Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Alana Moore

Alana-Moore.jpg

(Intro written by Cassandra Lavoie)

Alana Moore’s practice is a humble approach to finding beauty and truth in a chaotic world.  Her personal journey of persistent growth and curiosity mirrors her art practice.  In ‘The Ribbon Project’, she takes the classic ribbon that is often present for feats of athleticism and shifts the focus.  We are reminded that we are all champions in our everyday lives, and that rather than tormenting ourselves for what we ‘should be’ it is better to embrace supposed ‘flaws’ as they truly are our strength.

Moore’s work is also an example of the resourcefulness needed when seeking new medias to convey ideas.  Cupcakes, ribbons, and clay golf balls push the boundaries of how art is presented.  In addition, they require the creator to problem solve, when experimenting with these mediums.  Every project requires a new set of skills and is a testament to Moore’s willingness to embrace discomfort.  Challenge is apart of the reward, and this mentality results in a willingness to tackle roles such as leading Street Meet: Saskatoon’s Annual Street, Public and Graffiti Art Festival from 2015-2016.

Moore has the wisdom to know that reaching out for input develops ideas and creates an environment of shared curiosity and willingness to listen, even when the urge to speak may be strong.  Requests for input on the ‘Ribbon Project’ and ‘Messages From Those Who are Absent’ are a beautiful example of how the creator can fill the role of the messenger, and mediate conversations that will ultimately go in directions we may have never expected.

In her art practice, as well as her professional and personal life Moore shows an upstanding level of respect for all, especially those that often go unheard.  She also shows the importance of curiosity and a sense of playfulness for everyone.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?

Fortunately I have a few project on the go. I am continuing with my series called, The Ribbon Project: Awards for the Everyday. It is a series of fiber and printmaking works that draws from the material culture of craft and athletics to speak to some of the similarities between art and sports. I am a lapsed competitive volleyball player and track and field athlete, turned artist. I am fascinated by the emotive capacities and tenderness shown in sports. And I love the material culture of sports, for example, the fabrics, and equipment. Ultimately, my efforts to find a meaningful place in the sporting world provided me with a critical lens into the history of mental health issues among athletes and my own psychological makeup.

I’m super excited to embark on a brand new collaboration – working with others is my preferred mode of art-making lately.

I am thrilled to be spending more time in my studio, learning new things. I’ve been learning Adobe illustrator and working on some small illustrations about addictions and cravings. I’ve also been playing with acrylic paints and texture.

KC: What's your day job? What do you like about it? What's challenging?

I am incredibly grateful to have two jobs in my field. I currently work as the Artist-in-Residence at Sherbrooke Community Centre and as a Program Guide at Remai Modern.

I love working for an organization whose philosophy aligns with my own in many ways. Sherbrooke Community Center is an Eden Alternative Registered Home. The Eden Alternative ® is not a program, but a philosophy that addresses what Dr. Bill Thomas calls the Three Plagues of Nursing Homes: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. Dr. Thomas discovered that medical treatment is necessary but insufficient for quality of life, and needs to be the servant and not the master of care. I am constantly inspired by what Dr. Thomas and his partner, Jude are doing to combat ageism. From my experience working as an artist at the Irene and Leslie Dubé Center for Mental Health and Addictions and now at Sherbrooke Community Centre, I can say with confidence that loneliness and meaningless activity are combated with creativity. This is why I do the work I do.

I believe that all people have the ability to create. At Sherbrooke Community Centre, elders and community day program (CDP) participants have the opportunity to pursue a range of creative endeavors by spending quality time in the Art Studio that I run.  The studio provides a nurturing, supportive environment, and offers more than a place to draw, paint or sculpt. It offers real opportunities for creative expression. Artists are provided with a shared studio space, supplies, and professional opportunities to exhibit their work. I’ll be curating a show for a selection of our artists at STM (St. Thomas More) at the University of Saskatchewan for the month of April. Come check it out!

The position of Artist-in-Residence, allows me to provide a vital link for elders to engage in the life of the arts community, grow their artistic practice, inspire meaningful connections, empower personal identities, and change attitudes.

Five days a week, we play, make a mess, and encourage each other. The Eden Alternative states that one of the fundamental principles of care is that we must recognize, appreciate, and promote each elder’s capacity for growth. At Sherbrooke, artists are encouraged to push their limits and expectations while working on purposeful and creative activities. It is through these creative and empowering art initiatives like the Sherbrooke Art Studio, where elders are able to contribute to living more enriching lives and reducing the stigmas about aging, disability, illness, and mental health.

My time as an artist at Sherbrooke has been a tremendous period of growth and inspiration as an artist, human being, and member of the community. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my love and enthusiasm for the arts and creativity with elders. I am deeply honored to get to work beside other incredibly creative, dedicated, and resilient artists.

Challenges: There are a range of challenges in this position, but they keep me on my toes. One example, is there are 263 residents and 100 day program participants at Sherbrooke. I find it challenging to have enough time and sometimes enough space to work with all the elders who are interested in the art studio.

I’ve been working at the Remai Modern (previously the Mendel Art Gallery) as a Program Guide for five years. We facilitate art programs for a diverse range of audiences - including schools, community organizations, community events, long-term care, and assisted living centres. I love diversity of the job, the range of audiences I get to work with, and the opportunity to learn and study artworks from the permanent collection and contemporary art.

I frequently work a Saturday shift at The Lighthouse Supported Living. The Lighthouse is Saskatoon’s non-profit housing provider that offers emergency shelter, supportive living and affordable housing for individuals and families. Creative expression is an integral part of the concept of Supportive Living and more broadly, important to Saskatoon’s health care system. Through creativity, individuals can reach personal growth, independence, and resilience. As part of offering programs to a diverse community, it’s important for us to provide safe, inclusive spaces for everyone, regardless of their experience in making art. As a Program Guide, I introduce participants to different media and let them experiment. I recognize people learn in different ways; some jump right in and start exploring techniques right away, while others take their time getting involved. My goal is to create an environment where anyone can have fun and feel comfortable making art.

I also really like the people I work with. I am fortunate to work with a team of artists, teachers, academics, and otherwise smart, creative, fun folks who bring a lot of heart and dedication to their jobs.

Challenges: I am quite introverted, so doing public tours, school tours, and work with large groups is certainly a challenge. However, I like being pushed outside my comfort zone. I just have to remember to spend a significant amount of time in solitude and recharging.

I also find it challenging to be in positions where it feels like art is perhaps futile when people’s basic needs are not being met. There are so many issues that are transgenerational that our city needs to do better at addressing. It makes my heart heavy. It makes me want to scream. It motivates me to continue supporting the passionate and active members in our community that are doing things to eliminate things like poverty and hunger.

KC: What's important to you?

Three words continue to return to me: Love, loss, and loneliness. I think about how at the end of my life, I will look back and wonder what really mattered to me. I can guarantee, it won’t be busyness. It will be that I got through loss and loneliness with love, intimacy, and connection. I will celebrate that I was creative and enjoyed beauty. Ultimately, that I lived my life to the fullest and to the best of my ability. The busyness in pursuing accomplishment, commodities, and recognitions are not sustainable. I don’t want to get to the end of my life, whenever that may be, and realize I’ve only skimmed the surface.

Other things that are important to me: My partner, my friends, my family, my dog Motu and cat Phoebe, my indoor plants, spending time in the wilderness, solitude, the time and means to create, silliness, laughter, strong coffee, kombucha, meditation, baths, biking, swimming, late nights, loud music, pen pals, journaling, self-reflection and actualization, access to fresh, affordable food (for everyone, not just the privileged few), growing a garden, and cooking vegetarian and vegan meals. I am challenging myself to try new things, to lean into radical vulnerability, self-care, and self love- because if we don’t learn how to fiercely love ourselves, we cannot fully love another.

Creativity as a means of being vulnerable and challenging the status quo are important to me. It’s a balance between the internal and external. Making things is often how I make sense of the world around me. It’s the desire to take something chaotic and make it more clear. I also believe in the power creativity has to propel society and include everyone.

Community.  I feel best and work best when I feel connected to others and when working towards a common goal. I never used to be this way. In my personal life and in my art practice, I was fairly isolated, and liked it. But a lot of things have changed for me in the last couple of years. It is only recently that I have made an effort to be active in certain communities, and it’s such a beautiful thing. I’ve become more dedicated and committed to something and in turn, i’ve learned more about my identity and felt a sense of security and kinship. I strongly believe in celebrating our differences and strengths to build communities that honour people.

It’s important to be to be open and honesty about my lived experiences because it prevents loneliness, disrupts stereotypes, and stigmas and builds understanding and connection. In particular, I like to be honest about the challenges I’ve had with addictions and mental health. Having been in the depths of addiction and diagnosed with ADD, anxiety and depression, i’ve experienced incredibly lonely years. I believe we are all on the addictions scale, and some addictions are just more socially acceptable than others. Also, the instinct for compulsion seems to be a human thing. We are all attempting to solve the problem of loneliness, loss, disconnection, and alienation in a society that is ill-equipped to deal with these challenges in healthy ways.

A few years ago, a friend sent me a link to a video by a Doctor by the name of Gabor Mate. He says a simple and compassionate thing. He says, “Addictions almost always originate in pain- and so the question is not, “why the addiction” but “why the pain.” This changed the way I thought about addiction and I started to learn as much as I could about addiction, mental illness, trauma and attachment- and the relationship that all of these things bare to each other. I learned that that we can stop these cycles if we prioritize healing of the most vulnerable who’ve been psychologically damaged and by de-stigmatizing addiction and mental illness. I am determined to see what kind of change can happen if start to look at addictions and mental health differently, with forgiveness, compassion, and open mindedness.

In addition to these personal things, I value curiosity, kindness, honesty, learning, seeking knowledge, and understanding. I am trying to listen more to my gut, and to other whose voices need to be heard. I am actively trying to unlearn oppressive ideas and behaviours, while being cognitive of my own privileges so I can avoid participating in this oppression by resisting it and taking action.

KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?

What I like most about Saskatoon are my friends and different communities I am apart of. I am grateful to have a group of compassionate, supportive, funny, smart, and conscientious human beings as my friends. I’ve lived in Saskatoon for 8 years and the people, the arts community, and my kick ass arts jobs are what have kept me here. This city and province has a lot of opportunities for visual artists, it’s a good place to live and work on one’s practice.

I love the land here. I am honoured and grateful to live on Treaty 6 territory.  I have fallen in love with the long, hot summer days, the flowing river, the expansive skies, the sandy beaches, fruit bushes, the trees, mushroom hunting, and wildflowers. I love walking in back alleys and taking in the new forms of ephemeral street art that are popping up. I have learned to love the distinct four seasons. I used to hate winter. I still don’t do well with the bitter cold and suffer from SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). But, I like the introspection winter brings and I am slowly finding more patience, grace, and beauty in the discomfort.

I was born in Calgary, but Saskatoon has become home. I like the down to earth attitude in this city. I am continuously inspired and challenged by the active and engaged folks in Saskatoon. This city is full of inspiring artists, musicians, poets, comedians, dancers, freaks, activists, teachers, advocates, protectors, and visionaries.

Amidst all this inspiration, I am disappointed, frustrated, angry, sad, and heartbroken by the close-minded mentalities that exist in this province, which pose major barriers on the livelihoods of women, indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ folks, and immigrants. There is so much work to be done to challenge the individual and systemic racism that prevails in this city, province, and country. We have so much work to be done in our police departments, the prison system, and mental health and addictions services. Our city needs more creative and compassionate support for the homeless. We can and need to do better. We stronger collectively. When people have been coming together to say, “no more” and “that is not okay,” I am reminded of my own privilege and comfort I often ignorantly revel in.

As an artist and someone interested in street, public and graffiti art, our city needs more progressive policies when it comes to these art forms. We can look to other cities that have a thriving street art scene. There is still a lot of stigma around ‘graffiti’, but there’s a conversation to be had, even if it’s rife with contradictions. One example of good work happening in this city is by the festival Summer Fling- they put an event every summer and paint the back wall of White Buffalo Youth Lodge. The work on the wall is an example of the caliber of graffiti work happening in this country. Also, since the inception of Street Meet Festival and the work the city does with the Placemaker (Public Art) Program, there is starting to be more public art that isn’t strictly permanent works. Street art naturally competes with advertisements in a city, and artists want a say in what the “visual language” of a city looks like. To me, and other artists, it looks like more than consumerism.

KC: What is your impression of Regina?

The more I learn about Regina, the more I want to take more roads trips there to visit. There are some really cool things happening in this sister city. I went to highschool in Estevan, so Regina was the “Big City.” I loved going on road trips with friends to see punk bands, eat good food, go to used bookstores and galleries. The Mackenzie Art Gallery was the first public art gallery I visited, ever!  It definitely had a lasting impression. As for the art scene, I am into the programming from Neutral Ground, the Dunlop Art Gallery, and Queer City Cinema. Also, Listen to Dis’ Community Arts Organization is doing brilliant work. They are a non-profit organization “that equips and enables people with disabilities to create and participate in art.” I had the opportunity to see a group do a dance/theatre/poetry performance at the first Annual Artists of Ability Festival here in Saskatoon, and it was phenomenal. And finally, the Sâkêwêwak Annual Storytellers Festival does amazing work. The Festival is a community based, multidisciplinary arts showcase featuring Indigenous storytelling. Check them out!

Other cool things about Regina: They have the RPIRG (Regina Public Interest Research Group), a student funded resource centre at the University of Regina committed to social and environmental justice. (I know people have been trying to make this happen in Saskatoon. It will come). Oh and the 13th Ave Cafe has good coffee, soup, and brownies.

KC: Finish this sentence: If the best of all possible worlds was reality....

The answer to the question of whether there is a best of all possible worlds is that there is no best, but that some are better than others. Some things that would be better than others:

We would live in a world that allows all people to be vulnerable and tough, intrepid and nurturing, without denying the human experience. Our society would be more compassionate, just, and equitable.

We would have a society that taught people their inherit value, instead of this universal feeling of unworthiness that plagues so many people today.

We would succeed in bringing about more peace and reducing suffering.

KC: How has your identity helped you / hindered you?

I acknowledge that because of the colour of my skin, my gender, and able body, society has allowed me to express myself, to speak, and communicate, a privilege that is not enjoyed by people of colour (especially women of colour), queer people, trans people, and people with different abilities than mine. I am learning to be more active, to listen, and to acknowledge so I can resist this oppression. I have certainly been blinded by my advantages.

Over the past five years, I’ve had a lot of things change. I went through a lot of darkness, experienced loss, and some health concerns. Through all that, i’ve become more aware of my identity by imagining who I want to be, and learning to accept myself unconditionally; as a result, it has altered my life in unimaginable ways. I am learning to embrace who I am, which has given me more confidence to speak up and share my experiences which is empowering. Accepting myself, surrounding myself by communities and people that are supportive and accepting, have helped me be a better person to myself and the people around me.

From the Proust Questionnaire:
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I imagine myself coming back as a tree; maybe a willow, or a birch tree layered with chaga, or a fruit bearing tree somewhere warm.

Links

My Website: https://www.alanamoorestudio.com/

Instagram: @alanamoorestudio

Instagram for Sherbrooke Art Studio: @kscopearts

Website for Kaleidscope (Creative Projects) at Sherbrooke Community Centre: http://kscopearts.com/

Sherbrooke Community Centre: http://www.sherbrookecommunitycentre.ca/about-sherbrooke/

Eden Alternative: http://www.edenalt.org/

Remai Modern: https://remaimodern.org/