May 23rd, 2016
Here we are – maybe 3 or 4 of us at the Downtown Story Collective tonight.
We are all working on a project.
We are focused and we have artistic plans for the future by moving parts of the world by a poem or story a day…
We are taking over the world (of art).
April 12th, 2016
The Monday night sessions are a time for self-therapy, self-knowledge and creativity.
It is a space where I can come to express among peers.
It is my “quiet time”….
Being here but at the same time being somewhere else.
March 21st, 2016
All in all, ways said and never completely done.
Fast as seasons resonate and play.
And as night returns to day.
So do we. So do we.
January 18th, 2016
It feels quite curious to date this blog post 2016. As a collective, we have taken a break from our weekly blog posts. But a new year calls for new thoughts…
During this evening’s session we shared out thoughts on the ideas of ownership, and possession, and belonging. Here is what we could write down:
Today what I own
(My) shoes, coat, joy, peace, choice, a voice, and my story.
Tomorrow will (/is) change.
November 30th, 2015
Many members from our collective were in high spirits tonight – some walking though the doorway of the chapel with a warm familiar smile, others with their current art pieces in hand, and one other entering with a big bellowing song.
I wonder what particular thing had many in high spirits, or is it from a collection of many things occurring throughout the day and throughout the week? One thing is for certain; so much is going on for our collective in the upcoming weeks, so how could our members not feel elated?
During the beginning of the session, some reflected on our time at the VEC this past Wednesday and voted it a success. At the event we shared our artwork, good conversation, and laughs with other artists and visitors from the Victoria area.
Could it be the Christmas joy in knowing that Christmas Day is fast approaching that has everyone in a good mood? Could it be that a broadcasting company in Victoria would like to hear our collective story and share it with the wider community? There is much to come in the weeks ahead and we are awaiting it all very excitedly.
Like I said, how could we not be in high spirits?
November 23rd, 2015
Monday’s evening DSC meeting got off to an interesting start as we
got up to date on our impending participation in this Wednesdays’s Art Café at the VEC (Victoria Event Centre). We will be among a group of Victoria artists at this monthly exhibition of art, performance and music…. see the link on these web pages for more details. Oh I guess I can tell you it’s from 7 to 10 pm!… at VEC on Broad street north side between Johnson and Pandora.
This week’ activity saw the return of haiku …. not seen since last spring.
Many strong lines emerged and a new face gave us lesson in beginners
luck.. thanks for that and hope to see you soon.
October 26th, 2015
Serenaded by acoustic guitar, our group gathered and created this week under much anticipation; anticipation for a delicious Halloween weekend and anticipation for our newly announced art launch!
On November 25th at the Victoria Event Centre, our collective has been given with opportunity to display our art and late projects for the public! We are sure to be hard at work preparing for the event next month, but in the mean time would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween this weekend!
October 19th, 2015
Election night and the encroachment of fall –
People here are putting on their arty thinking caps. They are so quiet – these studious ladies and chaps. Why is it so quiet…Almost dead quite in Victoria? Could it be that it is election night and the people wanted to make the right selection? Voting and elections bring about such hope, anticipation, and eventually despair. Who will lead our country, provinces, cities, towns, villages, and hamlets? Will they do a good job?
Well we heard lots of promises. Will the right politicians deliver the goods or what people want to hear?
In my existence on this plant earth, please God can you hear me? You said render to Caesar – what Caesar? And render to God – what Gods?
I heard someone quote then: “a nation of sheep run by wolves, owned by pigs”. Do I totally agree?
Oh I better get back to work at the art group…
October 12th, 2015
Thanksgiving was the topic subject of the Downtown Story Collective.
It reminds us to be grateful for our community, workers, volunteers, and people sharing love and compassion through gratitude during the Thanksgiving holiday.
It is the grace of God having the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to manifest gratitude through love and compassion, and through our relationships in community, province, country, and religion – collectively as human beings having an experience of love.
October 5th, 2015
The Downtown Story Collective is a great creative group. Megan runs a very friendly group. She is inclusive and welcoming.
We discussed what democracy meant to each of us, great!
Cookies and coffee were very nice.
People enjoy their art. We shared story, verse, music, painting, photography and I enjoyed it all so much.
September 28th, 2015
This is our third week into the Downtown Story Collective’s activities. So there may yet be some rust left from those cogs left idle over the summer siesta.
The publishing effort is in fine fettle with the arrival of our booklet of writing, drawing and photography; the seeding, weeding, pruning and nurturing’s brought autumn leaves of prosy and pictures. For us that is proof enough to carry into a renewed effort at creating again, and that can be more exciting.
So welcome back to reality.
September 21st, 2015
“There always seems to be a strange interchange between desperation and innovation, where an idea wants to be born but not without the real-life impregnation of dissent.”
July 20th, 2015
This evening, the members worked on a writing exercise proposed by Victoria’s Poet Laureate. Typically the members don’t need any additional help in getting their creative juices flowing – yet the results are always unique and fruitful when we begin with a little probe.
Members were asked to recall an item that was given second-handed. There were a variety of items chosen, ranging from intergenerational words of wisdom, weathered digital cameras, articles of clothing and even a watch.
Near the end of the session, our members were invited to share their idealised stories – some happy, some tearful. Oh, how we hold on to our possessions, and the meanings they convey!
July 13th, 2015
During tonight’s session, everyone worked busily in completing the final edits for our chapbook – a compilation of the group’s writing and photography, which is about to be sent off to the printers!
Stay tuned for more information about how to purchase your very own summer 2015 edition of the Downtown Story Collective’s HeArtbeat!!
July 6th, 2015
The faces and sounds of tension, fatigue and irritability were expressed early on in the session on Monday. Could it have been the heat and smoky skies that were on Victoria’s forecast for the past couple of days?
Regardless of the reasons, all of the members perked up – sitting a little more upright, attentive, and a little more still when Yvonne Blomer joined us.
Everyone was so eager and proud to share their exhaustive lists of written work with Victoria’s Poet Laureate.
During the session, we also welcomed back a member who has been missing from the session for weeks – finding out that he has been red-zoned form Pandora Street (but this was not enough to prevent him from attending our session). It wasn’t long until everyone was laughing and catching up on stories with their reunited friend. He said he needed to come to the session to have his spirits renewed and uplifted by the poetry and stories read aloud.
June 29th, 2015
The presence of new participants allows us to regroup as we introduce ourselves and the Collective. Welcome to “the magical arts group”. We do all kinds of things–writing, drawing, painting. “It’s about what kind of art you connect with.” Going around the circle, each of us says a word or two.
“I’m taking a break from writing,” says one of us, “and learning to draw instead. I’m going back to the basics, the way I should have done it the first time.”
“Are you using a book or internet instructions?”
“Yes. I am supposed to be an artist in twelve weeks.”
We all laugh.
This week we are preparing our stage, finalizing a much anticipated “chapbook” to be available soon.
What is a “chapbook”? I must confess, I had to resort to Wikipedia to find out. It refers to an early popular publication format. They emerged during the 16th century in England and were important for bringing popular literature to the common people.
Our work is part of an old tradition.
Editing is a strange thing. Part of what we do is about pushing boundaries, expressing things that have never been expressed before and doing it in new and unexpected ways. But there is an interesting compromise. Because in order to share our work, in order to bring it into the “common” space, it must comply somewhat with the structure of language. And so we spend this week’s session dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s, negotiating grammatical rules and conventions.
It seems like a metaphor for life, a metaphor for society. It is something about knowing how to negotiate with rather than completely dispose of “normality” if we are to ever succeed in changing it.
In the mean-time, there is a buzz of pride and excitement, of collaboration and polishing, of contentment that we are nearing one of our initial goals. We cannot wait to share our work with you!
June 22nd, 2015
“Write about something from your childhood–we’ve all had one of those.” Our guest facilitator made a fair point. “Or maybe something that made you really angry, or really happy.” By this point the pad of paper and pens being passed around had stalled somewhere around the far side of the table, gazes were distant, and a quiet concentration descended upon the room like a heavy down blanket.
Twenty minutes flew by and then, one by one, we read what we had been working on.
There were poems that played with the sounds of words, with juxtaposed ideas. There were vignettes from days gone by, children tumbling down hills in cardboard boxes, the feeling of tying one’s shoes for the first time. And there were echoes of dancing feet on the pow-wow grounds, strains of longing for love and unity among all people. Despite deviations form from the suggested topics, it was fascinating to see the collective jewel of our diverse perspectives come together.
“It’s too small, I can’t read it,” one of us said, showing us the story pulled up on the screen of his phone, “Can someone else do it?”
It was a short story of searching for a lost friend, one assumed never to be seen again. Eventually she is found in the garden planting bulbs. It is a moving picture, the reunion against a backdrop of placing these shrivelled up objects into the dark earth. It is something about hope.
Why is this friend so precious? Because she laughs when no one else will.
The speaker sneaks up behind her. “Yo mama is so fat, I had a dream about her, bitch broke my neck.”
The elegant guest kept her composure as the rest of us burst into embarrassed but inevitable giggles. The author’s eyes danced.
This collective jewel would not be complete if it were not for these flashes of excellent ridiculousness.
June 15th, 2015
“It is about bringing together what is on the inside and what is on the outside,” someone shares, “It is about finding the means to express in the outside world that story that each of us has inside.”
That is the challenge of creating, the urge that pushes us to come each week and put pen to paper. “Inside” / “Outside”. It is about overcoming that wall.
Are we ever motivated! Every seat was filled and half of the cookies were eaten by 6:30. “Here, I wrote some stories,” someone says as soon as he comes in, eyes twinkling, “Want to read them?” It isn’t really a question. The stack of lined sheets is already on the table where I am about to sit down.
Another tells us that she is going to write a book. The first page is there, the rest of the notebook waiting eagerly. Her neighbour smiles approvingly before going back to her own work. She has been at this for years, an expert in expressing herself.
She is quieter today, however. There was an incident over dinner. Poverty and eating together day after day in a noisy dining hall is not necessarily conducive to heart-warming tales of unity and friendship. Sometimes the stress of the streets and the chaos inside pushes people to reinforce the walls between them. “Old” versus “young”. “White” versus “native”. “Canadian” versus “immigrant”.
I suppose that that is why we are here tonight. There are so many boundaries to be overcome.
Someone else had some trouble today too and isn’t in the room. He is the one who spends hours carefully selecting, printing, photocopying, collaging images until the one on paper matches the one in his head. But earlier events had kept him away “People can say some pretty nasty things to him,” I’m told, “They say that he’s got mental problems. I mean, he’s not crazy.”
Crazy. It’s a loaded word. What does it mean anyway? Maybe it just means that we are unwilling to adapt what’s going on inside with what is going on outside, less willing to give up on our own story or make it acceptable by some outside standard.
Looking out the chapel window, I can see that he is with us anyway, pen in hand. He is glowing in the dusk, that magical time when the line between night and day stretches like the shadows on the sidewalk.
June 8th, 2015
An image of a pencil eraser wiping out the word fear was stuck on our board this week. It had jumped out at me from a box of magazine cuttings last Monday. Erasing fear.
Not everyone needed a prompt though. Most were working away on their own projects. One of us came in. His glasses have been disappearing slowly. The first few weeks, they were missing one arm, but he was able to perch them carefully on one ear. Soon that arm disappeared and he would hold them up in a way that I associate with elegant ladies and enormous ball gowns. They disappeared entirely for a little while, but this week the lenses were back. And he held them up to his eyes to read out his carefully crafted poems.
The woman to my left was glowing, radiating a day of beach and sunshine. “I’m tingling,” she said. It was contagious, if the grins and chuckles that spread around the room were any indication. “It takes a lot of courage to come here,” she told me. “Today is a good day. And so I did”.
Across the room, the woman’s face was a little more pensive. She had been away for a while, her niece having recently been added to the appallingly long list of murdered aboriginal women in Canada. She didn’t dwell on that horrible reality though, speaking instead about the laughs her family had had, brought together for the first time in over a decade. This is the gift of tragedy and I was moved by the grace with which she welcomed it.
All of this is erasing fear. It is holding up the lens rather than complaining about the missing frame. It is soaking up the sun, and then daring to embody its glow and share it. It is refusing to be inhabited by hatred and sadness, giving thanks for community, giving thanks for life.
June 1st, 2015
“It’s a functional Monday; let’s get in the mood! Some good inspiration, better than petty perspiration.”
It was a busy week at the DSC. Some of us focussed on preparing bios for our (soon-to-be-available) chapbook. Portraits were taken; working shots, candid shots, posed shots… but all this skirts around the real issue here. Who am I? Who are you? Is is possible to articulate one’s identity in a few words? Or even in any words?
“I don’t want to make it too personal”
“I am trying to figure out which are the important parts”
One of us didn’t show up this week. “I can’t go there in the evening,” he had told me once, gaze a little slanting, speech a little slurred,”It’s a war-zone. I’m trying to stay clear of some of that stuff.”
But maybe what really holds him in a rut is not so much the smoke or the drink, but the reflection of himself in the eyes of dozens of passers-by each day… “drunk”… “hobo”… “bum”…
In the collective we know him differently, one of the greatest artists in the downtown area. His work hangs in walls, adorns jewellery boxes, makes a genuine gift out of a simple card. In our eyes, he is a talented and precious individual.
Identity, it seems to me, is so dependant upon those around us; my identity defined in your gaze, in the eyes of the beholder.
There is a challenge there.
On behalf of so many downtown, when you pass me in the street, who do you see? Do you dare to see beyond the plastic bags, beyond the shopping cart, the dirty clothes, the haunted look? Do you dare to see the unique and beloved brother or sister?
Let me see my true self reflected in your eyes.
Meanwhile the DSC continues to meet, to write, to draw. And this week, we will have new pieces up at Origin Bakery. If anything, considering the nature of self and identity highlights the importance of what we do in the collective.
“It’s a labour of shove, but a labour love”
May 25th, 2015
“Everyone has their own reality,” one guy responded to the prompt, “and they are all real.”
This is not always easy. Realities can rub up against one another and someone storms out, yelling obscenities at no one in particular. That was a couple weeks ago. This week this same person was back again. No one commented, no one challenged the earlier behaviour, no one made a big deal of the return. His presence makes us a little more complete, our reality a little more real.
Sometimes realities overlap. “Where do you come from? Me too! My father used to call it Lezzzzbridge. He’s from the old country, you know. When I came to Victoria, I noticed that the sky is really small.” Small sky, shared sky, shared reality.
Poetry today touched on some deep stuff: Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Saint Augustine… Reality is not a new topic. To take it a step further, someone wrote about reality that is becoming: “hope is the spirit of survival”. Our collective is full of survivors.
And yet, survival is not an individual matter. The bus ticket that slid from one to the other at the end of the session is testament to that. “That was kind,” I say. His eyes were humble and paternal. “Well, you know. He’s coming along.” We need each other to give us hope, just as we need each other to truly live in the real world.
Outside we part ways, realities diverging, yet enriched for our time together.