Last week, I sat down with Founder and Director of Creative Users, Lindsay Fisher, to talk about an intense and rewarding summer working in the Madawaska Valley on the Renfrew County Inquest Public Art Response project where we unveiled an 8-foot pebble mosaic, a culmination of seven years of community activations to end gender-based violence.

This project is a direct response to the murders of three women — Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton, and Anastasia Kuzyk — in Renfrew County on September 22, 2015. We were invited to lead a public art project, responding to the murders and also to the Coroner of Ontario’s Inquest into the triple femicide.

The following excerpt is taken from my interview published in Creative Users Projects Connector Inspired: a monthly newsletter about art and thoughts from creatives in the disability community.

“I’ve been working with stones for many months.

Now that we’re on the other side, I’ve been able to take a big breath, and just go, wow, that’s been a lot of holding and care.

The community, everybody remembers where they were on that day, and what they were doing, and so there were experiences described; being in a classroom with children hiding under desks, because schools were on lockdown and they knew that somebody was traveling around in the region with a gun, shooting people.

For artists, facilitators, but also community members, there’s this piece about vicarious trauma; how to do this work that requires bravery and authenticity and presence.

At ReDefine Arts, our sustainability practices include having weekly meetings that always include a check in, where we can actually be real with one another. How is everybody doing? Not just about the work, but how are you doing in your life?

Sustainability is about recognizing that there are human beings who care for one another, and who care for the work that we’re doing, and we need to be as well as possible and embed that in our work. It’s that we get to be real people with real lives and bodies that sometimes are hurting.

For me, that has made our work more sustainable. I feel genuinely connected to the people I work with because we get to be real with each other in this way. It means that I trust the folks that I work with and I care for them.

There’s a principle in permaculture called ‘redundancy,’ … It means that if you need water, you’re not receiving water from just one water source. Instead, you have multiple rainwater collectors, so if one collector bursts, you have a water supply from other rainwater collectors. If somebody on our team needs to step out for a minute or a day or a week, the whole structure doesn’t collapse because we have redundancy. There are multiple minds and multiple hands at work, and we can flex to accommodate our personal needs so that we’re doing and feeling well in our work.”

Taken from our manifesto developed with Sheila Sampath: We believe that our practice is strengthened by our relational ways of art making. Radical reciprocity and mutual care are central to our relationships.

I invite you to visit our new website and while you’re there, read our whole manifesto. It reflects the values that guide everything we do, how we do it, and why. Gratitude to Sheila and her team at The Public, an activist design studio specializing in changing the world, for guidance, generosity, and facilitation and technical expertise.

— Anna Camilleri, Artistic Co-Director


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