiration for these coming days.  It was evident how she has inspired so many others on this journey.  I am grateful for our meeting.  I was further blessed to  meet Christi Belcourt, artist and visionary where this memorial is concerned.  We were given an extended opportunity to preview the work that has been done to this point and to be given more information about the ceremony and protocol involved.

I loved being given the story of the shape of the Calgary installation, with consideration for the two rivers, the elbow, the native plants and medicines and the dress.  The configuration of the vamps has been very specific to each city’s Indigenous peoples along the way, while the vamps themselves represent and include a wide variety of peoples, even expanding beyond international borders.

I am really looking forward to my shift later on today, the final installation shift prior to the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow afternoon, at 2.  I hope my readers will attend.  I hope that you will even extend this to volunteering a few hours, if it is possible.

Just ending this post with a lovely video of Christi describing the world of plants represented in a large painting in acrylic.  Amazing stuff!

Katie Ohe and Harry Kiyooka and Their Objects of Affection

Generously, Katie and Harry shared their spaces with us.  Conversations were rich and warm.  Hospitality was offered us…a group of diverse travelers from the city.  Stories were told…so many stories that connected objects to the souls of the artists.  A fabulous journey into the lives and motivation for creativity, in the sense of art practice, but also largely in the sense of a vision coming to life in the form of the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre.  I highly recommend that your contribution be known as funding is always challenging for the arts opportunities and they are imperative to the health of our communities.  In the spring, a group of us will be heading out to clean out scrub brush and physically labour on the property.  Let me know if you wish to join us.

P1140303 P1140305 P1140307 P1140308 P1140309 P1140310 P1140311 P1140312 P1140313 P1140314 P1140315 P1140316 P1140327 P1140328 P1140329P1140338 P1140340

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

Frank's FlatsIt’s official.  The City of Calgary has determined that Frank’s Flats, this year, is city parkland and I now have their support with the crud that mounts up at the location due to the user groups that are just a little irresponsible!  Yeah!  Justin Brown assured me that I would have help with the spring clean-up and he followed through, sending out a team that scoured the slopes, much quicker than I could possibly do ONE BAG AT A TIME.  So, now it is for me to maintain the park and hopefully solicit some support from other like-minded individuals in the area.

Nature is at its finest in this area, even when it is filthy.  The ground squirrels pull the plastics into their nests, not comprehending that this is human waste; but they adapt to the function of such plastics and paper.  Even on the nesting platform being used by Osprey, there is a huge piece of plastic that bats in the wind.  I am amused watching the activity on this platform and watched the grand predator try for over an hour to chase a Canadian goose off of the platform.  When I left the park that evening, the goose was continuing to fight for the nest in the sky, neck outstretched at each nose dive from the beautiful falcon.  This went well into the next day, but finally two days later, the goose had succumbed to the stubborn bird.  Please see fantastic images capturing this event on the Birds Calgary blog.  Now it is fun to watch the male bringing home the catch of the day routinely.

As sun was setting one evening, I watched six white swans fly overhead.  The muskrats are back and ducks of every variety are nesting.  A coyote who was guarding a spot under  the evergreens has finally disappeared, likely pressured out by all of the human presence and back onto the wilderness corridor on the other side of the fence.

Frank’s Flats is a beautiful spot for nature lovers to watch wildlife at its best.  I want this place to be safe and solicit the continued support of the City of Calgary, Bishop O’Byrne high school, South Fish Creek Recreational Center, Shawnessy Library and the various retail stores (Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, Jugo Juice) in the stewardship of this land.

I encourage my readers to take some responsibility for stewardship of your own surroundings.  Teach your children by being a living example of how to care for other species.