The Art of the Art Hive Symposium
To say that the Art Hive Symposium was a dream come true may seem a little too cliché or over the top for some, so let me stick to the facts. The hall at the Grey Nuns where the symposium took place was full of light and colour. As you entered there was a handmade archway woven withbranches, leaves, flowers and found materials collected from various gardens, and the forest of Mont Royal. The four bottom corners of the trellis were anchored in recycled boots that pointed to the four directions - North, East, South, and West - far, and wide, from which the participants came.
Over 50 people participated from all over Canada (from as far away as Edmonton and St. Johns, and Sheshatshiu,Labrador) ,and a few people from the states. They came from various creative backgrounds: art educators, artists, creative arts therapists, students, professors, playback actors, musicians, researchers, entrepreneurs and more.
The opening night had a tangible energy to it, with donors, participants, students, children, parents and spouses enjoying the delicious spread of healthy snacks, art displays and performances.
There were introductory remarks from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, as well as supporters from the dean of Fine Arts of Concordia University and the director of Community Engagement. Finally, of course, there was a welcome / introductory speech by Janis Timm Bottos, the visionary and organizer behind the symposium, who said memorably: “We know from our experiences that these spaces inspire a greater sense of belonging and provide a safe place to experience vulnerability and interdependence”, and “We are here to connect, share our stories and through collaboration and network weave a net across Canada supporting small grass roots community-based studios with the intention of coming together to co-create a larger vision.” Read more about this vision under “A Vision to Have One in Every Community in Canada”
The art and performances on the opening night were the culminating works of the university students who took Janis’ class “Community Art Studio: Methods and Materials” and were in response to how they saw the positive influence of the art hive expanding into the greater community. As the graduate assistant for this class, I was reminded of Maxine Greens’ quote: “The arts cannot change the world, but they may change the human beings who might change the world.” This was clearly evidenced in the student’s art work: a giant puppet of a Campesina - an indigenous Colombian folk singer with a crown of flowers; expressive maps painted with dynamic connections branching between them; and two passionate performances.. Four students took to the stage, performing a Metissage - orally woven stories and personal experiences from their service learning experience: a heart that found its own beat, a drama therapy student who discovered that he too, could make art, a Russian textile artist who valued community above all else, and an art therapist who found the place where everyone could simply be.
Another student took to the stage, moving with passion and expression to a pulsating song. She had two masks with which she danced symbolizing the tension between projecting an idealized self and her insecurities. The symposium participants looked on in awe as this student’s emotions and inspiration poured out through her creative dance.
Encircling the audience were colourful textile triangular flags, another final creative project from Janis’ class. The students invited the participants to create a flag bearing words or images of what art hives inspire in them. Written, stitched and painted on the flags were phrases like: “Home is where the heart is” and “Birds need nests, Humans need art hives”. There were fine arts students from Concordia silk-screening the logo for Art Hives onto the flags and clothing, which participants could then decorate at two pop-up art hives in the corners of the hall.
For many who had arrived that day, this symposium was starting to seem like a dream come true: exactly the connections, networking and vision they’d been looking for. It was a truly inspiring opening night that filled hearts with excitement, and minds with ideas for the upcoming discussions of the weekend.