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Marian Thorpe Launches The Empire's Hostage

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Marian Thorpe is celebrating the launch of the second book in her Empire’s Legacy series. Empire’s Hostage was celebrated last week at the Bookshelf E-Bar. Marian was joined by Avril Borthiry, author of The Wishing Well, and Guelph poet Nikki Everts, in an event that showcased the positive reception and community support for Marian and her work. Empire’s Hostage is a continuation of Marian’s lovingly crafted world and characters, following Lena as she is again called by duty to support a threatened Empire.

Marian Thorpe is a writer currently living and working in Guelph. Originally from Southern Ontario in Essex County, Marian was born to British-immigrant parents and grew up thinking of the United Kingdom as a second home. Her father instilled an early love for British history, and Roman-British history informed much of the fictional world of Marian’s Empire’s Legacy series.

On her inspiration for the series, Marian shared, “I didn’t plan the novel, I started with this image in my head. It was an image of this fishing village in northern Europe somewhere and a young woman… I realized late in the writing process that a lot of where the story came from was what my mother and aunts experienced in World War Two. My mother and aunt served in the British army. Another aunt was a member of the Danish resistance. So I had these stories of really strong women serving their countries. They weren’t being heroines; they were just doing everyday things. This young woman, my protagonist, isn’t doing anything heroic. She’s just doing what her country is asking of her and doing it to the best of her ability.”

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By Anita Cazzola 

Christina Kingsbury is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Guelph, and is one of last year's recipients of the Jane Graham Award.  Christina’s practice explores place, labour and ecology using craft techniques applied in sculpture, installation, and performance contexts.  Her most recent works have involved the creation and installation of seed paper sculpture interventions, including a long-term project titled ReMediate.  

Christina has been surrounded by artistic and ecological influences her whole life; her mother and grandmother taught her to sew, her father is a biologist an amature naturalist, her sister (Shannon Kingsbury) a singer, songwriter and harpist and her brother (Robert Kingsbury) a dancer, choreographer and videographer.  It is no surprise that she embodies these skills and interests in her practice, embracing the idea of “art-in-life”.  Within all of these artistic influences, Christina has been able to carve out an artistic space for herself - and she is thriving.  

Christina completed her BFA in Visual Art with a minor in Environmental Studies at York University in 2005.  Just out of University, she worked predominantly with the quilting and piecing together of paper scraps (photographs, bills, receipts, etc).  She attempted to use every small bit of the scraps she would cut up, which initiated her experimentation with papermaking.  She has always been interested in the relationship between labour, pollination, land and place, and had completed a number of works involving seed paper before starting on ReMediate, such as The Rooting Project, Emergence and Sewing Seeds.  

Christina Kingsbury, Emergence, 2011, Sculpture, intervention, Guelph

ReMediate has taken over Christina’s practice for the past four years.  In her words, “things have germinated slowly” with the project, keeping her goal to maintain a social practice and an embodied practice at the forefront.  Years ago, she got the idea of sewing a quilt or blanket for a piece of land.  The idea kept morphing and developing as she worked and experimented.  She grappled with questions like, “How do we reconcile our relationship with land? What would an appropriate gesture or action be? Could I make something that could be potentially useful to the land and ecology?”  

Christina made a connection with Pollination Guelph while working on her project Sewing Seeds.  Pollination Guelph had started working on a pilot project at the decommissioned Eastview Landfill site in Guelph, and Christina joined forces with them.  The Eastview landfill became the site for ReMediate.  She also collaborated with poet Anna Bowen, who wrote a series of poems documenting the history of the landfill and the project.

ReMediate has materialized as a 2,000 square foot quilt, hand sewn and made from recycled paper and embedded with native seeds.  Over time, the quilt has disintegrated and yielded a garden which acts as a habitat for threatened indigenous pollinators like bees, wasps, and butterflies.  

Christina Kingsbury, ReMediate, 2014 - Ongoing, Installation, poetry and performance, Guelph

ReMediate has posed many challenges over time.  The landfill site has very poor quality soil, harsh weather conditions in both winter and summer, and invasive species that Christina continually weeds out to maintain the garden.  All the seeds planted are native species, but some have thrived more than others.  Christina describes them as, “Native plants, that are native to a time before climate destabilization”.  The plants have had to adapt to the conditions at the landfill site.  She says, “In some ways, it is astonishing that my garden has done as well as it has”.

She maintains a positive attitude about challenge and failure, saying, “Starting to work on ReMediate, I was standing in full awareness that it it could completely fail, and that would be ok.  For me, it would have been equally as interesting if I made this quilt and spent hours and hours sewing, and the land was like, ‘No thank you’. There is this conscious naiveté with the project, which acknowledges how disconnected we are to the land. At the same time in that acknowledgment, we still have to try.”

Through her constant labour maintaining the garden, it has thrived and accomplished what she had hoped.  “Last fall, I went out on this very sunny day in September, it had been cool and there was this really warm sunny day, and I was walking out there, and before I was even there, I could hear this incredible buzzing. I can’t even tell you, I wish I had an audio recorder or something, because there were bees everywhere, everywhere! And nowhere else! - That’s really heartening.”

Christina Kingsbury, ReMediate, 2014 - Ongoing, Installation, poetry and performance, Guelph

Christina moved to Guelph in 2006, and has found that Guelph’s community is a great place to locate her practice.  She saw Guelph as, “a city in which collaboration and cross-disciplinary dialogue is really possible and accessible.”  She has always hoped to find ways to make her art speak or work in service to larger things going on in the world, and Guelph’s strong arts and environmental science communities have helped her in doing so.  She collaborates with poets, philosophers, biologists and ecologists in Guelph, aiming to make her works relative and accessible to a diverse audience.  This collaboration helps bring a more holistic understanding to the research that she is doing, and ensuring that all aspects work cohesively.  “Collaborative work is more honest and rich, especially with the nature of my work.  It is the time for that”.

Christina is one of last year’s recipients of the Jane Graham Award, presented by the Guelph Arts Council.  The Award was created in honour of visual artist Jane Graham, who lived and worked in the Guelph area for many years before her death in 2005. Working closely with the Graham family, Guelph Arts Council established a fund with donations made in memory of the beloved and respected local artist. The fund is managed by The Guelph Community Foundation. Guelph Arts Council offers the award to support visual artists who are actively practicing in Guelph or Wellington County and wish to pursue opportunities that will contribute to their artistic growth.

Through funding from the Award, Christina has been able to take three courses at Paperhouse Studio in Toronto.  The courses cover Papermaking Foundations, Sculptural Papermaking, and Papercutting.  Christina has been making paper since 2008, but had never taken a professional papermaking course or seen a professional papermaking setup.  She developed a very DIY approach, making paper pulp with a blender and pulling sheets using a kiddie pool in her backyard.  She called it “problem solving out of necessity”.  Since exploring it more technically, she is able to see how she can push the technique and medium further to serve her work.  She says, “After going to the class, I was sort of impressed that I had developed my DIY process to the point that I did, on my own without any feedback”.  

The sculptural class has been particularly exciting for Christina, and she’s developing ideas for new outdoor sculptural works.  The course introduced new paper fibres to create three dimensional forms using sticks and twigs as the structure.  She has developed a positive relationship with the artists at the studio who she can work with in the future, and will have a space to beat more unique paper pulp for her work.  

The Arts Council is currently seeking applicants for the 2017 Jane Graham Award.  The application deadline is Friday, October 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm (paper application) or Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 11:59 pm (online application). Any visual artist residing and actively practising in Guelph or Wellington County is encouraged to apply for opportunities that will be pursued after November 15, 2017. The award(s) will be announced in late fall 2017.

Apply for the Jane Graham Memorial Award: https://form.jotform.com/71945746688981

More information about Christina Kingsbury and her work: christinakingsbury.com

Jesse Ruddock - Eden Mills Writer Interview

The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival is an annual literary festival that celebrates the best in Canadian literature. The main event takes place on September 10 with over 40 authors reading from their latest books at outdoor venues in the village of Eden Mills. This year’s festival includes programming for all ages, with authors representing a wide range of genres, including literary fiction, poetry, non-fiction, humour, thrillers, and spoken word! We are thrilled to feature the talent of Francophone, Indigenous and local authors as we celebrate our 29th year of community and literature.

One of the up-and-coming authors featured at this year’s festival is Jesse Ruddock. Jesse was born and raised in Guelph, grew up playing hockey, and went to Harvard on a hockey scholarship. After racking up concussions, Jesse had to quit the ice, and took to studying poetry, completing a Master’s at U of T. Her writing and photographs have appeared in the NewYorker.com, BOMB Magazine, Music & Literature, and Vice. Anna Bowen spoke with Jesse for our Eden Mills Writer’s Festival podcast about her debut novel, Shot-Blue, a book of first love and first loss. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

“In an interview […] you said to CKUT that you never find the process of writing songs hard, just strange and unexpected and that you don’t perceive yourself to be at work. How does writing a novel feel different -- or does it feel different than that?”
“I think it’s even more exciting writing the novel because when I was writing songs I might spend a day or two working on one and then later on making changes but the novel was, you’re looking out over a very far distance which means every day you don’t know what’s going to happen but there’s also this sense of momentum. I love it, as I said people tend to say writing is very hard or frustrating, but for me I use the images and the rhythms and I follow them and I love that, it’s a very pure joy.”

“Can you describe your own sort of routine? I’ve heard you say that you write as if it’s a meditation.”
“[…] What I think of as a meditation is that it’s very concentrated without distraction, in that I have no plan that I’m operating on at the time, it’s more of a seeking to be quiet and open and then to follow the language and go from there, so it’s a process of discovery. I don’t map out all my writing and then fill it in, so it’s really a process of opening up and seeing what I can find. My favourite thing about this book, Shot-Blue, are all of its images, and they all come to me when I’m in that meditative state of being very quiet and open to whatever might happen.”

"[How] was the editing process for this novel?”
… I did it with Alana Wilcox, the publisher and editor at Coach House, and she’s so wonderful and tough. I think she always respected [the book’s] soul and it as an object. Alana provided me with wonderful feedback, and it was pretty rigorous, but I never felt like I had to take myself out of it. We talked about [how]it’s a youthful book, very passionate, and it sort of falls on its knees sometimes, this book -- and I wanted it to be able to do that and I wanted it to carry its faults. In New York I learned to polish something, and it was really important to me that we not do that to this book because I wanted it to have that kind of mystery, and that was our challenge, and she let me do that. I love her for that.”


“I’m interested in being free and following in the meditation for my next book. My main job is to not think about anything and then to see what happens from there. The structures that you build are really complicated. This book was written as a meditation, but even I know after editing and everything in a formless way I could break down all these beautiful crystal structures that happened through a meditation.”

“Where did that idea come from, of doing it as a meditation?”
“I had this infatuation with the mystics in medieval literature, and I realized that a lot of scientific discovery and philosophical discovery all came through meditative practices, rigorous meditative practices, and what connected to me… I always wanted to write beautiful images, and when I had written them I was in some sort of calm blank state. So I thought, okay, these mystics had all these breakthroughs through meditation, and that’s what I want to do when I write.”

Jesse Ruddock will be joining over 40 other award-winning, established and emerging authors including Lisa Moore, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Heather O’Neill, Barbara Gowdy, Steven Heighton, Emma Donoghue, Terry Fallis, and many more on September 10th from noon to 6pm in the village of Eden Mills, just outside of Guelph. Relax in the grass by the Eramosa River, discover new voices, meet your favourite authors at the book-signing table, browse the book fair and enjoy a snack at our food court!

The festival is also thrilled to feature two events in Guelph on September 9:
- An afternoon of conversation with Naomi Klein, one of Canada’s most influential thinkers, 1 pm at War Memorial Hall. Naomi will be discussing her latest book No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need at War Memorial Hall.
- Two writing workshops with one of Canada’s most important contemporary writers, Lisa Moore (SOLD OUT)
Tickets for Naomi Klein and Festival Sunday can be purchased at The Bookshelf or online at emwftix.ca. We hope to see you there!

Guelph Arts Council and University of Guelph School of Fine Art and Music Announce Second Round of Young Artist Mentorship Project

In 2017, Guelph Arts Council and the University of Guelph School of Fine Art and Music have launched the Young Artist Mentorship Project, a collaborative project that supports young artists in the critical transition from university to professional life. GAC and SOFAM are grateful for project support from the Ontario150 Partnership Program.

Applications for the Fall round of the project, are now being accepted. Guelph visual and media artists, musicians, and cultural managers are encouraged to apply as mentors or young artists. Established artists may apply online as mentors, and young artists may apply online to be mentored. Project and eligibility details are included in the online application forms. The deadline for mentor applications is Sunday, September 10 and the young artist deadline is Sunday, September 24.

In the first round of the project, eight young visual artists and musicians were paired with eight Guelph artist mentors. The young artists’ experience will culminate in a group exhibition of their work that they will plan and install with support from their mentors. Collective Knowledge will run from Tuesday, August 15 to Saturday, August 19 at the Boarding House Gallery, 6 Dublin St. S, Guelph. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday 12 – 5 pm, Saturday 10 am – 3 pm. An opening reception will be held from 7 – 9 pm on Tuesday, August 15. All are welcome.

Find the original press release here.

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