Alisdair MacRae

Supporting the Salvation Army Booth Centre

Blog post 6 – January 18, 2016 by Alisdair MacRae

Salvation Army Booth Centre

Ottawa Booth Centre

James making some test prints before transferring his poem to a canvas.

My cold hadn’t improved too much from the week before, so I was a little tired heading into the seventh workshop. I showed up with the box of hoodies and t-shirts that had been screen-printed with one of Brian’s drawings. They looked good, and I was pleased that the company that did the work was able to complete such a small order. As usual, I helped Lee set up supplies, and then I announced the workshop in the lounge and went to the elevator to get to the fourth floor. I stepped into the elevator with an elderly man, and we sat there without the elevator moving until the door opened again. We tried pushing the buttons, but same as the last time, we stayed in place. I took the stairs up to the fourth floor, but unfortunately the entrance was locked from the other side for security’s sake.

When I got back to the chapel, I explained what had happened to Lee. He offered to go to the fourth floor, and may have had keys to the door. I thanked him, and started connecting the radio to the PA system. Melissa, the organization’s chaplain, had showed me how to unlock the cabinet with the sound equipment and set it up so we could listen to music. The locks on the cabinet were not that durable, but as I learned, people were generally respectful of the chapel space. The lounge was another story, and Melissa had indicated that even though it would be nice to make some artwork for that space, it could easily get destroyed by some of the clients. One of the employees who came through the chapel due to a broken door wondered aloud how long it would take to get fixed.

Tonight turned out to be very busy during the workshop. The weather may have influenced the attendance, and some people were possibly more interested in a free cup of coffee than making art. However, James returned after a brief appearance in December. He had finished the poem about water, and read that one to me along with one on music and another about overcoming hatred. His format was very consistent, using rhyming couplets to discuss a particular topic. He liked asking me to guess what each piece of writing was describing, similar to a riddle. He also mentioned that he had been trying stand-up comedy, and shared a few jokes. His interest in working with words really amazed me.

I had asked him on his first visit if he’d like to contribute something to the group project. He had agreed, but needed more time to work on his poem, which was the one about water. Now, he had a few pieces of writing to choose from, and he wanted to somehow use the one about hatred. It was roughly two pages long, so we decided to cover one of the wooden panels with canvas. He wanted to copy the poem onto the canvas, but he thought he might need a stencil. Besides a badly fractured wrist, he had severed his index finger with a saw, and although it had been reattached, his handwriting was not as neat as he wanted it to be. He suggested to another visitor, who had just broken his wrist slipping on ice, to get physiotherapy as soon as possible.

James asked if I was familiar with a Genesis album called “Trick of the Tail”. He described the calligraphic writing used for its cover design, and asked if I could get him a stencil similar to that. I told him I would certainly try. We also figured out the size the letters would need to be to fit his poem on the canvas. As we worked, he described several other injuries he had received from playing soccer. Like many of the clients of the Ottawa Booth Centre, his life had been neither straightforward nor easy. However, James had recognized that he was able to overcome his circumstances, and worked hard to do so everyday.

In focusing on James’ experiences for this blog post, I am seeking resources for the Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre. To find out how you may offer support, please visit their Web site –

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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