Regina, Treaty 4: Michelle Brownridge
(Photo by Aidan Morgan, Intro by Caitlin Mullan)
Michelle was the first real friend I made in University. The first time we hung out outside of art class her camera came within inches of falling into a river. After recovering from this near miss we took a bunch of ridiculous light painting photos. I feel this first collaboration is a good analogy for what I admire most about Michelle – no matter what unexpected challenge pops up, she always finds a way to make a project happen.
Not so long ago I heard a term describing a new generation of makers that immediately brought Michelle to mind: multipotentialite. Someone who has no one true calling, but instead pursues multiple creative directions with great success. Though I would describe her as an artist first, she is also an entrepreneur, a photographer, a festival coordinator, a fierce supporter of the local music scene, a mentor, a writer, and she can compile a CADAC statistic sheet that will take your breath away.
Our province needs people like Michelle. One of the things that first drew me to her was her rejection of a concept we’d both heard growing up - the idea that you have to move away from Saskatchewan to have a meaningful career in the arts. Michelle believes strongly in being the change that’s needed, rather than complaining about what’s wrong. She will print in the studio until 5:30 AM to make sure an order of bags gets to a client on time. She will always have a new podcast to tell you about that will blow your mind, and if you think that your inkjet printer is beyond fixable – trust me – she will find a way.
KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
I am involved in a few different projects right now… Since August 2015 I have been the Festival Coordinator for a city-wide, multidisciplinary arts festival called The Caligari Project: Festival of German Expressionism. The Caligari Project has been holding events since last February, but the bulk of the activities happened in October. We had over 25 different film, music, theatre, visual arts, dance events and it’s not quite over yet, there is still going to be a filmmaking workshop for youth held by mispon and then on December 17 we are partnering with FadaDance on their annual Christmas party which will also serve as the wrap up party for the festival. I am super pumped that the Fada party is a part of Caligari, it is always my favourite party of the year, bar none, and this year will be no exception I am sure! The theme is “Drunk on German Expressionism”. The Caligari Project has been an amazing thing to be a part of and the board and I are already starting to talk about what we could do next!
I am also one of the co-founders of Articulate Ink, Regina’s only non-profit, publicly accessible printmaking studio, so in addition to my work with the Caligari Project this year I have also been working quite steadily there printing, making t-shirts for bands and other non-profits mostly. Articulate Ink recently received a sizeable capital donation from Wawanesa Insurance and we are using that money to do a full revamp of the studio space, just kicking it up a notch, installing ventilation, some new pieces of equipment and storage space for our members, so it has been a busy fall making that all happen little by little.
Also, Karli Jessup, another Articulate Ink co-founder and I, have recently both started working part-time in a commercial print shop that we had been interning at for a couple months over the summer, Eagle Printing. Articulate Ink developed a relationship with Eagle Printing through the ArtsVest program last year… Blair Baron (who owns and runs the shop) has some amazing letterpress equipment over there, including two Heidelberg Windmill presses, but he mostly does die cutting and numbering jobs with it, not a lot of printing, and Articulate Ink was looking for a way to access some press time and equipment to do some printing for ourselves and other clients and viola! The partnership is a great match and we are now learning all the aspects not only of letterpress printing, but of all the other techniques that are offered at Eagle including digital printing, offset lithography, the business of running a commercial print shop and so much more, there is tons to learn!
KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?
My day job these days mostly consists of working at Eagle Printing and doing commercial print jobs at Articulate Ink, which I love. I love making things and when you are printing, whether it be for commercial or fine art purposes you are definitely making something and it is rewarding to physically see what you’ve accomplished at the end of a day.
Occasionally, I am hired to do event production or communications consulting work on contract, so for example, right now I am working with Heritage Saskatchewan to develop a social media strategy and with the Museums Association of Saskatchewan to help them create a new communications strategy. I worked for almost four years as the Communications Coordinator at SaskCulture from 2012 to 2015, that is where I got
my background in communications and it is nice to be able to work with other non-profit cultural organizations to assist them with their communications needs. I really like all of the work I do as a communications consultant, I like connecting with organizations and people and helping them be more efficient and strategic in their communications efforts.
After a year of being almost totally self-employed, going back into a nine-to-five type of situation at Eagle Printing (even though it is only a few days a week) has been a little challenging, but I also really like the structure that it gives to my schedule. It has really required me to get and stay organized and prioritize all the things I need to get done over the course of the week. The super challenging thing about working at Articulate Ink is that we get paid solely on commission for the jobs that we print, we don’t have enough operational funding yet to be paid a salary or for any of the administrative work that we do so that inconsistency can definitely be frustrating at times.
KC: What’s important to you?
I think that community is really important to me, whether that be family, friends, colleagues… One of the things about being a printmaker is that we often work communally because of the high cost of the equipment and studio facilities we require, so I feel that there is a sense of community that is often built into the medium and that is what we’ve tried to build with Articulate Ink, not only a physical studio space, but also a community of print-minded people.
Art is also really important to me, it is a huge part of my life and even though I haven’t produced a huge amount of work in the last five years I feel that being an artist informs how I navigate the world and I am always experiencing things through the lens of being an artist and that is often what keeps me going and motivated to do what I do.
KC: What do you like most/least about Regina?
What I like most about Regina is the arts community. When I moved here in 2005 from Weyburn to go to University, it was never really my intention to stay for an extended period of time, but as I became more and more a part of the arts community, and Articulate Ink flourished, it became difficult to think about moving somewhere new and starting over just for the sake of not being in Regina. I think I’d like to move somewhere new, even temporarily, in the future to go to grad school, but that is way down the line, I’m still paying off my undergraduate degree.
The thing that I like least about Regina is that it is essentially just a bigger small town in some ways, racism is still a rampant problem here, as well as LGBTQ discrimination and even though I’ve never personally had any problems in the past, I know of people who have, and being a visibly queer person sometimes makes me nervous because I know there are folks around who might take issue with me just being me, so I have my guard up sometimes and I don’t like that.
KC: What is your impression of Saskatoon?
I really like Saskatoon! During my time at SaskCulture I got to spend a decent chunk of time working in Saskatoon for Culture Days and other initiatives and I met some great people, ate at fantastic restaurants, visited awesome art galleries etc… Saskatoon seems like a really vibrant, growing city. I am always impressed by the landscape, the rivers, the bridges - it is a particularly beautiful city in my opinion. I generally jump at any chance I get to go to Saskatoon, I like spending time there.
KC: How do you survive the winters?
I really used to hate winter bitterly and then I bought a full-fledged winter parka a few years ago and my opinion of winter shifted a bit, so I suppose I survive the winters by investing in really good, warm winter gear. It really takes the bite out of the cold. I still like to walk a lot in the winter and be outside and we have an ice skating rink about half a block from our house and one downtown in Victoria park so I go ice skating when I get the chance and I always feel that is something special that I only get to do in the winter. I find that skating invigorates me in the depths of winter somewhat.
From the Proust Questionnaire: Which talent would you most like to have?
The talent that I would most like to have is to be able to play a musical instrument, which I cannot! I took guitar lessons for about three years in high school and let’s just say that I didn’t really have an aptitude for it. I love music, it is a huge part of my daily life and I would really like to be able to play guitar or piano or something but I haven’t really been able to figure out yet. I haven’t given up yet though - there may be an ukulele in my future!
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