This year, visual artist Marie Bilodeau ran a series of storytelling workshops with the senior’s day program at the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre as part of the Art Place program. She shared her final thoughts on her time in-residence and her experience working with this group of Ottawa residents.
How would you describe your overall experience with Art Place?
Very different. I had the chance to try different approaches to storytelling and work with a group that I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. I’m very grateful to have been given this experience!
What are some of the most significant things you’ve learned throughout your project?
To let go and just let art happen, that memory isn’t necessary for a good story, and that some things cannot be planned for.
How was your project a success?
I managed to work with two groups and we forged a community with its own stories and history. We didn’t necessarily create the planned art together, but we formed ties through it. As a performer, I had to push beyond my comfort level to engage them and keep them engaged, which was great for personal growth.
What do you intend for audiences to see, experience, and think about when learning about your project?
That art is for everyone, and we can’t take people’s abilities for granted or assume they can’t do something because of where they’re at. Give them room, give them art, and see what they choose to do with it.
In what ways did or will the community benefit from your project?
It’s hard to tell, to be honest. With dementia, the truth is that they may not remember much for very long. But I’m hoping they forged ties together that will resonate for a while. I’ll certainly remember their stories.
In your opinion, what did the participants learn from the project?
That their stories were as important as anyone else’s story. That was a tough message to get across, but once they started to see that, they shared more.
Do you have anything else you would like to share about your project or the program?
I loved the flexibility of the project and the ability and room to adapt to participant needs. It allowed for the necessary room to work with the participants in a way that worked for them, instead of a rigid plan to accomplish a set goal. It gave both the workshop participants and myself the necessary space to get to know each other, accept limitations, and then gently push on them as a group. I’m still amazed by what we accomplished as a group, thanks to Art Place.
Click here to read Marie’s blogs and to learn more about her Art Place project with the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre.