October 31, 2017

by Stasa Veroukis-Regina

I was sitting on the floor in my office, sorting through all 150 canvasses that were created along the North Route of the ART EXRESS’D and I found two canvasses featuring big red hearts. At that moment I was struck with a deep desire to paint. One canvas was painted in Inuvik, the other in Churchill. I’ve always had a thing for hearts, so naturally these images struck a chord with me. And then I smiled, thinking “That’s exactly what we wanted to accomplish with ART EXPRESS’D – to inspire Canadians to create, to make art, to spark emotion.”
I started working on ART EXPRESS’D in late November 2016 – it’s been nearly a year and I feel very grateful to have had this opportunity to be the “hub” of this incredible project. It really was incredible! I have many memories from this year, these are just a few of my highlights.

I remember calling Jessie one day to chat about upcoming travel logistics but we ended up chatting about her experiences so far along her travels. She told me how she felt exhilarated bringing painting to the north. Although northern communities are filled with artists, painting is typically under-represented as a medium. She felt energized bringing her workshops to these communities to perhaps inspire others to paint.

I remember when Evin was in Ottawa we were booked at Inspiration Village during the weekend that La Machine turned the streets of Ottawa into a giant puppet theatre. Thousands upon thousands of people lined the streets and Evin was rushed off his feet creating papier mache characters and facilitating stop-motion animation all weekend. In the hubbub though, he managed to take some time to enjoy the theatrics of La Machine and become a spectator himself. He was amazed and inspired – and I couldn’t be more pleased that he got a chance to see the spectacle and take part in this once in a lifetime event.

I remember Becky working with children and with Minister Melanie Joly on a hot summer’s day at the Forks Parks Canada Place in Winnipeg. She was between stops on her tour and was able to fly back to Winnipeg. When the Minister visited Winnipeg Becky was in town and could run a workshop. Seeing Becky in action and in her element was a real treat for me because I remained in Winnipeg the entire time directing traffic from my office. Becky is a natural teacher and clearly at ease facilitating artmaking with people of all ages. She helped Minister Joly paint her very own stencil and I was able to witness the joy of artmaking.

Were there bumps along the way? Of course. This was a unique project with unique challenges. I was nervous as the launch day approached and each of the containers were on the road en route to the three coasts. Becky, Evin, and Jessie hit the road via planes and cars. Would they reach their destinations on time? (They did). Would the mobile art studios make their way without delay? (There were delays, but the mobile art studios made it to all three coasts for the launch date). I definitely learned a lot along the way. I learned how big Canada really is. I learned it’s actually faster to get to Inuvik than it is to St. John’s – who knew? Most importantly, though, I learned how helpful people are along the way. I worked with people at 15 different community organizations across the country at galleries, parks, art centres, community halls, theatres, universities, and schools. They were all happy to host our traveling art studios and help coordinate events on the ground. Even when I was not able to be there in person, these individuals took the reins and made sure the events were successful.

There were a lot of people along the way who helped out and I recognize that without them this tour wouldn’t have gone very far. Everyone at the venues (our hosts), our sponsors, and of course the team at the WAG. Thank you to all the hosts and teams of people who made each event a success!

Working at the WAG was an amazing opportunity for me, and I thank all the people at the WAG for making ART EXPRESS’D shine. It’s been a joy to come to work at the WAG every day, to be surrounded by people passionate about the arts, and who are willing to help out wherever possible.

The WAG’s ambitious vision for Canada 150 to turn three sea containers into mobile art studios, pack them up with art supplies, and send them off across Canada with three artists leading the way has now been realized. Now, at the end of the journey, I am happy to say this project accomplished what it set out to do – to bring art to communities across Canada.

Enjoy this photo of me exploring shipping containers last winter.

Project Manager Stasa Veroukis-Regina scoping out a shipping container