About the artist: Marley Giunta
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I am a highly creative person in all aspects of my life but playing music, singing and performing were my first creative outlets for me, and continue to be my main focus. I love being on a stage and performing; mainly guitar, voice, piano and percussion…but I will try and play any instrument I can get my hands on.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
Musicians were always revered in my family growing up. We were taught to appreciate music… a melody, a chord change, a bass riff, a drum line… we were taught to listen. I owe this to my parents, whose love of music naturally extended to us and supported us learning all sorts of instruments, joining choirs, talent competitions, beginning at the young age of five years old. It was a very organic thing for me to work in the arts, as music has been such a huge inspiration in my life and it brings me such joy to share it with others.
What are some recurring themes in your art practice?
I have always had music in my life, always travelled with a guitar, always found places to perform and places to share my music. My most fulfilling musical experiences however, have been when I play music with other people. A recurring theme in my musical career is connection. There is something entirely unique and special when you get to connect with others though music. It is so special to sing in harmony with another, to share that moment with another person. I grew up singing all the time with my sister, Wallis Giunta, and I always prefer singing with others to performing alone.
What are your most important influences?
It’s hard to pin point my most important influences. In my youth I would listen to such a wide variety of musical styles, my admiration for specific musical styles or musicians is incredibly diverse. I can say that Patty Griffin’s first album Living with Ghosts, was the album that made me want to first pick up a guitar at the age of 11. My musical appreciation is vast, I feel lucky to find bits and pieces of inspiration everywhere.
What is your experience in art projects engaging social practice and what did you gain from your experience?
Art has a way of transcending barriers. It connects us regardless of age, class, gender, nationality. I have found such fulfilment and meaning participating in arts projects as a leader or facilitator throughout my life. However, when I reflected on this question I was reminded of how many transformative experiences I have had growing up, and still to this day, as a participant in other people’s arts projects and initiatives. I feel truly blessed for every one of these experiences, as I’m sure I would not be the creative, confident person I am today without the exposure to the arts, and programs such as Art Place, that I have had throughout my life.
How long have you been active in the Ottawa arts community?
I can honestly say that I have been active in the Ottawa arts community since I was a toddler. My father’s career was in radio and media here in Ottawa, and I participated in shows and events for as long as I can remember. At the age of eight I joined the Ottawa Central Children’s Choir and began performing publicly. I never looked back.
What interested you about working with AOE Arts Council?
The AOE Arts Council’s Arts Place program provided such a beautiful opportunity to contribute to my community. I love connecting with others through music and contributing to others’ well-being. I am so grateful for what your organization is bringing to the Ottawa Arts community!
About the project
What made you want to participate in Art Place?
Having just moved back to Ottawa, I was looking for ways to get involved in local art projects and community initiatives. Luckily, my partner Robert Cordy was the one who found Art Place and encouraged me to apply. I have him to thank for this wonderful opportunity.
What inspired you to pursue this project with this community?
My grandfather Dominic was a singer, a tenor. Before he passed away, my father and his brothers encouraged and helped Dominic to cut a three song EP singing songs from his past. I love this CD and I treasure it so much. Everyone in the family got a copy of it and I feel it was a really important gift he left to all of us. I also believe strongly that music is such a beautiful way to connect with others and I absolutely love making friends among elder folks, as they have had such rich lives and have so much to teach and share.
How would you describe the project you will be working on?
My project is an invitation for older adults, who may or may not have had a chance to share their musical gifts, to be recognized and celebrated for their talents. The intent is to honour their musical talents, encourage their musical hopes and dreams and remind them that they are appreciated and not alone.
I will act as a host and create a space in their residence to have informal and inclusive music jam nights. I have a mobile recording studio for the project and, with their support, I will organically capture their performances to create an album or series of recordings, or perhaps even a concert.
How do you anticipate this work will have an impact on the community?
I am interested in empowering the participants. I want to connect with them though music and honour them through performance and the recording arts. I expect this could have a significant impact on their current lives. It can fulfill a sense of purpose and belonging. Especially if the participant has never before had an opportunity to perform, record their music, or hear themselves through speakers. It can have huge effects on their self-confidence. As people get older, they often develop physical or mental disabilities related to aging. The language of music can transcend other social factors, ability or age and therefore, this project emphasizes inclusion and connection with people who may find challenges in these areas.
How will your project give voice or expression to the social issue(s) you will be exploring?
I am excited to inspire people with a success story where a simple arts engagement project can significantly address the larger socio-cultural issues of isolation, boredom and lack of belonging in aging populations. I am interested in working with elderly community members that may face physical limitations, developmental delays, mental illness, and disabilities related to aging and empowering them by honouring their talents and encouraging them to share music and stories with each other. I will tell the story of our experience together using recordings and allow the participants to express themselves and their reactions to the program as the project develops, so they feel pride for what we have accomplished together. I believe this will be a powerful and candid method of addressing both the social need and potential solutions using the arts.
How will you know your project is a success?
I am four weeks into my project and I already feel that it is a success! Feedback from the participants, their families and the staff at the Unitarian House has been really positive and marked by gratitude. The success is in the things they say, their songs, their amazement, their faces, their courage, their body language, and their hugs. They keep coming back every week, looking forward to it. They try out new instruments, they aren’t as shy and they start encouraging each other. We are about to start recording tracks together for a Lounge Room Sessions EP and it can only get better. I find the whole process wonderfully fulfilling. I love it.
More about Marley Giunta