Alisdair MacRae

Recognizing the importance of warm clothing

Blog post 2 – December 14, 2015 by Alisdair MacRae

Salvation Army Booth Centre

I started off the third week of my placement much like the previous two weeks. At about 5:20 pm, I walked in the entrance with supplies requested from the previous week, and turned left into the chapel where the workshops were held. Lee had already set up the tables, covered them in plastic tablecloths and arranged the supplies. I showed him the wooden panels of various sizes that I’d brought for the mural. The panels could be covered in gessoed canvas, or worked on from the back, in case people wanted to create dioramas or shadow boxes. To that end, I had printed out some information about the American sculptor Joseph Cornell.

As Lee continued setting up, I went up to the fourth floor to knock on peoples’ doors and announce the workshop from 6 – 8 pm. Matt was in the kitchen, and said he’d be right down. I saw some unfamiliar faces, and people were helpful in explaining what the workshop was about to others, even if they wouldn’t be attending. I’d already promoted the workshop in the lounge on the first floor, and as I walked through, someone pointed me out as the “art teacher”. I was humbled, knowing how much I saw myself as the student in this environment.

One of the participants had his heart seton making a dreamcatcher

Making a dreamcatcher with help from Matt and John.

The regulars had arrived, including Howard, Matt and John. There were a few newcomers, including Aren, Jason, an elderly gentleman who wanted to make a dreamcatcher, and later on, Jeremy. As Lee explained to me, Jason was a very talented photographer, but was shy about sharing his work. I asked him about what he liked to photograph, and he explained that he needed to be given a subject. I asked him that if we provided him with a camera, that he might like to photograph some of the buildings in the market. Jason said he had camera equipment, but he just needed a subject.

I tried explaining the opportunities open to people for contributing work that involved tangible benefits. The panels would be used to create a mural in the lounge, and artists would be compensated with a $25.oo gift certificate to Dollarama if they provided a finished work. John took up that challenge right away, but Howard seemed skeptical. I also described how people could offer designs for cards, calendars and embroidery patterns for articles of clothing. In exchange, they would receive $10.00 gift certificates.

I wasn’t sure how successful these projects with tangible benefits would be. I didn’t want to be seen as “putting people to work”. I realized the importance of compensating people for their artwork, and thought the projects might offer people a sense of self worth. The cards and calendars were an immediate way for people to show off their art, but the gloves and hats would have an added practical benefit. Given what I overheard from conversations, I understood the importance of warm clothing.

Aren described his interest in selling his artwork. He gave his Web site address,, and I was impressed by the sketches he had posted. I tried to direct him to work on the mural, but he didn’t seem that interested, and eventually left. However, Jason started passing me drawings that he was quietly working on. One was a comical face drawn with green and blue felt markers. The other looked like a colourful Easter egg, but given the additional candy cane and snowflake, it seemed related more to the upcoming holidays. I asked him if the images could be used for cards or articles of clothing. He smiled and said it was fine, but didn’t seem very interested in the gift certificates. Regardless, it was a start, and by next week, I’d hope to share the results with him, as well as $20.00 worth of gift certificates.

Thanks for sharing / Merci d’avoir partagé!

About The Author / À propos de l’auteur

Alisdair Macrae

Alisdair Macrae

Alisdair MacRae received a BFA from the University of Victoria in 1998, an MFA from Bard College in 2002, and completed a graduate thesis in Art History at Carleton University in 2012. MacRae uses plans to examine community and exchange, experienced through a do-it-yourself approach that enables social interactions.

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