Tag Archives: Possibilities Project

7 Steps to Let Art Happen

7 steps to let art happen copy

With less than 24 hours to go before the 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness started, one of our keynote presenters took ill. We met as the organizing committee and the decision was made that I would give the address at noon the next day. It was specific to a play that was to be performed, one which I had a deep understanding of. It was my eldest daughter’s play which she’d written as a 20-year-old volunteer in the art program I’d started at the shelter where I used to work.

I knew I was best suited to set the stage for the play, but I was a tad panicked. I still had the official conference powerpoint to prepare and the final tweaks to the EMCEE notes to finish off. Plus, I was meeting the team at the hotel to help set up that evening.

Panic, fear, anxiety were not my friends.

I had to let them go. I breathed.

And then I breathed some more.

I arrived at the hotel for the opening reception and afterwards asked the team if they were okay setting up without me. They had no problem. It was all my head dancing with fear (and a little bit of procrastination) that made me feel like I ‘needed’ to be there.

I came home and worked on my presentation and suddenly, where I did not know it was already germinating, a presentation appeared with 7 key points to highlight how it was that art happened in a place where survival was the name of the game, and art was not considered part of the survival path.

That was my first lesson on how to Let Art Happen — anywhere. Trust in the process.  

In letting go of fear and giving into trust, the ideas and words and underlying framework of the presentation appeared. Which is also what happened when I first set up the Possibilities Project at the shelter. I simply trusted in the process. Trusted it was the right thing to do with a donation that had been given to the shelter from a church – they wanted to support art in the shelter. I knew I could make that happen simply by trusting in my own creative and artistic abilities.

The second step that became clear was Persistence is vital. I started writing the story of a man who kept refusing to come up to the studio space until one day, after weeks of asking, he simply said, “Now’s the time.” He became one of the cornerstones of the project’s success.

Find value in all things was a challenge the day I discovered much of the art stored in the large multi-purpose room had inadvertently been thrown into a dumpster on the loading dock. We salvaged much of it — and I used that event to leverage the value of having a dedicated art studio for the project.

Watching how the artists were delighted for each other when they sold a piece at the art shows was a true lesson in how to Be Grateful for all things. It didn’t matter if they sold a piece for $5 or if another sold 10 pieces to their one. They were all grateful for the opportunity to share their work.

From a man holding a paint brush for the first time in 20 years breaking into tears and committing himself to another path, to a woman selling her first piece and deciding to connect with supports to find a way out of homelessness, Always believe in miracles was vital to the success of the project.

We do not know what will happen when we Plant seeds of possibility. We can be confident something will. Seeds of possibility are closely linked to miracles — you need the seeds planted to grow into those beautiful miracles of life dancing all around.

Every life is a work of art. It’s important that we each Be the artist in our own lives. Artists honour their talent. They trust it and respect it. They value its presence and treat it with love and compassion and do not give up in believing in themselves, even on their darkest days. Artists let their creative expression out. Always. When we become like the artist, miracles happen, possibility explodes wide open and life expands into limitless opportunity to be ourselves, in every kind of weather, no matter where we are. All because, we Let Art Happen.

Let Art Happen.

  1. Trust in the process
  2. Persistence is vital
  3. Find value in all things
  4. Be grateful for all things
  5. Always believe in miracles
  6. Plant seeds of possibility
  7. Be the artist in your own life.

 

PS. The play was amazing. More about that in another post!

Feeling lucky.

The C-train is pulling to a stop in the station as I validate my ticket in the machine at the top of the stairs. I quickly take the time-stamped ticket from the slot, stuff it into my pocket and start racing down the stairs. I am halfway down as the doors open and then close. I figure I won’t make it and slow to a walk when I see the driver smiling up at me through the plate glass windows of his cubicle. I race down the stairs, smile and wave my ‘thank you’. He opens the doors, I get on and the train, carrying me and all the other passengers, moves on.

“I’m so lucky!” I think.

Later, I am talking with a co-worker about my experience at Shelter from the Storm on Saturday night. I was reminded how much I miss the people in that place, I told them. How much I miss the daily connection with the people for whom we are holding the vision of ending homelessness. (I worked at the shelter for 6 years prior to joining the homeless Foundation where I work now).

I could never work there, my co-worker said. I’d get so immersed in fixing what was wrong, I’d sink under the weight of the task.

What if there’s lots right? I asked.

In 2006, when I started working at the shelter, I started an art program that became the foundation of many art’s based initiatives throughout the shelter.  When we first set up the program, I had the participants, all clients at the shelter, create the Rules of Conduct that each person had to sign in order to use the studio. The rules included things such as no food in the studio, leave your personal baggage at the door, find a way to get along with the other artists and honour the space and those who use it.

Every so often, clients would come to the studio upset about something they felt had gone wrong with someone else whose conduct did not measure up to their ideas.

“I’m never coming back to the studio if they are,” and they would name the person whose behaviour they found so objectionable.

And my response would always be, “That is your choice. You get to decide whether or not you come to the studio, or not. You get to decide to work out this situation, or not. If you enjoy coming to the studio, is it worth finding another path to resolve this situation than to walk away?”

Inevitably, they would find another path, or not. It was always their choice.

I was not powerful enough to fix the situation or the relationship with another person or whatever angst they were carrying.

None of us are that powerful.

The power we carry is the one that can make changes in our own lives. Changes that will create different ripples, different paths to living the life we always dreamed of and in the process, empower us to hold doors and spaces open for others.

 

I raced to catch the C-train yesterday morning. The driver held the train, just for me. I felt lucky.

It wasn’t luck. It was because I met a fellow traveller who believed in his power to hold doors open for others so they could get where they were going smiling and feeling lucky.

What a wonderful gift he gave me!

There would have been another train behind that one and I would have taken it. In his gift though, I was reminded that we all have the power to hold doors and spaces open for one another. In the ripple of our actions, other lives are impacted in ways we never could imagine.

Let’s all hold doors open for one another today! Imagine the miracles we can create for one another!

 

 

 

 

HOPE: The Ultimate Un-guide. There is hope in hopelessness

Hope banner copy

It was a week of hearts breaking open, sadness pouring out, sorrow lifting up. It was a week of self-love pushing away hatred, peace embracing anger, forgiveness cascading over resentment.

It was a week of hopelessness transforming into hope, of possibility awakening in the depths of despair, of new life breathing deeply into the darkness that once held hearts frozen in fear.

It was a week coaching at Choices.

And I am grateful.

I am often asked why I volunteer so much time coaching at Choices.

There is so much value I receive by staying involved with the program.

It makes my life and all my relationships better.

It keeps me using the tools I’ve learned through the program so that old habits don’t break down new ways of living life on the far side of my comfort zone.

It helps me stay on track, accountable, and present in my life.

It gives me a chance to give back.

It keeps me connected to people who want to create a world of difference in their lives and in the world around them.

And then, there is the very real and simple reason I experienced this week.

It reminds me that there is hope and possibility for change in every life. It reminds me that in a world filled with darkness, there is light.

On Thursday afternoon last week, I received a call from a former co-worker at the homeless shelter where I used to work. He told me someone I know had been killed. A suspicious death, the police termed it. The investigation into who or what killed him continues but for Ryan Delve, all hope of finding another path to live his life without fearing each step would lead him deeper into the darkness of homelessness died on Thursday, June 4, 2015.

It was the end of his road.

Ryan was an artist. I wrote of him last year when he participated in an art show I helped organize and he chose to donate a painting to the silent auction we held in support of Alpha House, a shelter here in the city.

Like all of us, Ryan had hopes and dreams and a fervent desire to live better, live well, live beyond his past.

Like all of us, Ryan knew what it felt like to lose at love, to be hurt by another, to be lost in confusion of where to go next.

Like all of us, Ryan knew joy, laughter, sadness, despair, anger, fear, peace, love…

Like all of us, Ryan lived his human condition as best he could, doing whatever he could to get from A to B with the tools and resources he had available.

Like few of us, Ryan knew the homeless experience. He lived it. Every day. Even when he was housed briefly over the past year, the shadow of homelessness clouded his world, luring him back to its darkness.

When I heard the news of Ryan’s passing I stood in the hallway outside the room where the trainees were deeply into a process and felt the heaviness and futility of homelessness sink into my heart as quickly as a stone falls to the bottom of a well. My heart felt heavy, tight, constricted.

I asked a friend who was also coaching to chat with me for a moment. I needed to make sense of the senselessness of it all.

My friend R.A. asked if he could say a prayer for Ryan. I said yes.

In that moment of standing with my eyes closed, holding loving thoughts of Ryan and all those who live in the darkness of homelessness in my thoughts, peace descended.

It is true. I could not change the path that Ryan was on, just as I cannot change the paths of the thousands who live on the streets, in shelters, and on the margins of our society.

I can add my best to what we as a community are doing to make a difference to change the trajectory of homelessness into possibility. I can hold space for those who are walking the streets to find their way back home.

And, I can walk every day in peace, love, harmony, joy.  I can create space for possibility to arise, for hope to stay present, for change to happen. I can add my best to what so many others are doing to ensure we do not lose more people to homelessness.

And to do that, to hold space, to hold onto possibility, to create opportunities for change and not become burdened by the heaviness and sadness of homelessness, I coach at Choices.

At Choices I am reminded every day that there is hope, possibility and light in the darkness.

I am reminded that hearts can break open in love, that anger can flow free through forgiveness and that darkness always gives way to light.

I believe we can end homelessness, just as I believe we can create a better world for everyone.

To do my part, I must give my best. To give my best, I must surround myself with people who remind me every day to find value in all things, to live my truth and stand up for what I believe in.

We are all one in our human condition and when we share our light together, when we shine as one, as brightly as we can, the darkness fades, hope arises and possibility opens up in all our lives.

 

 

 

 

Begin with turning up

It was a full house last night at the Joe Dutton Theatre for the live recording of The Eviction of Stuart Block, a radio play written and created by people experiencing homelessness and people who are working to make a difference in the homeless sector. Created by This is My City for this years High Performance Rodeo, The Eviction of Stuart Block tells the storied history of a three storey former rooming house in Calgary’s downtown core that now sits empty, awaiting demolition.

The cast was primarily actors from the homeless shelter where I worked for almost six years until I resigned at the end of 2011. A motley crew of troubadours, actors, writers, misfits, down and outs and up and comers as Col Cseke, co-director of the piece called them in his introduction. And everyone laughed and for the next hour and a half, everyone was enchanted. Seriously enthralled by this motley crew who brought the real life comings and goings, joys and traumas of a rooming house’s slide from inner city influence into skid row dereliction to life on the stage.

It was a moving, touching and compelling evening for me (and everyone there). As Max, one of the actors said to me after the play, “There will always be a bit of you up there on the stage Louise. This would never have come to be without you.”

I was touched by his words. Touched by the grace of this man whom I first met sitting on the second floor of the shelter painting by himself at a table, surrounded by the chaos and hubbub of the busy day area of the shelter. “Why don’t you come up and paint with us on the sixth floor?” I asked him almost everyday for a month after starting the arts program. “It’s much quieter up there and the view is awesome.” (and the view of the Bow River and the valley to the north of the shelter is awesome!) And eventually, Max did come and join the group that met every Thursday evening in the multi-purpose room. And eventually, he opened up to his creative urges to explore more, to give more of himself to not only his art but also to creating music at the shelter and in the community. And in his sharing, songs have been written, a singing group formed and performances shared all over the city.

In May 2006 when I began working at the shelter, I started an arts program which, over the years, evolved into full spectrum arts-oriented programming that encompassed all the arts from visual to theatrical to musical and written/spoken word. Over the years, the Possibilities Project, as it became known, created opportunities for clients, volunteers, staff and the community to connect in ways beyond the traditional “Let me help you” model prevalent throughout the homeless service sector. The Possibilities Project made it possible for people to connect on the common ground of creative expression — no matter the medium, no matter their address.

I had a lot of ‘me’ invested in the Possibilities Project and no longer being involved, I felt the sadness and the pull of separation anxiety when I arrived at the theatre last night. And then I walked in as the DI Singers (the singing group Max continues to sing with that co-director of the play, Onalea Gilbertson started in 2009) began to perform their pre-show concert. The performers waved and smiled when they saw me and I waved and smiled back. I sat in the front row (a place I never sit) and became immersed in their performance.

It was a night of magic and wonder. Of witnessing the human spirit in flight. It was a moment to let go of regret and savour the wonder of what happens when an idea takes wings on the spirit of  human beings celebrating their magnificence.

I was touched by Max’s words to me last night. Touched and awed by the splendor of the people on that stage. And, I was humbled. Years ago I created a space for people to explore their creative yearnings. Today, they are still exploring those yearnings, still expressing their creative impulses and still creating special moments for all of us to witness and experience and enjoy.

As my friend Rachael said after the performance, “You made a difference by turning up tonight, Louise. It was important for everyone on that stage that you be here.”

I am blessed. I didn’t have to ‘do’ anything to make a difference. All I had to do was turn up and be part of the magic.

It’s all any of us have to do. To make a difference begin with turning up. Turn up and let the magic happen.

And here’s a great article by Stephen Hunt in the Calgary Herald about the play. Homeless build show from century-old building.