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At the microphone

Profile: Kinley Dowling

by Jane Ledwell

Kinley Dowling (photo: Buzz)Interviewing Kinley Dowling, you meet many musical personae in one. “’Kinley Dowling’ is more folk, and she is who plays with Hey Rosetta! or with Dennis Ellsworth,” she says. Kinley Dowling is the in-demand strings player. Then she cocks her head and frames her face with a sparkly grin. “’KINLEY’ is someone different.”

Kinley, who loves nothing more than being behind the scenes with bands, has had to learn to adapt to the spotlight, since KINLEY’s powerful, personal song “Microphone,” released on the album Letters Never Sent, has led to radio play and intense media attention across Canada.

“I definitely didn’t see it coming, but it has been amazing,” she says, of the song about surviving sexual violence. The song’s message of transforming trauma into art (“And if you come to my show, I think you should know / I’m gonna call you out. I’ve got a microphone”) has made her metaphors of empowerment real.

“I love the song,” Kinley says. “The rest of the album, I can’t be in the same room when it’s playing,” she says self-consciously. “But so many people thanked me—and when I wrote it, I didn’t even think about other people,” she admits.

“It’s the fastest song I’ve ever written. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about, thinking about every day, for fifteen years.”

In “Microphone,” KINLEY sings at the song’s emotional and melodic climax, “And if it happened now… I’d go get all my friends.” And that’s exactly what Kinley is doing right now: going to get all her friends, for all the art-making.

Film producer Jenna MacMillan is producing videos for KINLEY’s songs—a recent shoot for the song “Blackbirds” took them, with Maria Campbell as choreographer, to the roof of the Dominion Building. “Mille Clarkes shot it, and every scene was perfect.”

In late March, she’ll go to Toronto to work with Jenna on the video for “Microphone.” She will collaborate with PEI friends with Toronto connections to tell the song’s story with the powerful visual metaphors she and her friends picture. Her new website features a donation page for the project they imagine for “sharing the microphone.” She wants the song to help other sexual assault survivors find their voice and to help prevent sexual violence.

Personally, she has figured out what she wants from the man who raped her: “I think what I want is an apology,” she says frankly, and to hear from him that he didn’t hurt anyone else.

The videos for “Microphone” and the other songs will be a virtual tour, of sorts, for an accomplished performer who is comfortable playing violin and singing backup but whose nerves don’t let her comfortably perform her own songs live yet.

“I plan on never touring the album,” she says. “I want to do it on my own terms.” Also, she says, “I always wanted to make music videos, even when I was little. People say, ‘I want to go to your show,’ and I want to say, ‘Go online! Where I have made this musical telecast for you!’”

She also says, with a little irony, “I also love being at home, staying at home, and writing songs and not showing them to anyone.” Her album might never have been made except her cousin (and co-performer in a project called The Express) Liam Corcoran and producer Colin Buchanan booked the time and space and told her to show up.

Kinley isn’t apologizing for taking time before next steps. “Come on,” she says, “I used to be mute!” (She’s serious. She was a selective mute in childhood.) “I’ve come pretty far. I’m new to songwriting, and there are a lot of people listening. I don’t want to mess up.”

So Kinley and KINLEY are making art with friends, making videos, doing lights for her boyfriend Dylan Menzie’s shows, playing strings on many recordings, co-writing with people like Dennis Ellsworth.

Next, she says, “I want to write songs with women.” She has a few friends in mind, but they’re nervous. She will tell them, “I was nervous, too. It turns out, it’s easy. You just write things down.”

Resistance fighter

Profile: Kathleen Hamilton

by Jane Ledwell

Kathleen Hamilton (photo: Buzz)Contrivances and secrets—lies—they cause a lot of problems,” intimates Kathleen Hamilton. The playwright, actor, writing workshop leader, and author of Sex After Baby—Why There Is None says, “Right now, I’m deeply immersed in memoir—officially for the past five years. Unofficially for ten.

“Writing my own memoir, reading memoirs, and helping other women write their memoirs: I’m captivated by them,” she says. “I’ve always been very affected by one-woman shows that were memoir, books that were memoir, and novels that read as though they were memoir. The intimacy, the strong feeling of connection somehow illuminates my own life for me,” she reflects.

Memoir, to her, is a generous gesture: “I’m giving something very important to me—and I’m giving it to you, letting you see all the different angles, all the different facets. And people are moved by that. If I tell the truth about my life, it makes it easier to tell the truth about your life. The more honest we are as human beings, the more elevated we are as a species.”

“At the same time,” she admits, “I have a huge resistance to writing my memoir. We all have a voice inside that says, ‘Your story doesn’t really matter. No one cares.’ But the stories that have really mattered to me, that have shaped my life, have been memoir.”

She adds, “There are different voices and forms of resistance: One is, it’s in the past, and the past doesn’t matter. But it’s through understanding the past that we create possibility. It opens up a whole, bright world.”

The first two drafts of Kathleen’s memoir were written as a play. Unsurprising for a theatre professional. “It’s funny,” Kathleen muses, “because a lot of things I learned in acting apply so directly to writing. Everything connects. In acting, my approach is to go deep inside myself and find that character inside myself. In writing memoir, I go deep inside and find that aspect of myself or that persona that needs to tell the story.”

In acting and writing, “I always just think the more honest you are, the more opportunity for the audience to connect. In writing, the more you can bring them into the concrete details—the real stuff of life—the more they can connect…

“So, I grew up in a logging town in northern BC, but if I write my childhood well enough, you’ll say, ‘Yes. That’s just how it was.’”

Kathleen is exploring memoir not only through writing but also teaching, leading a ten-week memoir-writing workshop with “fourteen amazing women—amazing writers with amazing stories to tell,” she says. “It’s a privilege for me to make a safe place and give permission for people to do this work, and for their work to be received.”

Kathleen says, “At first I was very afraid to embark on teaching,” fearful it would drain her energy for her own writing. However, she recalls, “A voice was asking me to teach a class, and I kept saying ‘no, no, no.’ But when I finally decided to do it…, I have found my commitment to these writers has actually fuelled my own writing.”

Kathleen says, “I just know some excellent memoirs are going to come out of this workshop. Some of them will definitely come out in print —hopefully not before mine!” she adds with a laugh.

Her eyes crinkle with humour as she says, “Teaching is how I know I’m getting into heaven. Despite all the things I’ve done in my life, I’ve encouraged people to write. I feel like I’m covered off.”

For herself and workshop participants, she says, “Writing memoir, you get to be in the present and the distant past and the recent past. It’s magical – immersing yourself in the deep creative work and the emotion of re-experiencing the past, which in many cases is difficult… but underneath the heartache or pain, there’s this—joy.

“The work of shaping it into art is satisfying—I haven’t found anything that feels as satisfying as that.” Worth perseveres past the resistance, getting to the deep truths of the past and the heart.

Servant of Song

Profile: Jon Rehder

by Jane Ledwell

Jon Rehder (photo: Buzz)Jon Rehder describes himself as a “jack-of-all-trades” musician, known on the scene for playing bass, guitar, piano, or singing as a sideman with all kinds of PEI musicians, and doing sound for live events – but a change is coming. After 45 years as a freelance player, “never knowing two months ahead how I will pay my bills,” Jon will soon be eligible for his pension that will cover a portion of his income. “I can retire. I can do the gigs that I really like,” he smiles.

Fortunately for musicians he supports, Jon says, “What I love about music, is it takes us away from everything else. And what I love is doing that with other musicians.” However, he adds, “One of the transitions I’m trying to make is to be recognized as a singer-songwriter of my own music.

“I’m used to being a sideman, reacting to the situation,” he says. The new challenge for Jon is that, “A solo artist has to create the situation.”

Jon says, “The fundamental challenge in PEI is the ratio of musicians to population base is very high.” Singer-songwriters, he says, face the problem that “only a small percentage of the population wants to sit still and not talk and listen to music.

“I see the same fifty people all the time,” he laughs, for events such as the series he hosts, Wednesday nights at the Haviland Club with Jon Rehder and Friends. The “friends” are any of a number of well-established and emerging musicians in PEI, “most of whom I know but have never played music with,” Jon enthuses. “It’s a chance (for the guest musicians) to play things they might not always play. It’s a fun, good atmosphere.” Making music with them, he says, “is like a vacation.”

The Haviland Club, he says, offers a “pleasant-sounding room.” A pet peeve in Charlottetown is that “the vast majority of rooms that have live music and that depend upon music for revenue are sonically terrible. Many rooms don’t spend the time and money that would be appropriate to have good sound design.” The loud echoing of voices in conversation that drives musicians to turn up the volume to compete can easily be fixed with attention to sound design, Jon insists.

Jon reflects, “All my great experiences as an audience member involved feeling I was in good hands – (thinking) here’s a performer who really knows what they’re doing and will take me somewhere.”

Honoured last year as the Doug Riley Musician at the PEI Jazz and Blues Festival, Jon says, “It was very nice to get the nomination, because I’m not mainly a jazz player.” “Before coming to PEI, in Montreal, bass was what I played most. Since coming to PEI, I’ve played more guitar and piano and been pushed to do solo stuff. I really know music well, I have a reasonable level of competence on instruments, but on none would I call myself a jazz player.”

While he loves many forms of music, his philosophy is always that the music and the musician must “serve the song.” He recalls, “When I was playing jazz in Montreal, there came a point I realized I like songs better than instrumental,” Jon says.

As an art form, jazz requires intensive technical mastery. Jon reflects, “The technique has to serve the heart. It’s hard to make it through the learning curve (of mastering technique) and still have heart to give.”

Jon says, “There a time and place in the natural flow of things, a moment when the drive of the music overwhelms the integrity of the song – and I lose interest. I can’t play for the sake of expressing myself if I don’t think the context is telling a story.”

In 2009 with his band, Rhythm Rules, Jon released a CD called “To Serve the Song” to capture a bit of their philosophy. “My band is really everybody’s band, but I’m proud to take credit for putting them together for the first time,” he smiles, with a nod to bandmates Reg Ballagh, Remi Arsenault, Chris Gauthier. “We spent four days recording songs and came up with this record, We never followed up on it or did anything with it. I had never been involved with a recording before.”

As he considers recording his own songs, Jon notes the pro side of recording: “If you have something beautiful, it’s archived.” But, to him, “Recording is a minefield. It’s subject to pitfalls, traps, and fatal seductions. Recording, you get to that place that’s so relentlessly technical, you have the illusion that you can get everything right...”

Jon says, “The quality of performance, in my belief system, is connected to joy. It’s not trite or surface happiness. You can have joy playing a sad song.

He continues, “My explanation of the experience of music is there’s a sense of timelessness, of taking you out of time.” When everything works, “There is a moment in the music that the tempo hasn’t changed – but you have all the time in the world. You realize you’re all connected, and you know you can do anything you want. As a musician, it’s about staying in there, in the moment, and not getting attached.”

If you’re listening: “You don’t have to know music to experience it.” All you have to do is to serve the song with your presence and be served a helping of joy.

Real stories

Profile: Jenna MacMillan

by Jane Ledwell

Jenna MacMillan (photo: Buzz)"I want my work to be a love letter to the East Coast, the people who live here,” says filmmaker Jenna MacMillan. She’s hoping that she won’t have to write that letter from Toronto, where she works six months a year.

Increasingly accomplished and recognized as a documentary filmmaker, Jenna’s heart is also divided between telling true stories and fictional ones. She’s currently working on a documentary for Health PEI about methadone use for pregnant women, telling a kind of mental health story she cares about deeply: “It’s a documentary that tells the stories of the underdog, people we need to hear, people who don’t have a voice.”

Jenna says both her parents are social workers: “I knew I’d either be a social worker or psychologist—or a filmmaker.

“Stories help,” she says. “You can touch people, and change lives.”

Fictional stories take longer to tell in film, Jenna explains, because of the challenges of financing, not to mention production and distribution. Several short fiction films Jenna has worked on are “living lives of their own”—including Desperately Seeking Signal, “an experiment, shot for a day with zero dollars,” recently selected for the 21 Islands Film Festival in New York, and Not My Brother, “the story of a family torn apart because of undiagnosed mental illness” with screenings and awards regionally and in Montreal and Australia.

A project in development would blend drama and documentary, based on songs from musician Kinley Dowling’s album Letters Never Sent. “There’s been so much feedback from women from Kinley’s song ‘Microphone,’” Jenna says, of a song about sexual assault. “We’re hoping to make a series of documentaries—that would coincide with music videos—about women talking about something they are battling, not necessarily sexual assault or sexual abuse but something in their career, or misogyny…using direct-to-camera telling.”

Before dividing her heart between fiction and documentary, Jenna’s heart was first divided between acting and filmmaking. “I applied to the National Theatre School and was wait-listed, but I went to Montreal anyway and started to study psychology. But I signed up for a film studies class, and that was the only class I ended up going to. My whole (early) life, I was going to be an actor. This split me apart!”

Jenna was encouraged by the emerging PEI film sector of the early 2000s. “I was an actor, but because of filmmakers on PEI, I went off full of piss and vinegar to learn to tell our own stories, to come back and be part of it. And I came back, and it had ended,” she says, due to the cancellation of a provincial media incentive in 2009.

She still looked for a way home. “I was in the Toronto film industry… I was working on a show that wasn’t challenging me,” Jenna recalls. “The content wasn’t something I wanted to put out into the universe. I was approached about Coastal Stories—did I want to be involved in 10 documentaries for a low budget?” Her answer was an enthusiastic yes.

“I left to come back to PEI and started a company, and my colleagues thought that was a crazy thing to do,” she recalls. “In Toronto, the cost of living is so high and filming is so expensive… On that trajectory, it was going to be so long before I could tell my own stories.”

With urgency, Jenna says, “My stories need to be told now.”

The challenge on PEI, she says, is “to get beyond telling stories for free. You hit the ceiling. I split my time, six months in Charlottetown and six months in Toronto, keeping my community active in both places.”

It sounds exhausting, but of those who stay on the Island year-round, Jenna says, “You have to do it all yourself and for free, and that’s hard.” Jenna is part of the media community urgently lobbying for a sustainable provincial media incentive fund.

Dividing her heart and art between Toronto and PEI, between documentary and fiction, between her stories and others’ stories, is a fine balance for Jenna MacMillan. “I want to tell real stories,” Jenna says. “I’m really curious how I can forge my own path.”

Singing together

Profile: Margot Rejskind

by Jane Ledwell

Margot Rejskind (photo: Buzz)There’s lots to be said for waving your arms and having things happen,” says choral conductor Margot Rejskind. “It’s like magic.

“And,” she adds with a gleam in her eye, “the being in charge thing is fun.” The magic is “to take ten regular or mediocre voices and, relatively shortly, bring it into something extraordinary.”

With multiple degrees in choral conducting, Margot leads the venerable Summerside Community Choir. As a “birthday present for her husband,” she recently began Forte Men’s Choir, which began small enough that the men referred to jokingly it as a “covert operation.” She has also been engaged as founding conductor of the new Tapestries Community Choir, housed at the Baha’i Centre, a “pan-religious” choir “to speak to all the communities on the Island.”

Margot is passionate about the transformative effects of singing together. “Singing is a direct way of speaking to one another,” she says. “It’s such a fundamental human activity. We sing when we’re happy. We sing when we mourn. We sing when we protest, when we celebrate, when we put our children to sleep. We get to embody it—quite literally—and anyone can do it.”

Singing in choirs comes from “a thirst for unity and for community,” she says. “Since we started, it has been feeling more and more appropriate to make beautiful art together as a group.” To Margot, it also needs to be fun. “I like rehearsals to be fun—it’s what I do for a living, so we might as well laugh!”

Margot measures her time in Christmas seasons, the greatest season of singing together in our culture, and this Christmas will be her fourth on PEI.

A few years past, Margot and her family were living in Toronto, where she was on faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music. “My family had a couple of rough years,” she says. “We were considering what we were doing and why—and we decided we didn’t want to live that way. We wanted to live in a community where we could be more in touch with the community around us, and where we could be home for supper.” Margot’s mother moved to PEI with the family.

Margot has not been disappointed with her move, and in addition to working with choirs, she teaches musicians at UPEI and trains singers in her private studio. “I’m part of building the future Island music community,” she says with great happiness.

“There’s a real musicality on the Island that boggles the mind,” she says. And Islanders, she adds with a smile, “love to find beautiful things and show them off—so there’s a real openness to choirs.”

She says, “I love doing things with really accomplished singers—but there is real power in community singing that I wouldn’t want to give up.”

In the wake of the U.S. election, Margot reminded me, “Raising your voice with other people gives you belonging through building community. You can see that throughout human history.

“We are cutting off their voices when we tell people to leave singing to people who are better at it than others. Singing is a basic human need.” And if choral singing is not for you, she says, “It’s never a loss to be exposed to music, because you can go out and appreciate it. We need audiences, too. We always enjoy our rehearsals, but we love to share music with people too, to make them feel what a composer wanted them to feel—maybe 500 or 600 years ago. That’s an extraordinary bond with someone across time.”

Margot is passionate about the power of music. “Singing together changes your spirit. It changes who we are as people and as a community. What do have if we don’t have each other?” To Margot Rejskind, singing is a way of moving past fear of otherness, and singing together is a form of organizing. “We need to start singing. They can’t tear gas you when you are singing. We own a community through common songs. It’s a big part of keeping people buoyant.

Concerted efforts

Profile: Morgan Saulnier

by Jane Ledwell

Morgan Saulnier (photo: Buzz)"I’m not sure I considered anything else, ever,” Morgan Saulnier says when asked when she first considered a career as a musician. “There was never anything else, to be honest,” the pianist and principal flutist of the PEI Symphony responds earnestly.

Eight years ago, as she was completing graduate studies in music, she had to decide whether or not to continue. “That would probably mean a doctorate and then a move to where the job was—or do I move to PEI, get married, build a career, and have a family?”

The decision was easy in the end. She married Paper Lion David Cyrus MacDonald and moved “home” to PEI. After a period of waitressing in which she admits, “I kinda went crazy with private teaching,” she was able to gradually “wind down” much of the private teaching and take on roles as varied as teaching flute at UPEI, serving as rehearsal pianist at the School of Performing Arts, being librarian and personnel manager for the PEI Symphony, and starting a local-products artisan shop, Green Eye Designs, which also sells her hand-crafted line of scarves.

All summer, Morgan played keyboards for the Charlottetown Festival production of Mamma Mia, before taking over as music director and pianist for Anne and Gilbert for its autumn dates, six shows a week. Not to mention parenting a toddler with a new baby on the way…

There have been happy surprises on Morgan’s musical path. She knew in high school that she loved playing for theatre, but she says, “I didn’t grow up thinking I would work in theatre. Rehearsal pianist work is not something I pictured happening. I don’t think I knew that could be a career.”

She enthuses, “I love my collaborative piano work. Playing for theatre is so very rewarding.

“I always pictured myself as a soloist,” Morgan recalls. Graduate school was “so solo and recital focused… The first time I played in an actual orchestra was graduate schools. I didn’t expect to feel so fulfilled!”

She says, “Ensemble playing is very special. In the Symphony, there are only two flutes, and I’m principal flute, and we have to work together and stand our ground—then there’s little close-knit group of woodwinds, and you have to be so in sync with the smaller group—then you’re part of something—and you realize, wow, I’m totally part of this bigger thing.”

When she was growing up with musically enthusiastic parents, Morgan says, “There was a really big range of music in the house, but classical was never part of it.”

I ask, is it important for children to listen to classical music? Morgan considers this: “I think live classical music is really important. It’s a great way to introduce it to young people, to get it in front of them. It gives them a visual, and there’s so much expression in playing. At a Symphony concert, they see that many players on the stage and everyone is having their own individual and collaborative musical experience.”

“We’re so lucky in PEI to have an orchestra. It’s such a tiny little place,” Morgan says. “We need celebratory, artistic music-making. As a community, we have to have it.” She is particularly excited for the November program, which includes a favourite symphony by Shostakovich.

However, Morgan says, “To be honest, I’m excited for a little bit of time.” After the close of Anne and Gilbert and the end of the first symphony weekend in October, a brief break comes. “I’m looking forward to time with my daughter—life with a toddler is crazy! Piano is definitely the instrument I play most—so I’m looking forward to getting back into really serious flute practice. I want some time to devote to my Victoria Row shop—I’m very proud of it and what it does for Island artists—and to sewing. I really find peace in the sewing. It’s very therapeutic. It’s an artistic output even though it’s the same movement again and again.”

Morgan says, “As chaotic as that makes your life, it’s a wonderful way to live your life.” Then, in January, a new baby and, undoubtedly, new musical arrangements in Morgan Saulnier’s artistic life.

Lighthouse keeper

Profile: Cheryl Wagner

by Jane Ledwell

Cheryl Wagner (photo: Buzz)Oh my heart—“ begins Cheryl Wagner, with a flourish of her hands, “I was in a movie theatre waiting for a film to start, and I reached for a seatbelt.” She mimes the gesture for belting up and then for embarrassed confusion. “In a way,” she says, “we need psychological seatbelts to watch a film. You invite into your brain forever images that are possibly indelible!”

As the organizer of the Charlottetown Film Festival, Cheryl Wagner is dealing in indelible images. She says. “All cultures tell stories—I’m doing my little bit of the big dream to tell our stories to the world.”

The Festival, which Cheryl calls the “Little Festival of Big Dreams,” highlights “the gumption, tenacity, and commitment of filmmakers.” Cheryl says, “I’m very excited about the activity, against all odds, of our film storytellers, of their persistence. My little motto is ‘Moving Pictures Forward.’”

I joke that Cheryl speaks in big-screen titles. “I’m willing to say one of my strengths is word play—I should have worked in advertising,” she laughs. “I like playing with words. And puppets. And children. And dogs.”

Known internationally as a producer of television for children, creator of the Big Comfy Couch, Cheryl sums up her accomplishments in soundbites. “My career all started here in PEI in the 1970s, when Pierre Trudeau offered Local Improvement Project grants, and we talked them into a grant for a touring puppet show. We didn’t know what we were doing, but it turned out we had talent. It led to working with Jim Henson and the Muppets in Toronto and then to my own clown/puppet work.”

She says, “I always say my memoir would be called The Further Adventures of a Coward… I never intended to be a producer—I had an idea that became Big Comfy Couch, and surprisingly it got full financing…

“What I learned (as a producer) is it’s like you’re a lighthouse, turning 360 degrees, looking for problems you can shine your light on it. You’re looking for disasters in all directions,” she says. “It’s like being a mother. Every mother can be a producer!”

And, Cheryl, as a mother, says, “My kids pulled me back to PEI to live in Charlottetown.” One of her children, Harmony Wagner, is a filmmaker, too, and her feature Singing to Myself will be part of the festival.

“It’s so remarkable,” she says, “and I’m not saying this because I’m her mother.” The film was made as part of what Cheryl lovingly calls a “ridiculous challenge” for women to make feature films for just $1,000.

“I was involved, I was watching how hard it was. I took a call for Harmony during shooting and said she was out shooting on location, and the caller said, ‘Location? With $1,000, everyone else has an agoraphobic in an apartment.’

“She had $1,000 to make a film—but it’s a million dollar film. That’s its value. But you can’t sustain that…” It’s perhaps a microcosm of filmmaking on PEI today.

“What this community has pulled off is humbling,” Cheryl says. “The next generation is not just coming—they’re here.”

At this stage in her life and career, Cheryl says, “I’m not making films—I’m trying to make a film festival.” The Charlottetown Film Festival will show over 40 films from Atlantic Canada (and a partnership with Ireland), including “some feature films and a wild array of eclectic shorts.” Sponsored by the Charlottetown Film Society, the festival all takes place in City Cinema, “our little treasure box.”

Organizing the Charlottetown Film Festival, Cheryl says, “I’ve shone the light on our community. What is true about PEI is that culture pulls people here and keeps people here. It is a valuable, valuable asset.

“PEI is the only province without a media fund, and I hope that will change. We want to keep young people here and have families—not just retirees…

“We need to see ourselves mirrored back to ourselves, for a sense of pride and recognition…one film and one film festival at a time.”

In good form

Profile: Sandy Kowalik

by Jane Ledwell

Sandi Kowalik (photo: Buzz)Every morning, artist Sandy Kowalik wakes up to read a quotation from Jeanette Winterson painted on her bedroom wall: “Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty, even for a moment, it is enough.”

Sandy says, “I have always had a more diffuse focus than a burning focus on what I do. I like to move into different circles and see what’s going on. I’ve always been following different paths.” The Ontario College of Art and Design–trained sculptor and painter and longtime feminist social activist is in her sixth season managing the Island Art Gallery at The Dunes in Brackley.

It’s a path she loves. “I love to support working artists and give them a venue,” she says. “Mostly what I want to show is what I think are really good paintings and sculpture and artwork.” To Sandy, creating a “real Island gallery” is not about “the need to represent a cliché of what PEI is,” but rather a chance to do “whatever we can do to help people continue” living as artists on the Island. The gallery represents more than 50 artists in a variety of mediums, and Sandy says, “I see more fullness of what’s going on here, the variety of styles and approaches.”

She reflects, “A lot of people don’t want to see themselves in relation to what’s going on. For artists not to look and see what’s going on (in art)—they’re just making their job a little harder.” Hanging and rehanging new artworks every day in new relationships so they each “sizzle a bit more,” Sandy says, “It’s more than just a solo—you’re playing in a band.”

Sandy says admiringly, “The Dunes is a stopping place for so many visitors. They’re amazed by the size, the objects that are there, the gardens, the food. I’ve never been to any place like it, anywhere in the world.” She says, “The world is coming to us, and they are receptive to showing our provincial art.”

More than that, Sandy says, “It’s given me a great opportunity to meet and talk to artists all the time, so I’m not isolated… Creative people always bring something else (to the conversation)—humour or ideas or new sorts of intelligence. These are the people I want to be around.”

Time developing the gallery is time away from Sandy’s own art practice—“There’s a big chunk of time I can’t do anything but maintain life,” she admits—but last winter she was able to devote all her time to writing (a memoir) and sculpting. It’s fulfilling, she says, “to spend a good part of your day or week focused on something that’s just your own.” She has been working on a series of heads in clay—“working with really abstracted form,” she says. An extended time for art-making lets you “delve deeper and deeper into what you’re searching for.”

Finding form in clay is her greatest calling. “I always work in clay—even just to knead it and make sure it’s still pliable,” she says. “It just feels right. In clay, even though I work with tools, my hands are right into it. It’s like baking bread compared to baking a cake… I like it because it is a physical thing. I like the gallery that way too—I’m physically swinging a hammer.

Shaping the physical makes way for the ideal. “The way the world evolves, how you make change—art and social change—it’s all part and parcel, I think,” Sandy says. “I’ve always been a social activist. I was really aware of women’s inequalities in art school—who was represented in galleries, who was paid more… Inequalities still exist in who is spending time and making money on art. Across the board in almost every discipline, men are making more,” she says.

After working for many different women’s organizations, “work in the gallery was a step out into a different world—commercial gallery and retail,” Sandy says. This is still, Sandy believes, “choosing what kind of world you want to participate in,” an aestheticized world of art-making, appreciation, and ideal form.

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Recent News & Articles

Rachel Beck

Talking Bands by Evan James Ceretti Rachel Beck has had an amazing year in music — a cross-count [ ... ]

New location for PEI MFRC

After being closed for most of 2018, the PEI Military Family Resource Centre (PEI MFRC) has re-opene [ ... ]

Music PEI SOCAN Songwriter of the Year A...

Music PEI kicked off the first of the ticketed shows for 2019 Credit Union Music PEI Week on Thursda [ ... ]