Artists from various disciplines across Prince Edward Island have been awarded government grants to pursue their craft. A total of $100,000 was awarded to 32 projects by established and emerging artists in film and media arts, music, theatre, crafts, visual arts, interdisciplinary arts, writing and publishing.
With the assistance of Michelle MacCallum, Arts Community Liaison Officer with the PEI Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, The Buzz plans to profile a select number of these artists as they realize their projects.
First is Megan Stewart whose grant was awarded to assist with her production of “Wake the River Clyde.” This is her (edited) response to our request to tell us who she is, and what she plans to do.
“I am a theatre artist and performance maker. My theatre practice encompasses directing, producing and performing in solo and collaborative works of devised theatre, as well as leading community-based theatre projects. I also create interactive artworks that draw from installation, performance art and social practice.
“I’ve been doing participatory, community-based projects since 2011, when I started the Crow Parade for Art in the Open, in Charlottetown in collaboration with Jamie Shannon & Harmony Wagner. The Crow Parade has since taken on a life of its own, and is an annual tradition as part of the festival.
“I am co-directing and producing the second year of The River Clyde Pageant, called Wake the River Clyde, after a pretty remarkable first year of the event, in July 2016. The first Pageant started coming to life in early 2015, when Ker Wells, my co-director, and I got together and shared ideas about creating an outdoor processional performance in PEI.
“Ker’s sister, Emily, had recently taken over The Mill in New Glasgow, and was learning about the state of the River Clyde that flows through the village. There had been a thriving shipbuilding industry in New Glasgow during the 1800s, and enormous ships had sailed down the River Clyde, into the Saint Lawrence. The river would have been at least 30 feet deep then. Now, much of the river is not much deeper than 4 or 5 feet and it becomes clogged with rotting sea lettuce in the summers – due to factors ranging from erosion and climate change, to farming practices that don’t leave enough of a barrier to reduce topsoil runoff. And while we wanted to address these issues in the Pageant, we did not want to create something that was divisive or polemical — we wanted to make something that would encourage an imaginative and empathetic understanding of all the people and wildlife whose lives might be affected by an unhealthy river, and incite people to take action.
“We had over 100 people participate as performers, volunteers, builders, and members of the creative team. Nearly 500 people came to see two performances and a dress rehearsal, which we opened up to audiences when our tickets sold out.
“For Wake the River Clyde, we will bring back many of the much-loved parts of the first Pageant, but there will be a new story, some new characters, and new elements. Stilt workshops will return, again led by Laura Astwood. Michael Geither, who participated in last year’s Pageant with his family as luminous jellyfish, will be leading a creative writing workshop to develop new scenes for the show. Two artists from New Orleans, Kathy Randels & Maurice Turner, will lead a week-long music workshop to create a Pageant marching band. Our friend Ian McFarlane, a puppeteer who has done a lot of work with Bread & Puppet theatre in rural Vermont, will teach workshops on making puppets from junk and found materials that we will gather during a shoreline cleanup effort.”
Megan reports that the grant she received was an early source of the funding that she is raising for the Pageant. She says that she feels she is still an emerging artist, and that the support “was meaningful to me” in that it added impetuous to her crowd funding campaign (chuffed.org). Other support comes from the admission donations of audiences at the Pageant, and in-kind from the local area—such as from The Mill , the New Glasgow Christian Church and the PEI Preserve Company.