Pick any public celebration in any community and regardless of the reason, it’s almost always the arts which highlights the gathering.
For local artist in residence Kat Wahamaa, the act of creating is what bonds a community together.
So, as she approaches the first year of her residency, she’s excited to see how art can unite people on topics she feels a deep connection with.
Wahamaa is currently working with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society to initiate conversations centred around local watersheds and sustainability.
The two will hold a series of public forums during which Wahamaa will use the information to create a musical piece called WaterBody, which will be performed on both World Water Day on March 22 and Earth Day on April 18.
“With WaterBody, we invite people of all ages who are curious and concerned about water to sing, dance, or create to participate in a choral and movement piece I have composed for this project,” said Wahamaa.
“Through shared experiences and everyone’s creative input, we will work together over February and March to develop this piece and hopefully inspire people to contemplate and engage in the stewardship of our home waters, with performances on World Water Day and on Earth Day.”
She said the workshops leading up to the performances will examine our elemental relationship to water and reflect on how we, as a community, use water in our everyday life and how other communities have expanded the water conversation through the arts.
Wahamaa said she’s enjoying building bridges in the community through local projects.
As a musician, she’s also teamed up with the Community Education on Environment and Development Centre Society to present a songwriters circle to help local musicians.
The events go every fourth Wednesday at the CEED centre, located at 11739 223rd. St. in Maple Ridge.
“It’s not a typical session where a panel of people are going to get together and destroy whatever creative piece you’ve constructed,” explains Wahamaa. “It’s about nurturing and supporting.”
That concept of nurturing is something she said is far too often squashed in budding young artists.
Growing up in Sudbury, Ont., she said she was fortunate to have a family and teachers who encouraged her love of music.
But she said in today’s culture, there’s far too much emphasis on consuming rather than creating.
She attributes part of the problem on a label that’s often associated with people who make a living in the arts.
“There’s a whole elitist perception around art, and I’m always trying to smash that down,” said Wahamaa. “Sometimes it’s so hard for an artist to call themselves an artist because that label is taboo.”
She said the issue is a North American problem, where far too often those who control the purse strings care more about an immediate return on investment rather than building strong communities through the arts.
She said by including members of the community in discussions like WaterBody or through songwriter circles, she hopes she can help build a stronger community.
“In every community, there is some element of people kind of working in silos,” she explained.
“Wouldn’t it be great to bring it all together. That’s what I do, act as a connector. It’s nice to be able to bring so many wonderful artists together.”
Anyone interested in joining WaterBody, workshops will be held Jan. 28 and 31 as well as Feb. 2 and 4. For more info and locations of meetings contact Lina Azeez of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society at 604-537-2341 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.