A Summer Full of Community Outreach!
Reflections on a Season’s Worth of Social Fabric
by Áine Schryer-O’Gorman
At the end of June, I joined the Thinking Rock team as Programming and Outreach Assistant. We quickly started our summer of outreach with a day in Sault Ste. Marie at the yarn shop/café Shabby Motley for the opening of Tour de Fleece, a month-long fibre spinning event. Along with welcoming people to use our embroidery supplies, fill out our Social Fabric prompt cards, and participate in various other activities, we connected with community members about the Social Fabric project. Our highlight of the day was chatting with visitors about the importance of textile arts (specifically knitting and crocheting) in community, and how gathering together and creating textile art/garments helps build a welcoming, inclusive community. A few weeks later, Miranda – Thinking Rock’s Acting Artistic Director – went back to Shabby Motley for the closing of Tour de Fleece.
At the beginning of July, we had the pleasure of facilitating an artmaking session at the Explorer Summer Day Camp, run by Kensington Conservancy (KC) and the St. Joseph Island Hunters and Anglers Association (SJHAA). Over a few hours a group of twelve campers, aged 8 to 12, took part in a collaborative poetry activity and the creation of a felt landscape portrait. Through these activities we encouraged the kids to think creatively about their communities and the land that they live on. The venue on St. Joseph Island was beautiful, the kids were enthusiastic, and we were very thankful to partner with KC and SJHAA.
At the end of July, we facilitated a Block Printing drop-in workshop at 180 Projects in Sault Ste. Marie, where participants were encouraged to create a plate and print on paper and fabric, inspired by the Benjamin Chee Chee exhibitition, Life and Legacy, organized and circulated by the Temiskaming Art Gallery. Open to all community members, we ended up having a turnout of just under 10 participants. The day was calm and inspiring, with some wonderful results from the participants.
At the beginning of August, we hosted a booth at Thessalon Community Day and Little Rapids Fair. Both days were filled with summery weather and lots of talking with community members about the work that Thinking Rock does and Social Fabric, our current multi-year project. We brought our Social Fabric prompt cards, quilt block design activity, and a few other activities along with us and encouraged passers-by to think about community and get creative for a minute or two. At the end of the summer, we also hosted a booth for two days at the Bruce Mines Fair, where we encouraged community members to think about what it means to live in Algoma in the fall.
From August 11th to 17th, we were stationed at the 16th Annual Algoma Traditional Music, Dance, and Heritage Arts Family Camp. Every day, we hosted thoughtful artmaking of different types at our tent, which was very central to the site and got lots of people passing by to drop in for a few minutes. Artists Mary Schneider and Miranda Bouchard led a natural dyeing workshop, a fun experimental experience for participants, as part of AlgomaTrad’s Community Colours project. All week at Thinking Rock’s Social Fabric artmaking tent, participants of all ages dropped in and made collaboratively painted fabric, woven landscape portraits, drawings, felt landscapes, story illustrations, and “thoughtful rocks”. We also had Ruth Howard and Shifra Cooper, friends from Jumblies Theatre, join us for making and singing games.
Our part in the camp wrapped up with a beautiful little exhibition in “Cabin F” (with Shifra Cooper, Ruth Howard and co.) of artistic works created throughout the week, and stories, memories, thoughts, and images about AlgomaTrad that we collected throughout the week. Shifra’s children’s class sang songs, shared stories, and demonstrated puppet-dancing for a very attentive audience of campers as a part of the final display. We had a memorable, wonderful, and very busy week in artistic residence and collaboration at AlgomaTrad.
Thank you to all who supported our summertime activities as participants, audience members, makers, learners, donors of materials, facilitators, mentors, collaborators, and funders. We are already looking forward to next year!