The last four years have been amazing for my art. When I started college at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design in 2009, my art was very timid. I had an idea in my head of what people expected, what my community expected. Mom told me in the spring of my first year that she had tried to get me to loosen up, but I would not--until I started at NBCCD. The college opened me up to so many ways of creating, of looking at art. However, it was a shock for me, and it took me a long time to give myself permission to be the artist that I so desperately wanted to be.
While those feelings first appeared in the Fall semester, they became more pronounced during the Winter semester. I remember walking home from my History of Visual Culture: 1600 to the Present class one night and spending the entire walk having an intense argument with myself. Part of me was dying to break free and do all the weird and awesome artistic things that I dreamed of doing. The other firmly said, "no!" I will never forget that night.
After March Break, I met with my academic adviser, Adam MacDonald, to talk with him about it. That was what I needed to really start loosening up. I also emailed Mom, and she encouraged me to go for it, too.
That summer, I continued to work on expanding my approach to art, to getting myself to do the nutty stuff that I wanted to do.
When I started school as a photography major that Fall, I and the rest of my fellow students (who I had nicknamed the Photogs the year before) were encouraged to push boundaries and experiment. And yes, I continued to push my own boundaries, exploring my darker, edgier side. In fact, the assignments in studio head Peter Gross' classes encouraged us to challenge ourselves. I remember Peter telling me to push myself a bit more, and I told him about meeting with Adam the year before. Turns out, the process of transitioning from a timid artist to one who will at least attempt every idea she comes up with was not yet over.
I continued to push myself throughout the year, but during my final year at NBCCD I kind of fell off the wagon. Though I did do a series of videos to raise awareness of Prime Minister Harper's plans for Canada, which I uploaded to YouTube.
When I got to NSCAD, I could feel myself start to change. I will never forget Orientation Day, which was the first time that I got a taste of SUNSCAD. Right away I knew I had to get involved in the union. And I did: when election time came around, I ran for the position of Students in Residence Rep. And I only missed one general assembly (GA) due to class.
During the first semester, I tested the water and soaked up the atmosphere of the school. When the second semester started, I heard the Fall semester described as the "calm before the storm"--and it was. In the Winter semester, the Student Union of NSCAD (SUNSCAD) began staging direct actions, having voted non-confidence in the Framework for Sustainability in the Fall.
In January, the students staged their first direct action (a sit-in during a Board of Governors meeting during which many BOG members left and the students read the manifesto that they had passed in a GA aloud and talked with the remaining board members). Sadly, I was not a part of it because I had class at that time. But I let the woman who organized it, Becka Viau, an MFA student, know that I supported the action and those who would be taking part.
However, I was involved with the second direct action. That time, we delivered the manifesto to the Nova Scotia government. We were supposed to deliver it to Derrell Dexter, but ended up delivering it to Leonard Preyra instead. I was not happy with Dexter's decision, and when I saw him in the window of Province House I turned my sign so that he would see the side that said, "what would Anna Leonowens think of this?" (Which is something that I wonder a lot these days.)
Since then, I have continued to go to GA's--and we have been having a lot of GA's this semester. In fact we have had so many that this Tuesday (March fifth) will be our first council meeting of the semester (it was supposed to be a GA).
Since I have been studying at NSCAD, I have been doing a lot more political art. When looking up the date of the occupation of the boardroom (the first direct action), I read a line from the manifesto at the top of the webpage: "NSCAD's ability to nurture critical, political and philosophical thought continually sets us apart. It cultivates the artists and critical thinkers needed in today's society." That statement could not be truer. I am living proof of that.
This week, I told Anna Sprague about my idea for the show that Writing for the Arts is having. My idea was to take photos around the school, get an envelope, arrange it and the photos, take a photo of the whole setup and submit that. Anna suggested that I actually mail the photos to Dan O’Brian (NSCAD's acting president) and the BOG. We discussed the project for a while, and we were both excited by it by the end (we are both frustrated by what has been going on at the university for the last few years). She gave me some ideas and suggested ways to improve the project, including the aforementioned mailing of the photos.
When I got home, I immediately flew into action, posting a note about my project on the SUNSCAD Facebook group, and asking for names and contact information for the Board of Governors. It did not take long for me to get a reply from SUNSCAD president Sarah Trower.
Another member of the group, Catherine Constable, suggested sending photos to the Chamber of Commerce and the municipal government (which has not said a word throughout the whole mess). It just kept getting better and better.
When I picked up Anna's Instax camera in her office, we discussed the project further, and she suggested putting the photos in individual envelopes and then putting them in a big envelope. Cue my excitement, which I thought could not get any more intense. I honestly wish that I could be a fly on the wall when the BOG opens the envelopes. How will they react?
This is the most daring thing that I have ever done. It is the kind of thing that I would have said "no" to three years ago, which shows just how far I have come. I have become the artist that I dreamed of being back then: one who is not afraid to go out on a limb, to use her art to challenge the Establishment and those she disagrees with, who will use her art to improve the world--even just a small part of it.
I am opinionated, I am political, I have a certificate and diploma from NBCCD and am working on my degree at NSCAD--do not mess with me! Did I mention that I can be fierce?