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Triple threat

Profile: Emma Fugate

by Jane Ledwell

Emma Fugate (photo: Buzz)Emma Fugate has three different business cards: “One for my accounting business, one for my role as president of Film PEI, and one as a partner in Onset Communications, a (film industry equipment) start-up.” 

Side roles as an organizer of Playing with Choir or treasurer of West Kent Home and school, the Charlottetown Film Society, and Women in Film and Television—Atlantic don’t require business cards, just a bit of the creative energy that also fuels Emma for a busy home and family life.

It’s not the life Emma expected “growing up in England in a commuter town, with people going off to office jobs.” While she loved and re-loved movies as a child, especially musical movies, “I didn’t know film was a career option.” Out of university, she worked in human resources, eventually working with Nissan and setting up a new department as a “vehicle evaluation engineer.” “That’s how I met my husband, a ‘real’ engineer,” she laughs. They dated across borders, he living in the US and she in England and both travelling to Japan and internationally. Eventually they married in England, but “having done the long-distance thing,” she says, they were ready to live together. Emma’s parents-in-law moved to PEI where they owned a house, and Emma and her husband followed them here.

Emma applied to the Holland College business program. It was full—but the College had space in accounting, with a January intake. She started in accounting, loved it, and eventually completed both the accounting and business programs. Her on-the-job training was doing accounting for her friend Melody Dover’s new business, Fresh Media, and, in a few years, Emma graduated to running her own business, E Accounting.

It was an indirect path into the film industry: filmmaker Brian Sharp (now one of her partners in Onset Communications) became a client, and, Emma says, “Eventually we spent more time talking about film stuff than accounting stuff. He said that what we needed in the industry was production accounting, so I took a course in Toronto and loved it.” Production accounting, it turned out, is to Emma “the most interesting accounting.”

As Emma says, “It’s called show business for a reason. There’s so much business—billions and billions of dollars.” While Emma loves the creative process of making a film and is thrilled to have made two music video projects as a film-maker, she also thinks beyond the creative process. “I think, wouldn’t it be nice to make a film—and get it distributed and make money and have people get paid.”

She says, “If filmmakers here can make content with nothing, imagine what they can do with something. I feel like now the stars have aligned, with Film PEI able to access funding to expand, with the province on board with a media incentive, and with other simple things helping… It’s pushing the industry to start to grow.”

Emma’s filmmaking pitch is a business pitch. “Film is very accessible—almost everyone has watched a television show or watched a movie—why not see our own stories?” she says. “The importance of a strong arts sector is: PEI is a beautiful, wonderful place, with good food and friendly people—but,” she reality-checks with some regret, “there are lots of places like that in the world… Only our culture doesn’t exist anywhere else. It can’t be replicated.”

Film, Emma reminds, “is a supremely exportable product: you can put it in front of anyone with Internet, and you don’t have to pay the bridge to ship it.”

This fall, she’s excited about the Charlottetown Film Festival, has a short music-inspired film hoping to produce, a singing fundraiser with Playing with Choir, and Onset Communications’ film assistant equipment ready for market.

Living in PEI, surrounded by writers, artists, and musicians, being “bitten by the film bug,” Emma says has been “really cool… If I had stayed in England, I can’t imagine I would do any of this. I would be working for Nissan, travelling for work, spending too much time away from my family.” Instead, she has a bag full of business cards— and a note on her phone titled “Things to Produce,” a list of 200 ideas.

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers

by Jane Ledwell

Sandy Carruthers (photo: Buzz)Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching graphic design at Holland College, Sandy Carruthers keeps nine-to-five hours in his studio, drawing comics and illustrations, “to keep up the habit,” he says. At the end of a full school year away from school, he laughs, “I’m still processing, but I’m excited—as long as I can keep self-motivated.”

Looking back, he says, “What strikes me is that 25 years ago, we had very few aggressively pursuing the field (of comic book creation).” And yet this summer, his work is on display alongside seven other comic creators in the “Behind the Panels” exhibition at Eptek Centre in Summerside. The artists work in web and print comics, with “different layers of talents and styles.” Three are former students of Sandy’s—and he is quick to remind that he is also an alumnus of the Holland College program.

“There are so many applications for graphic art now,” Sandy says, “illustration, animation, computer games, or, you can be foolish enough to do comic books.”

Comic books were Sandy’s “first passion.” Even as an experienced artist, who drew the original Men in Black comic, Sandy says, “Styles have changed, and it’s sometime daunting. When I worked on comics before I taught,” he notes, “you were kind of more isolated, in your own little bubble. You only saw what you looked at yourself, what you sought out or found for yourself. Now, seeing everybody’s stuff all the time is really daunting.”

The piece Sandy has in the Eptek show is a “personal piece,” he says. “I did it in 2000, breaking away from scifi and superheroes—what genre had I not tried?” He settled on Westerns. “I read a lot of Louis L’Amour—I think if I had read that as a kid, I would have been bullied less,” he jokes. Westerns led to The Magnificent Seven, which led to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, from which he decided to do a Samurai tale, The Ronin and the Lily. It’s a rare example of a comic he both wrote and did artwork for.

More often, he has worked with writers. He is working again with writer Mark Shainblum on reviving their creation Canadiana, a spirit-of-Canada superhero they created (with pencils by Charlottetown’s Jeff Alward) as a web comic that they created and that then “lay dormant for years,” Sandy says. He shares a mini-comic bursting with characters, Canadian comic iconography, and action. “It’s small because the only artwork that existed of the web comic was jpgs on a floppy disk, so we could only go to this (mini-comic) scale,” he explains, but issue three will be a full-size comic, a true “floppy.”

“Mark and I are equal partners in the art,” Sandy says. “It has to harmonize—the balance is really hard to work out. That’s why I love the medium so much.”

“Superheroes take the toehold,” Sandy says, “but it goes much beyond that. We’re very lucky —Canada has so much wonderful talent, stories told beyond superheroes battling.”

In addition to comics, Sandy also loves illustrations for magazines, “going beyond the sequential format and telling stories with one panel.” While he was known for editorial cartoons for The Guardian for many years and published a book of his cartoons, “I’m not doing editorial cartoons anymore because I don’t do caricatures—and I don't miss it at all,” he says.

“I just finished three illustrations for RED magazine and I’m really fascinated by historical illustration—especially PEI history. I’m interested in doing more of that,” Sandy says. The local intrigues him—the recent Canadiana even includes images of local artwork on bare walls—and he is working on an “Island-inspired opus”—an ambitious intergalactic story.

With two new comic creators, he is hatching plans that bring together numerous passions, for local and Canadian content with high-quality storytelling, words and pictures. “Remember kids going camping with a pile of comics?” he says. “I’d love to bring that back—with comics in multiple genres, from spooky to romance—and I would like to have the Island connected to every story.”

—Jane Ledwell has been writing for The Buzz for 20 years. She is a poet, author and editor. A recent book is Bird Calls: The Englishwoman on an Island (Nimbus).

Dial “M” for Murder


Review by Jane Ledwell

Regular readers of my reviews over the years here will know that my partner is, uh, a reluctant theatre-goer, so it is a testament to the consistent quality of the Watermark Theatre’s productions that he suggests we go there at least once a summer. This year his pick was Dial “M” for Murder. Reader, he was not disappointed.

Frederick Knott’s 1952 play (the basis for Hitchock’s 1954 film) opens on a conversation about murder and motive between Margot Wendice (Madeleine Donohue) and her former lover, American crime writer Max Halliday (Geoffrey Pounsett). Despite the obvious spark and ease between Margot and Max, she insists her marriage to retired tennis star Tony Wendice (Robert Tsonos) has returned to a happy state and that Tony has matured, taken a responsible job, and been an attentive husband for the year since they parted.

The brash and arrogant Tony has not changed without motive: he has been plotting all year to bribe a shifty college mate, currently going by the name of Captain Lesgate (Richard Beaune) to murder Margot, in a plot as intricate as any of Max’s television or radio plays or thriller novels. The plot relies on the technologies of the day: radios and, especially, the telephone but unravels with the tools at hand—stockings, scissors, and latchkeys—with the prospect of a solid old-fashioned noose for whatever murder suspect the detective, Inspector Hubbard (Paul Cowling) ties the evidence to.

As thousands of detective stories and police procedurals have taught audiences, there is no such thing as a perfect crime. The thrill of figuring out the errors in the perfect plot doesn’t diminish. The Watermark’s thrust stage makes the audience feel very much part of the investigation, so close are we to the action and so expertly and intriguingly is the action blocked by director Megan Watson: I loved seeing the ways Watson used the stage and the whole theatre to tell this story.

But the primary suspense for Watermark audiences in the opening acts of Dial “M” will no doubt be alarm that murder might eliminate the charming Margot from the scene, and with her the excellent Madeleine Donohue. Thankfully, the play conspires to keep her present after the murder plot unfolds. The chemistry between Margot and her paramour Max is palpable (and genuine—Donohue is married to Max’s Pounsett in real life)—setting in contrast the lack of sympathy between Margot and the unreformed Tony, whom Tsonos plays with a clipped, articulate, and devious intelligence.

At Watermark Theatre, the acting is always the highlight, with strong supporting performances (Beaune as the simpering, hapless Lesgate and Cowling a sharp-eyed, incisive inspector), but the acting comes to life as a result of a fully-realized production. William Layton’s set is a stand-out, with Frank Lloyd Wright details and rivetingly framing a blood-stain at centre-stage; lighting by Renee Brode was subtle and precise, despite a script that is bossy about what lights go where. Costumes by Julia Hodgson-Surich were classic and functional, with smooth lines and fabrics audience members will want to touch. The most obvious homage to Hitchcock’s take on Dial “M”, original music by Leo Marchildon adds significantly to the brooding atmosphere, sometimes trying to fit more passionate love of Hitchcock’s use of music into scenes than a small theatre can hold.

There is much mystery for contemporary audiences watching Dial “M”, a thriller from an age when forensic tools consisted of fingerprints, photographs, and time-keeping devices: we have to stretch our imaginations beyond DNA and cellphone records. The Watermark’s production carries us wholesale into the intrigues of that age a lifetime ago.

Jane Ledwell has been writing feature profiles for The Buzz for 20 years. And in the summer the editor enjoys assigning her a review.

Going pro

Profile: Brielle Ansems

by Jane Ledwell

Brielle Ansems (photo: Courtesy Watermark Theatre)When Brielle Ansems plays the role of Josie Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico this summer, she wants audiences to see into “the performances we put on for each other every day.” She reflects, “Others don’t always see our selves in ways we see ourselves... Unfortunately, our opinions of ourselves are often lower.”

As “a shy kid” growing up in Montague, Brielle says that singing was her “lead-in to all her performing.” Singing songs she wrote became Brielle’s “access point to relating with peers and dealing with anxiety.” This summer, after being selected during Canada-wide auditions for a lead role in A Moon, and preparing to record songs in studio, Brielle says, “I’m stepping across a threshold into where I wanted to be for so long,” pursuing a professional career in acting and in music.

Writing and singing songs since she was twelve, Brielle discovered acting later. She tried a year at St. Thomas University after high school, but says, “It was not the right fit when I knew I wanted to be home doing music.” She wound up finding work in dinner theatre and loved it. “It was a little taste of acting—getting just to invest myself so much in becoming someone else,” and it led to her entering the theatre program at Holland College School of Performing Arts.

This spring, towards the end of her first year, Brielle got the Watermark’s call for auditions from instructor Jody Racicot. “It’s something I wouldn’t have gone for, even a few years ago,” Brielle admits. “But I’ve had self-growth and experience the last few years.”

Still, “I wasn’t expecting much to come from (the audition),” Brielle says. On the night she got good news from the Watermark, “I was in bed, super tired after a long day of class.” When she saw that she got the part, she says, “I had to jump out of bed and have a dance party, I was so excited.”

Brielle says, “Especially since I am still in school, I am in a perfect place to learn and take in so much, surrounded by professionals at the Watermark.” She gives huge credit to Holland College: “The instructors are so ready to help guide students to finding themselves as artists—students are still trying to find what route they want to take, how they want to open themselves up to being human,” she says appreciatively.

Throughout the summer, Brielle will perform her music on nights she isn’t acting, and will being work at The Hill Sound Studios to record her first EP. Her songs reflect her growth and her past relationships, but “in particular my relationship with myself, and how I interact with my own thoughts, and how that affects how I interact with others,” she says.

Songwriting “is often revelatory—even for me… Music is one of the most personal things an artist creates,” Brielle says.

While singing, she shares “something I already discovered about myself; while acting, she exposes “something I’m the process of discovering.”

Brielle could talk about the character Josie Hogan all day: “There’s so much vulnerability to her,” she says emphatically. “Josie is a firecracker Irish-immigrant farm woman in the early 1920s, raised to be tough by her father, growing up with three brothers… She has been put in the role of mother for all the men in her life and struggles to find out who she is as a woman outside that dynamic.”

Asked what artistic director Robert Tsonos saw in her that led to her casting, she reflects. “There’s definitely not a shyness to Josie, but there’s a part of herself she doesn’t show to anyone until she’s forced to,” she suggests.

Then she decides: “Islanders are proud to see someone local, who loves and associates herself with the Island, in a role that is powerful.”

And for her, the most powerful thing will be “to have a breakout professional performance in a place that is so beautiful, in a theatre that is so warm and so welcoming and professional in all ways—to be welcomed into a family they’ve so well established already.”

—Jane Ledwell has been writing for The Buzz for 20 years. She is a poet, author and editor. A recent book is Bird Calls: The Englishwoman on an Island (Nimbus).

Music lover

Profile: Debbie Atkinson

by Jane Ledwell

Debbie Atkinson (photo: Buzz)Debbie Atkinson volunteered for the first East Coast Music Awards that came to Charlottetown, in 1996, out of love of music and challenges. Debbie says: “I caught on with traditional music, and I didn’t know I would. I didn’t think I would love fiddles.” Debbie has now been part of bringing live traditional music and storytelling to every corner of Prince Edward Island for ten years, as festival manager of the PEI Mutual Festival of Small Halls.

Despite growing up in Charlottetown surrounded by music, “I had never really been put in front of really good fiddle music,” Debbie says, “but I could see the talent of these guys. They were not just out of the barn.”

Debbie volunteered in the office for the 1996 ECMAs because “My kids were growing up, and I didn’t have a job that year,” she recalls. Electrified by the talent she saw, she continued work in the music business, as performance coordinator for the “huge production” of Bridge Fest in 1997, and as event manager when the ECMAs returned to PEI in 2001: “I was terrified I was going to fail, but I didn’t.”

The timing was right in 2008 when Ray Brow and Ward MacDonald dreamed up a traditional music festival for small halls across the Island. They approached Debbie just six weeks out from that first proposed festival. “I have to pay homage to Ray and Ward. Neither is involved now, but they invented the festival; they were the brains, and I was the admin at first.” That first festival “worked, and it worked well.”

“People would be amazed how many people come to PEI just for the cultural experience,” Debbie says. “On PEI, we have talent that can rival anywhere in the world.” Debbie credits festival programmer Cynthia MacLeod for “a fantastic Festival this year,” adding, “I am deeply indebted to her for her work for many years with the Festival.” Cynthia programs 40% from “away” and 60% artists from here; they put on 40+ shows, year after year, and people come out and pay to hear the locals as much as the “from aways.”

The festival and its sponsors have a rural feel, Debbie says. “I grew up in Charlottetown,” she says, “and I didn’t know where Lot 7 was, or Lot 16 or Munn’s Road. And now I’m running the roads, seeing these gorgeous venues in beautiful places, and the sweet hospitality. It’s a typical ‘Island’ thing to do.” Many of the small halls across the Island are run by volunteers, and Debbie says, “I’ve loved getting to know them. I never imagined that I would know the Island like I do now.”

She smiles, “I’ve moved to Cornwall now, but in my mind, I’m in the country.”

Debbie gets to every show she can—“certainly every day of the festival.” This year, she is especially looking forward to “reprise” shows Cynthia MacLeod has organized, to bring back shows from past years that people particularly loved. Often, Debbie says, “I have to emcee a show, or take tickets or serve food. We have to do whatever we have to do.”

Sometimes, at a late-night, post-show jam, she will add her own guitar to the melee of instruments. “I’ve played guitar for years, as a church youth leader, around campfires and with youth groups. I play guitar in a rock band at church. It’s great for mental health. Some people cook, some people garden—I like music,” she says.

When the PEI Mutual Festival of Small Halls begins, “I’m just a cog in the wheel,” Debbie insists, but she laughs, “I’ve been a constant cog—I’m the only original cog left.

“Every year for the festival, we have to hire new staff, and they are often 20-somethings with not a lot of knowledge of traditional music, Debbie says. She gets to see them awaken to it, just as she did, to discover “the value of music handed down from one generation to the next.”

This happens “in rural kitchens everywhere,” Debbie says, and she’s proud to support small halls across PEI that are like kitchens more people can fit into.

Fine design

Profile: Elena Herweyer

by Jane Ledwell

Elena Herweyer (photo: Buzz)Design, like culture, surrounds us in the tiniest and most seemingly insignificant details of our lives, a visual and functional language we all speak. Consider professional fine artist Elena Herweyer a skilled visual linguist. “We can’t express everything verbally,” Elena says, and, to her, “every language is complementary.”

In her journey from the Ukraine, where she studied fine art and graphic design and worked twelve years as an art director in an advertising agency, to Prince Edward Island, where she arrived eight years ago and founded the award-winning design and branding company Art Fresh, daily attention to the details of design and a new culture are the makings of a rich life.

Elena’s rich life was particularly full when we arranged to meet: she had successfully competed and been selected for the worldwide jury of the prestigious A' Design Award and Competition, and she was on a deadline to judge 200 design entries from around the world in each of the six categories she was chosen to judge. The award is based in Italy, “where design is born,” she laughs, and it attracts world-famous brands.

“I love to see ideas and how people think from around the world, to see work from designers and creative agencies from around the world,” Elena says. Seeing her colleagues’ work expands her vision, and also changes her understanding of the world: “Now, we are very connected. It’s possible to work with others internationally. In my case, you can show it doesn’t matter where you live or your language, you can connect with the world, contribute to the world, and experience the world.”

Art Fresh’s clients are a mix of local and international businesses, and she says, “It is always interesting to get to the roots, to understand a client’s business, to represent the uniqueness and value.” Clients have created their business out of love, she says, and a branding agency can help find “how they want to express this.”

Elena is also a skilled visual artist who longs for more time for painting, which she does mostly in oil—figurative, landscape, and whimsical canvases with bold graphic style. “I follow my love in what I do,” Elena says. “Art became my profession, but it is also my hobby,” which to her means a balance of hard work and joyful creation. She loves to do both fine art and graphic design and can’t choose between them.

She is inspired by PEI’s “beautiful nature”—“I had never seen so bright colours,” she says of the Island landscape—but even more inspiring is the creative community. “Everyone expresses ideas and has creative hobbies to do something, to share their feelings, in art and in craft and in what they do.” People “inspire each other,” she says.

“Every day, I love to learn something—to see different works. To contribute to a vision, especially, is very inspiring.” An immersive creative environment, she says, “becomes a synthesis to enrich each other.”

She also loves that in a small place like PEI, you “see all the nationalities here,” and interact with them all in a way that you might not in a big city, where it would be more possible to stay within your own cultural or language group. She loves to cook and share cultural traditions with new neighbours and friends, and what she would love most to introduce of Ukrainian culture in PEI, she says without hesitation is “Cuisine!”

As an encouragement to others, Elena earnestly sums up her ethic as an artist-newcomer: “Always learn and be open… Try to find your place. Follow what you love to do. Be confident and don’t give up. Develop (your talent) and learn every day. Work hard. See how you can contribute to a new place.”

She smiles warmly, “This is what I try to do, every day.”

Speaking of her new home Island’s creative community, she says, “When we speak the language of creative ideas, we can speak the same language.”

Homing instinct

Profile: Emily Smith

by Jane Ledwell

Emily Smith (photo: Buzz)The population of Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, increased from 104 to 107 in 2011 when Emily Smith, her husband and young son moved back to the community where she had grown up and where her parents, Pat Stunden Smith and Erskine Smith, founded the Victoria Playhouse.

After graduating from university, Emily moved as far away as possible from the hours (and income) of a seasonal, not-for-profit theatre in a tiny community: “My first job was with a huge multinational insurance company, with benefits, a pension, and 9:00 to 5:00 hours.”

While she admits that growing up, she had “off and on” imagined working at Victoria Playhouse, it took drama to make her seriously consider accepting her current role, as assistant manager.

Five years ago, Emily’s father Erskine died unexpectedly on the eve of the summer season. “My father, of course, was artistic director and in many ways was the Victoria Playhouse,” Emily says.

“The board was stuck on a succession plan,” Emily recalls, and her mother asked if she would be interested in working at the Playhouse. The stability was not promising—the Playhouse has yet to achieve full-year, full-time payroll status, but Emily said yes. “I knew I could be really passionate about it,” she says.

Her passion is “particularly for seeing my father’s vision carry on—for egalitarian theatre. Something he did, maybe differently from others, was pulling in (to the theatre) farmers and fishermen and members of the Women’s Institute with Canadian comedy that was contemporary, light, and fun—accessible to all incomes and education levels.”

Part of maintaining this vision for Victoria Playhouse is choosing the right plays, and after Erskine’s death, the Playhouse board chose not to hire a new artistic director. Instead, they moved to an artistic programming committee.” And, while she admits it felt like a challenge to bring the 2018 season together before everything fell into place, the committee approach “continues to make sense.”

Together, they are “pretty excited” about this year’s two choices, a Canadian premiere of an American play and a play by a new Canadian playwright, fulfilling a commitment to emerging Canadian works. “It’s a challenge because we also do try to stay with comedies,” she notes, and many emerging Canadian writers write heavier stuff. “We’ve found, through trial and error, that they don’t suit our audiences.”

Working full-time with her mother Pat in a tiny office has been wonderful, though Emily says with some surprise, “We have discovered just how different our opinions are.” Their aesthetic is similar when choosing plays with the programming committee, and they have learned to use their complementarity selecting concerts for the summer concert series—but she laughs that they still have unreconcilably different taste in imagery. Their proudest innovation? “We’ve started doing children’s theatre classes at Victoria Playhouse. I am convinced introducing kids to theatre is a really good thing.”

Both Emily and Pat do a little bit of everything. By summer, a day could run from “getting in the car and driving around on a brochure run, to being at the performance to open the show”—not to mention, trouble-shooting. Last year, just as a show was to open, an actor got sick. “It was completely unexpected and beyond anyone’s control. It could have been a disaster, the end of the season. We could have been done” as a theatre. But they managed, thanks to an actor willing to fill in “on-book” for a weekend, and the support of audiences.

Emily says beautiful Victoria-by-the-Sea is “different from the Victoria of twenty years ago,” busier in summer and fall, with new residents and new businesses, too. “People have looked at Victoria and seen opportunity,” she says, with pleasure to be part of that renewal.

As April arrives with what passes for spring in PEI, Emily is looking forward to “getting the hall open, breathing life into it. It’s a big, old space that’s hard to heat”—so not much goes on during winter. “We want to open the doors again and get people in the seats. The building is just a building until there are people in the seats—and then it becomes a theatre.”

In the dialogue

Profile: Monica Lacey

by Jane Ledwell

Monica Lacey (photo: Buzz)For the Art in the Open festival one year, Monica Lacey created an installation conjuring an abandoned house in the woods. “Drunk teenagers stumbled into it,” she recalls. “I don’t even know if they knew it was part of the festival—but they started to have a house party…The suspension of disbelief they had was so magic.” Eventually, she had to kick them out to take the artwork down. “They all could have just fallen back out into the forest,” she laughs, “But they all went out the door.”

Monica says, “I like to create environments people can enter into,” and while her varied art practice isn’t all installations in the woods, her artwork and work as this town is small’s program coordinator create space for art and dialogue.

Monica’s new studio is in The Vessel, the new rent-a-studio art space and concert venue downtown in Charlottetown, alongside founder Becka Viau and other artists.

“My daughter is three in March,” Monica says, “and the past three years I have focused almost exclusively on photos and video… I’m glad I did zero in,” she says, but in her new studio space this winter, she left her computer home. “Moving in here, I thought I was done with painting, but now I’m painting and drawing again, things I haven’t done in so long… I’m getting back into actual materials… I’m letting myself play, and I don’t even want to attach an outcome to it. Putting that on it affects even how tightly I hold the brush.”

A graduate of New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, Monica started art school “quite late, relatively speaking,” at 27, after a decade of wanting art school but worrying about the viability of her plan. “I wish I had gone ten years sooner,” she admits, “but when I did choose where I wanted to go—it was perfect for me.” She was the first student allowed to craft an interdisciplinary degree—working in clay, printmaking, textiles, felt, surface design, encaustic, watercolours, acrylic, and installation work. “I was doing too much,” Monica laughs. “The feedback was always, ‘I like what you’re doing but rein it in—polish.’”

Monica loved that art school legitimated her art practice “It gives you a context; you’re surrounded by people on the same path. You’re not just an anomaly in a sea of accountants.” What she has been missing about school since being in The Vessel studio is “being in dialogue.” She says she can’t imagine being a doctor and having no one to talk to about symptoms and diagnoses and developments in the field—and yet “a lot of people (artists) are working in a vacuum… We need more spaces where artists can just bump into each other, and have those catalyzing conversations that don’t happen as much.”

As a result, she is coordinating this town is small monthly “crit nights,” hosting critical dialogue focused on a particular artist’s work in visual art or other media. “Feedback from someone else with a critical eye will push (your work) in ways you’ll never get to yourself,” she says. Even after participating in one crit, Monica says, “my work is more interesting to me.”

With Art in the Open now incorporated as its own independent festival “in a process of evolving,” and no longer a program of this town is small, TTIS is focused on year-round programming and professional development for artists. For example, the gallery in The Guild this summer will pay artist fees for exhibitions for the first time, something Monica calls “a game changer.”

Monica will be working this spring on a conceptual portrait series, with “pop-up portrait studios, school-picture style.” Subjects will get a list of experiences that shaped Monica’s identity and choose those experiences they’ve also had. It’s a chance to “explore commonality,” Monica says. “I’m not looking to oversimplify connectivity among humans, but I love getting into that dialogue.” Like the house in the woods or crit nights, Monica Lacey loves how much art pieces and artists can “grow and change through interaction with the public.”

Events Calendar

September 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

The Children Act

September 27–October 4
City Cinema PG, language warning
Dir: Richard Eyre, UK, 105 min. Emma Thomps [ ... ]

Projections on the Plaza

Until September 29
Confederation Centre Plaza The public is invited to enjoy two outdoor film screen [ ... ]

Summer 1993

September 21–26
City Cinema PG, some language, mature content
Dir: Carla Simón, Spain, 98 min. Lai [ ... ]

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Charlottetown’s Historic Squares exhibit...

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