by Riley Cassidy, Airdrie Echo
An Airdrie-based artist and community advocate was featured front and centre of an international magazine that went into circulation this month. Veronica Funk, an Airdrie-based artist with clients around the world was approached by What Women Create Magazine to do an article about her inspirations and painting process when doing portraits.
Her piece was originally intended to run in January 2022, but to her surprise it was published on June 1. As well, she was caught off-guard when learning that a photograph taken by her daughter was selected for the front page of the magazine. Funk’s article within the magazine centres around her inspirations behind her “The Grandmothers” project and her process of painting portraits. The project caught the eye of What Women Create publisher Jo Packham, and Funk said the project had special meaning to her, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Grandmothers project to me was such an important project because it started just before covid, and it was really interesting to see the women in generations before us, and what they have dealt with and overcome,” said Funk. “Especially in a time when so many of our seniors were affected by (the pandemic), and so many have died because of covid.”
One of her main messages was that anyone can succeed in their goals if they persist, she said. “I’ve lived in Airdrie for over 20 years, and I’ve developed an art career in the years that I’ve been here. Back then, it was so hard to get information on how to do what you want to do and where to start—where to find inspiration and how to know when your artwork is done,” said Funk. “I wanted to hopefully inspire other artists, and especially emerging ones. Just keep painting or drawing, or whatever it is that you do,” she said.
A second piece of her message within the magazine was recognizing the importance of elders and their knowledge. “The other thing is to share the importance of our elders and their wisdom. My project wasn’t just about painting their portraits, but about sharing their stories as well,” she said.
The front page photo features Funk in front of her latest project, “Extraordinary Women,” which features portraits of contemporary women from across Canada who serve as an inspiration to others. After making front page of the magazine, Funk has evidently proved to be an extraordinary woman herself, serving as an inspiration to others.
Funk has made art her living, serving as the art and culture coordinator at the Airdrie Public Library for a number of years, as well as an art instructor at Bert Church Theatre. She said that even in non-artistic positions, she has always found a way to include her passion.
“You’re always told that you can’t make a living as an artist, but it’s not true. I’ve been in business management, but I’ve always done interior design and even letterhead design. I’ve always used that creative part of me no matter what role I was in,” said Funk.
Funk said earning the recognition from the What Women Create Magazine and being given the opportunity to inspire others was an honour.
“I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes person, and so it’s really nice to be able to support other people however that is,” she said. “Sometimes we’re taught to make ourselves small, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s very humbling.”
The What Women Create magazine can be found at newsstands in book, grocery, and craft stores. It’s distributed throughout North America, and has subscribers internationally.
It's really important for me to keep growing and keep finding new things.
In her memoir Lady Parts, comedy star Andrea Martin writes that in the 1970s, comedians weren't as easy to come by as they are now. "Comedians were much more rare," she tells NPR's Arun Rath. They were "like rock stars, really celebrated."
"It was not like it is now, where there are so many more opportunities for women in particular in comedy, and because of all the other improv groups. Back then, you know, Second City was kind of the only improv group that was happening. Now there's The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade and ImprovOlympic which is a great breeding ground for young comedians and then they go on to Saturday Night Live. But then, in the '70s, there wasn't that kind of place."
"I'm not the girl who gets to make out with Ryan Gosling in a scene. I'm the housekeeper who comes in on Ryan Gosling and then I do a spit take and then trip over his underwear and knock my head as I walk out on all fours. That's my part. So I think there's longevity ... I really think, if you are funny, I don't think age has anything to do with it, honestly."
But I have discovered something about modest people.
If there’s any singular, capital-T Truth threaded through Adult Onset, the latest by author and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, it’s this: if you don’t make amends with your suffering, you’ll pass it along.
Coughing up the troubling snapshots of your own past can soften their lingering sting, and can maybe even stave off the doom (yes, doom) of repeating your own devastating history. Logic suggests that the not-so-fun game of misery hot potato stops there.
This parable is drawn out through the character of Mary Rose MacKinnon. Like MacDonald, Mary Rose is a successful author raising two young children with her theatre director wife in the yummy mummy stronghold of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. Her aging parents are increasingly fragile but well-meaning, sending emails bursting with parental pride over Mary Rose’s queer role-model status in light of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, whose videos they have just discovered. All seems well on the surface, until domestic tensions trigger the recurrence of symptoms from a childhood illness, a psychological flare-up of repressed memory is ignited in turn. Enter: mommy issues.
“There are schools of mental health thought which predict that if you went through a trauma for example, or a difficult time at a certain age—with, perhaps, your mother—then if you have a child, when they enter that same phase of life you might find yourself re-enacting it,” says MacDonald. “But you’ll be playing a different part—that of perpetrator, abuser, person who loves you that hurts you. Otherwise often known as your parent.”
But Mary Rose’s mother is also wounded, a Catholic stay-at-home matriarch of the Mother’s Little Helper epoch who suffered miscarriages, crib deaths and postpartum depressions. As both mother and daughter age into new life-phases, their overlapping wounds take on new meaning.
"Much like the protagonist, I never expected to be a mother. I certainly never expected to be married. When I was younger, as soon as I understood I was a lesbian at age five before I knew there was a word for it, I thought ‘This is trouble. You’re never getting married.’ Brave new world, that has such married people in it. So no, I never thought that parenthood ever conferred any kind of adult status on anyone. In fact, a lot of people hurdle backwards when they’re responsible for someone else. That is not a magic wand."
~ Kelli Korducki, Hazlitt
Whenever I paint a portrait, I find that it doesn't really matter too much which colours I use as long as there is a mixture of warm & cool and transparent & opaque though I do often tend to lean towards primary colours. In this case, I have worked on both of these portraits with the same palette - turquoise deep, napthol crimson, titanium white, Turner's yellow and burnt umber (Liquitex heavy body acrylics). I tend to avoid browns and blacks as I prefer to mix my own but on occasion I will incorporate a small amount.
What I find the most interesting is how many different tones and colours I can create with such a limited palette. Initially, when I began painting 20+ years ago, I only used ultramarine blue, cadmium red & yellow medium and titanium white. I still managed to create 1000 paintings (over many years) that were all very different from one another with such a limited range of colours. I do incorporate a broader palette now, particularly for the backgrounds of my paintings, and I think that layering helps to create a greater variety of tints & tones in each painting.
We’re at a time right now where we need to be amplifying voices that haven’t been amplified.
MLA Janis Irwin was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and is currently the Official Opposition Deputy Whip and the Critic for Women and LGBTQ2S+ issues. MLA Irwin is an empowering leader with a passion for communities, education and social justice.
Put yourself out there and show up because you absolutely have something to offer.
MLA Irwin explains, “I am an introvert and historically I’ve been very shy and I’ve had to overcome that, and I look back at the times where I've had to put myself out there and show up to community meetings where no one knows you and they may all dismiss you but show up anyways and offer your support and the skills you have”, she adds “especially women, we tend to sell ourselves short and tend to minimize our gifts and our abilities, I would encourage my young self to not be so reserved and feel like I don’t have something to contribute”. She reiterates, “if you’re unsure and you think you don’t have the experience and you think you are not qualified, you know what, I bet you are and I also bet that a man with similar experiences as you is not asking himself the same questions”.
Fostering support for diverse Albertans beyond tokenism.
Speaking to how her position as a member of the Legislative assembly has invalidated the notion of tokenism towards women, BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities, MLA Irwin says, “my experience is a privileged one but what I can do is try to amplify and uplift their experiences and share their voices in the legislature”. MLA Irwin is committed to tangible action and is striving to work hard to change the diversity in the legislature, stating “we can’t have tokenistic statements that are not followed up by anything concrete”.
Emphasis on the invaluable purpose of an intersectional lens.
“My view of intersectionality is basically looking at the various ways which a person's identities intersect, so we’re talking about gender, race, disabilities, sexuality, religion and the list goes on and we’re also examining privilege as well”. MLA Irwin was proud of the work the previous NDP government did to uplift and give voice to diverse Albertans. “Not just token messages of support, that meant actually adjusting our ABC’s - agencies, boards and commissions - so that women, non binary folks, gender diverse people, folks from the BIPOC community were actually represented”. MLA Irwin stressed “when i look around at our legislature, the diversity of our province is not reflected. I wanna go into that legislature, and not speak for other communities, but to amplify their voices”.
~ DirectHer Network
I didn’t intend to be political. But somebody has to be the troublemaker
Jane Ash Poitras was born in Fort Chipewyan Alberta in 1951. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Poitras was six and she was adopted by an elderly German woman. She grew up in Edmonton, Alberta in a Catholic household. Before turning to a career in the arts, she obtained a B.Sc. in microbiology at the University of Alberta. She later obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the University of Alberta and a Master's from Columbia University.
Internationally acclaimed Canadian artist Jane Ash Poitras says her works “are all about serendipity. Being in the right place at the wrong time. Or the wrong place at the right time, making those connections and creating a piece of art about it.”
Poitras began making seemingly contradictory connections as a young adult. Following a Roman Catholic upbringing in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, she began exploring her Cree heritage. She earned a degree in microbiology, then studied art at Columbia University where she was influenced by the work of American artists Mark Rothko, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. She developed her own unique practice of layering images, text, textures and found objects into diverse narratives in her painting and printmaking. Her work continues to be deeply political, spiritual, scientific and outspoken.
NGC Magazine: You said that you feel Prayer Ties My People, one of your works in the Gallery’s collection, is misnamed. Why?
Jane Ash Poitras: This piece is about the little bundles of cloth that we spend hours making for a ceremony. We put the tobacco in each one, then we tie them to our Sun Dance poles for when we do our Sun Dance ceremony. Those prayers are offered up to the Great Spirit of whatever religion you are. It should be called "Prayer Ties for Everyone" because everyone needs prayer ties. Even the politicians. Who else is going to tell them what to do if not the artists? We have been influencing politicians for time immemorial.
NGC Magazine: You cite the influence of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. How did they influence your technique and practice?
Jane Ash Poitras: I like Twombly’s scribbles and messages. Same with Rauschenberg. He writes on his work and he was inspired by his mother who was a seamstress. That’s why he has patchwork on his work, collaging it and patching it. These artists were transformers. They put pieces together that others said shouldn’t go together. But they said to hell with it, let’s see what comes out of this. What usually came out of it was a big statement because of their genius and their intuitiveness and intelligence. They were saying: "Wake up world. We need to talk about climate change. We need to talk about the opiate crisis."
NGC Magazine: Your work reflects a powerful combination of the spiritual and the political.
Jane Ash Poitras: I have done that all my life and that is how I got respect. I am fearless. I’m a law-abiding, Catholic person, but I don’t mind telling people off, the ones who deserve to be told off. But they know when they deserve it and I embrace them with love and spiritually heal them. I believe art can be spiritually healing.
~ National Gallery of Canada
Registration for the Levelling Up Aspring Artist Mastermind group is now open...more information can be found online here. We work together as part of a small supportive group to hone your style and find your creative voice. Memberships are available on a monthly basis
AM I AN ASPIRING ARTIST? As an aspiring artist, you have been creating on the side, as a hobby, and now you're ready to take it to the next level.
YOU'RE INTERESTED IN:
LevellingUp’s Mastermind groups are high-impact apprenticeship communities. There are a maximum of 8 Member artists in each Mastermind group, plus a Navigator facilitator, plus the Master.Your group meets with your Master Artist once monthly for a 2 hour live mentoring session using Zoom. Between monthly sessions, you get support and encouragement from your artist peers on LevellingUp’s private discussion board, LUchat.
During the first hour of each monthly session the Master provides feedback on the homework you completed since your last session. The second hour of each session is spent in new teaching, with the teaching focused on what your Master feels you need to know next to progress on your artist journey. Every session ends with a homework assignment related to the teaching.
Since there is no homework to review in the first session, the first hour of the first Mastermind session typically has the Master ensuring they fully understand the needs of each Member. This time is also a great opportunity for you to get to know the other artists in the group.
Members tell us the safe community their group provides gives them the encouragement and support essential to venture out into new territory.
The more you are in the room working, experimenting, banging away at your objective,
the more luck has a chance of biting you on the nose.
~Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
Story-tellers and poets are the history-keepers of our time. If we do not give voice to the people, they will be silenced, and time will cease.
That’s a microcosm of how Wilson processes life, whether in her long-time role as artist and prolific author of nine award-winning books, two CDs and four VideoPoems; or in her well-known role as mentor and educator. Sheri-D has always been dedicated to stirring the creative pot on many levels. Philosophically she believes “it’s not what you take, but what you give back.” That mind-set is that established the requirement for any poet to win the award given in her name by The League of Canadian Poets—The Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award.
In 2003 she started and produced the popular Calgary Spoken Word Festival, which ran for 11 years and became the largest spoken word festival in North America. She was the founder and director of the Spoken Word Program at The Banff Centre (2005 – 2012).
Currently, she is an MFA advisor to the UofS and she has coached the Calgary Slam team (for National Competition) for nine years. These are just some of the accomplishments that led her to win the 2015 City of Calgary Arts Award! She says her imperative to pass on the ‘word,’ comes from the deep respect she has for her own teachers. Wilson studied with the likes of Allen Ginsburg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Diane di Prima, Micki Maunsell, and others.
Recently when Sheri-D broke her knee, instead of feeling bummed out, she managed to transform being semi-confined into a creative opportunity. The life lesson that perpetually active Wilson learned from being forced to lie back and be (physically) inactive for a while, was that those same limits that a busted knee impose upon you can also unleash a wild mind to new flights of fancy.
“Something from the outside comes into your life,” she says, “and changes it. Something intervenes. Something from the outside comes in and goes, ‘okay, you are not allowed to move right now.’ And then something comes out of it and you go wow, that’s very, very interesting. Like, I wrote a new book of poetry, and yesterday I found out U of C Press is going to publish it. And I suppose, out of this silence came music, because I also recorded a CD. It was funny, I was in a full leg cast and I guess you could say I spoke into my crutch! This isn’t physical movement,” she says. “It’s soul movement.”
Wilson, a long-time practising Buddhist believes her physical limitations helped spur a new level in her creative life. Why live creatively? Maybe because it’s precisely that creative ability to take the lemons life throws at you and turn them into lemon meringue which Wilson has mastered, that needs to extend beyond the arts community.
At a time when there seems to be a massive disconnect between voters and the individuals running for elected office all around the world, Wilson sees creativity as the key to bridging the gap—and happily, for Calgary, believes that our city actually possesses a few politicians who also manage to live creative lives. “Calgary has a lot of amazing artists,” she says. “A lot! I don’t know that we believe there are a lot of really interesting thinkers, philosophers, poets, and other artists who live in Calgary. And… as things change, they’re evolving… Calgary is a very beautiful city, set in a very beautiful place, which is why I choose to live here. I love the landscape. We have the foothills, the mountains, the badlands, the prairies and the sky.”
~ Stephen Hunt
My parents lived, breathed, ate and slept theatre. Emotions were right on the surface. Growing up, the unreal had as much importance as the real.
Q: Was it just natural to become an actor or did you want to do something else to begin with?
MF: No, I think I always wanted – whatever illusions I had about doing something else, my love and heart was always definitely in this industry. I’d come by insanity, honestly.
Q: Your characters in Reign and Wynonna Earp are very different. What did you like best about playing each character?
MF: I loved playing Catherine in Reign because it got to develop over a while and she was multi-faceted too. She was obviously very powerful and strong and a flawed personality which is always very fun to play. I always say Catherine was somebody who didn’t have permission to own her power because she was a female. She wasn’t born with a title and her head was literally on and off the chopping block. Her job was to breed and produce further heirs. She was fiercely loyal to her sons, but also really capable of ruling, but had to do it through other voices. I found that consequently made her someone who we could perceive as manipulative but it was because she didn’t have the right of ownership to her power. I loved playing her and in our show there was room for humour which I think was critical and we played with that.
Michelle Earp is someone who is definitely fierce as well. There would be a link in the fierce department. She’s fiery and loyal and the girls will learn why and what that means. What’s really fun about Wynonna Earp is there is a lot of humour in it as well which I love. I love the comedy.
Q: Now, you starred as Anne of Green Gables, so what’s it like for you to be part of a huge cultural Canadian legacy in literature and entertainment with Anne of Green Gables. There are still shows on right now like the new Anne. What’s that mean to you?
MF: I feel really blessed and lucky. As a young person I got to play such a phenomenal character, first of all, just a beautifully constructed character. I got to play someone who was number one, meaning as a young female her storyline, her thoughts and feelings, her desires were the spine of the story. She wasn’t an appendage on someone else’s story.
I think that was why from the moment the book was first written and created at a time where we can see, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book was rejected a number of times by different publishers. First of all female authors were not really supported or considered which led for her to have an incredible frustration and complex character with her own issues and a richness which she poured into this character which all of a sudden gave breath and life into the fact that a young girl could have these dreams and aspirations and the right to an education and to have a voice. This was being written 100 something years ago! We’ve come so far and yet have so far to come.
I think that’s why Anne still resonates so strongly for people as a voice of someone who was also considered an outsider. She was not someone who had any value. She came from no money and she was even worse in the eyes of society because she was an orphan. She was considered trash literally, that’s one of the things people call her. Yet she rises above that because of her mind, her love of language, love of learning. That’s why globally Anne, no matter where I’ve gone in the world, people have seen that and meant a lot. People first read those books and then their grandmothers, mothers, aunts and whoever else would pass them on to people. Then this show, this particular iteration we had done, came around and we were very, very true in that first 4-hour miniseries in particular to the very methodical journey of the character and what the author had done. It meant a lot to people because young women could say, ‘Oh I see me. I see someone who people think isn’t beautiful. Look at how smart I can be. I have the right to a voice’. I gave you a long answer, but that’s why it’s lasted. It’s not just about a cute girl on an island and the flowers are pretty. That’s not what Anne of Green Gables is about.
Q: To that point of what you said about fierce characters, if a girl wants to become a fierce character to by imitation, what kind of guidelines should you give her as an actor?
MF: I think finding one’s voice is always a lifelong journey. It’s a struggle and we want acceptance, of course we do. Sometimes actually really being true to ourselves can feel lonely, and yet that will ultimately be the thing that will be the most authentic. I think it really comes back to authenticity, and ultimately it’s hard because of this world that we live in, and for young people, I really, really feel for them because you’re being bombarded with images of things or ‘I should be there’ or ‘why don’t people like me enough, why didn’t I get invited to this, why aren’t my numbers high enough, why are you ghosting me’. All of this stuff is pressure, you know? I think we need to be okay to sit in our own skins and sit with ourselves a little bit. And sometimes that may feel lonely, but that’s actually where we’re really going to find each other, if that makes sense.
~ Britany Murphy
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +