Be The Change

Today I went on a field trip to Chemainus with a lively group of island hookers. (We love it when people take that the wrong way!) We were off for a few hours of hooking at Val Galvin's studio, with side trips to the Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith, and the Sandpiper Gardens to pick up a mulberry bush for Heide. Believe me, traffic halts when a gaggle of creatively dressed gray-haired ladies scurry across the road.

It was a lovely and very fun-filled day, with lots of good conversation. I had a rare moment of clarity when, in trying to explain why I would show my art in a venue where I had no expectation of sales, I said that it was important to contribute to the aesthetic texture of the community. In thinking about this later I realized that this was the answer I should have had a few days ago when James was giving me heck for entering this year's studio tour, after vowing that I would never do so again.

The aesthetic texture of a community is a vital, yet rarely recognized aspect of our daily lives. Gabriola bills itself as "Isle of the Arts", and as one gets off the ferry, the first thing you see is a mural covering the bland square of a utility box. Proceed up the hill, and the telephone poles are brightly painted. Enter any restaurant and you will see local art on the walls. Drive around and you will see every variety of creative installation in people's yards. Venture down a forest path, and you will find sculptures of precariously balanced rocks, and leaves with little goblin faces scattered around. Drop by the pub and there will be live music of a surprising sophistication. If you come on a weekend, you will have to choose between offerings of modern dance, choral music or burlesque. The workshops of the Isle of the Arts festival extend throughout the year... you get the picture. Gabriola is a place bubbling with creativity. That is our background noise, our aesthetic texture.

Found sculpture deep in the Gabriola woods. It is a couple of feet high, and all depends on that horizontal stone in the middle.
It's a place that I would much rather be than, say, in the financial district of a big city. A piece of inspired graffiti on the side of a gray concrete building in the city is like a flower to me, not a defacement. Seeing and feeling creativity all around creates a fertile ground for more wild ideas, more colour, more thought, more fun.

It's easy to extend this concept to blogging (and I suppose those other thing like Flickr and Tumblr and such that I don't know much about.) Nobody logs on to see the countless ads for things we don't need and can't afford, or to be depressed by the relentless waves of newsdrek. At least, I don't think so. I think we want to feel connected, to be surprised, or amazed, to share, to feel human. I hope, in some tiny way, that my online presence contributes to a stream of aesthetic texture that has a positive impact. Like Sarah's comment two posts ago:
I love the idea of amulets to ward off rampant capitalism - for both personal use, and the earth. Maybe what is needed is not so much one big one, but thousands of small ones, made all over the planet, by many people and placed somewhere secret? Actually that could be a magnificent thing on so many levels - the magic of amulets, environmental education, possibly also highlight the environmental downside of the textile industry too ... or am I just going over board??
Not overboard at all, dear Sarah! I think that we each have the ability to make a small difference, and what are small differences when undertaken on a global scale but a complete change in the whole picture?

In closing, I offer a contrasting pair of real life scenarios. (If only I had had my camera with me!) The first, seen in a Nanaimo outlet of Staples, the big-box retailer of office supplies, is a display of T-shirts, printed with the slogan: "Be the Change". Only $24.95 and available in all sizes. The second, seen on the sidewalk outside the Art Gallery, is a scruffy young man playing the banjo, the case in front of him open, and a scrawled cardboard sign asking "Be the Change". Marveling at how Gandhi's head must be spinning at a pace beyond comprehension, my handful of coins went into the banjo case. I'll go for music and wit over crass cynicism every time.


  1. thanks for all these well wrought words on sharing and connection and creativity Heather! Am in the middle of reading "The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer, she is so brave and open and clear and funny!

  2. Lovely post, hon'! Lots of chewy food for thought.

  3. I love the concept of aesthetic texture in a community. It fits well with the anti-commercial talisman idea too. Thanks to Sarah and Jean-Pierre for their insights.

  4. ' to feel connected' yes absolutely!


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