Where There is Smoke is an immersive audio and video installation and livestream production featuring women firefighters’ stories of standout and workaday moments from the community and the fire hall; a multi-dimensional portrait of career and volunteer firefighters with a diverse range of experiences and perspectives on camaraderie, fire science, training, and being one (or a few) amongst many.
By making space for these stories that intersect labour, art, and equity, we hope audiences consider notions of community service, who does it and how it is done; and, the generative nature of socially engaged storytelling and media making as a model for equity-building, and creating institutional culture shifts.
In 2017, Fire Service Women Ontario approached ReDefine Arts to devise and steward an art project that would engage women firefighters in discussions about their work and experience in the fire service. Artists facilitated storytelling and creative writing workshops with 35+ women firefighters in Hamilton, Toronto, and Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, and in 2021, the project expanded to explore the experiences of women and non-binary firefighters working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The installation premiered at the Worker’s Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC) in 2018, followed by installations at the In Situ Festival (Mississauga), Gallery 1265 (Scarborough), Doors Open Hamilton, and several Firefighter conferences across the country, as well as livestream activations and presentations co-produced with the Worker’s Arts and Heritage Centre.
Where There is Smoke disrupts any assumption of a single narrative of being a woman firefighter and highlights stories of an often-overlooked group within the service. Women represent about 3-4% of firefighters in Canada.
Storytellers: Emily Abernethy, Danielle Alosinac, Bev Bradley, Amanda Brazil, Amber Bowman, Traci Cairns, Jess Clermont, Jenn Dawkins, Rita Di Cesare, Maggie Dort, Dara Douma, Gillian Guthrie, Jenn Gordon, Lindsay Hamilton, Stacy Hannah, Mary Hindle, Adina Kaufman, Pike Krpan, Brooke Penticost, Julie Petruzzellis, Rose Saunders Wilson, Shirley Salay, TJ Robbins, Allison Ryckman-Chisholm, Lydia Wilcox, and Patricia Youn.
Lead Artists: Anna Camilleri and Tristan R. Whiston
Audio Compositions: Tristan R. Whiston (lead), Anna Camilleri, Wy Joung Kou, and Aidan Morishita-Miki
Installation Design and Video: Anna Camilleri
Video Lighting and Technician: Katie Yealland
Video Cast: Patricia Youn, Julie Petruzzellis, and Gillian Guthrie
Video Creation (WAHC Livestream): Wy Joung Kou
WAHC Project Support: Sonali Menezes and Florencia Berinstein
Music and Composition: Lyndell Montgomery
Working Group Members: Anna Camilleri, Adina Kaufman, Pike Krpan, Julie Petruzzellis, and Tristan R. Whiston
This work has been made possible thanks to support from Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council.