31 Aug FINDING HEAVEN ON EARTH: “ALL MY DAWGS EAT”
I drove an hour north of Kingston to FOR WORLD Summer Camp run by local artist and my soon-to-be-friend (bestie) Francisco Corbett and the FOR WORLD team – feeling burnt out, anxious and overall exhausted. I was tired of staring at my screen, tired of this pandemic, tired of my own emotions and anxiety, tired of seeing the world in grey.
I pulled into the property, which was essentially 20 acres of field and forest with a cabin- no wifi, no showers, no cellular reception. Just a bunch of tick-filled hay bails and a group of young artists dreaming, doing and building community in this energetic environment.
I instantly fell in love with the land, which Francisco’s father referred to as heaven on earth. After a year and a half of keeping my distance due to the pandemic, I felt free of my burdens. This new community blossomed during the inaugural party, which included fire and circus artist Katie Gutz teaching the crowd how to use her flow art equipment. Soon I was taking pictures of my friend in front of a hay bail as per my duties as a basic white woman who feels the urge to document every waking moment of her life. A photographer named Demitry set up fuchsia lighting at a nearby hay bail and quickly rushed over when he saw us fiddling with his equipment for better lighting (whether he ran over in excitement or fear of us breaking something remains unknown). This was my first collaboration at FOR WORLD Summer Camp and just the beginning of my journey.
Not only did I get my friend what some would call an “insta-worthy” picture, but this seemingly small and insignificant moment was the start of my journey of self-reflection, community, and finding my inner creative “buzz”.
I have always been creative, but my struggles with anxiety, depression, and PTSD increased through high school and university, thus ensuring my demotivation of the things I deeply love. And, of course, with this pandemic, my demotivation and mental health issues increased.
After the last year and a half of this pandemic, we have all been separate from our respective communities. However, I didn’t realize how much I missed community until now. Throughout my time at Queen’s, I always struggled to feel a sense of belonging, which caused me to diminish my authentic self. I felt like I wasn’t rich enough, didn’t go to enough parties, and wrote too many songs about the injustices around me.
Rather than finding happiness, I searched for the experiences that would get me hired, worked myself to burnout in every aspect of my life, and left no room for my creativity to flourish. Even when I arrived at camp, it was a continuation of my burn out. I went to work. I wrote an article, interviewed people for my position at the radio, and made a mini-documentary. But, somehow, on this little piece of heaven, I was finally able to transcend and find a healthy balance between work, creativity and relaxation.
After a good night’s sleep, a group of slightly hungover artists gathered for 10 am roll call lead by Francisco. The daily itinerary: 10 am: Roll Call/Breakfast. 1 pm: Lunch. 2-6 pm WORK/ARTIST TALK. 7:00 pm Dinner. 7:30 pm Fire. Quiet hours 11 pm weekdays, 1 am weekends.
I quickly started to understand the breadth of those in attendance: a tattoo artist named Andy who completed ten tattoos in 8 days, a multimedia artist named Lou who had a voice of an angel, both from Toronto, a musician from the local band The Codas named Braden (or Bruh-n-den, whatever your preference) who challenged himself to write a song a day, and Evan who has completed 80 pages of his novel. I spent my days conversing about my favourite topic: the arts. I talked for hours about ideas from visual art collaboration projects to bouncing ideas off one another about songwriting to favourite inspirations to what camp meant to us.
My favourite collaboration was with an artist named Tara, who was visiting from Paris, France and with a local Queen’s student novelist Daniel (also known as @danielgreenwriter). The words and artistry danced together on the canvas. Speckles of blue got on my shoes as I scratched my nails on the canvas of red paint. Three minds melded into one as we took turns writing lines of Daniel’s poem, The Bartender’s Moon, which dealt with masculinity, substance abuse, mental health, and vulnerability. Now, was this piece of art we created a Picasso painting? No. I will be honest with you… I have never been good at visual art. At least, that is what I was told. I had been told that visual art is pretty and happy and neat. It was a space in which you calmly coloured inside the lines and completed the project given to you. But, I redefined what art meant to me- it is me and everything I am surrounded by. Art can be angry and sad and scary and frustrating and still be beautiful. So I used that moment to be unapologetically authentic and put my heart on my sleeve. I’m glad I did because I had my community, my “dawgs,” my besties, who were ready to back me up and support me.
This is the power of an art community in Kingston. This is why my team and I created a Behind the Scenes video that will be released mid-September on muse-magazine.com . This is why we needed this artist retreat. Not only for the mental health of creatives like myself who get the courage to try out new disciplines with the support of others, but to ensure creative space for professional artists to succeed, collaborate and make art.
A special thanks to the FOR WORLD artist collective camp counsellors.
To get in touch with any artists email me at [email protected]
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: Daniel Green