Arts

The people of the East Village share their voices through art with Bridge

If you happen to be walking around the East Village these days, you will notice a vibrant new art installation against some of its concrete backdrops. Simply entitled Bridge, this work by local artist Katie Green is a result of creating, workshopping and, ultimately, shining a spotlight on the people of the East Village who wanted to share their own stories. Green graciously took some time to answer a few questions about the installation.

This installation is a fascinating and thought-provoking look at the people of the East Village — can you explain what this installation is about?

Bridge is essentially a project that looks into the different ways a person can express themselves and how that can create a common and connected experience among people from different walks of life. Bridge brings together 13 participants from different community groups in East Village to explore how wearing a mask, or embodying a different character, can help create a unique space for someone to express their story. How does anonymity actually empower someone to share themselves with the outside world?

Each participant attended three workshops and one photoshoot where we built the project together. I brought in 50 small portrait paintings and each person picked one that they resonated with. I co-facilitated the workshops with art therapist, Chelsea Call, and we asked questions like, “Why do you want to embody this character?,” “If this painting could speak, what would it say?” Through this personal investigation, we shared in a circle our thoughts. These paintings were then reprinted at a larger scale and the participants papier-mâché-ed their portrait onto a cardboard forms they made themselves. The final result is a photograph of each participant wearing their mask within EV as it relates to their story.

What was the inspiration for this project, how did it come about?

I started creating these small portrait paintings in 2018 at a residency at the Vermont Studio Centre. It was a pretty cathartic experience for me and the emotional responses I was getting from individuals I shared these paintings with was really interesting. I started to think about how I could embody a painting — what would it feel like to wear a mask of one of these characters and integrate it with my body? The process was really therapeutic and pretty vulnerable. I have been wanting to share that experience with other people — using these paintings as a tool to explore aspects of self. 

How did you choose your participants?

I spent a month going to different community groups within EV to pitch my project and find interested individuals. I worked with the Salvation Army, the Calgary Drop-in (and Rehab) Centre, the National Music Centre, the (Central) Library, Carya Society of Calgary and then some of the residents living in both the old and new developments. The ages are from 13 to 65, so there is a wide range of perspectives and people from different walks of life. 

There was a big commitment to being involved in this project so I wanted to make sure the participants connected to the intention behind the project in a personal way. I met with different individuals I met through these community meetings, some I met at my information session, and some just from hanging out and creating conversation. 

What sort of mindset should the public have when viewing this installation? What do you hope we will take away from this installation?

I hope more than anything that Calgarians look at this project with curiosity. I think that it is important for public work to create questions and conversation. I also understand that I have the privilege of knowing the intricacies behind each of these images as I am embedded in the process of learning about each individual’s story. I hope that rather than writing something off because its hard to understand, the public instead gets curious. In terms of mindset, I don’t have any control over that. East Village is a community that has seen a lot of change, and communities are always changing. I hope that when the public engages with this installation they remain open to that change, to something different, and to becoming inquisitive. 

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and continues to work within the Calgary arts & culture scene to promote the city’s numerous and varied events. Contact her at kari@theyyscene.com.

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