If you don’t mind stairs, I’d like to invite you to climb some with me. Just one set. I am curious. A sign made of two pieces of sample flooring on the street advertises Freestyle Art and Supplies. Handmade signs guide me as I go up the stairs and around a corner, through the magic door, and voilà – I find myself in an emporium of light, colour and baskets of colourful wires, feathers, bottle caps, wool, sticks, hockey sticks, papers, old CD’s – you name it, Freestyle Art and Supplies has it! I feel immediately at home. I want to do a happy dance all around the battered art tables! There is so much to look at. It is like the best kind of candy store suggesting all kinds of creative and intriguing possibilities. Here, in this magical place, the dreamchild of Swift Current artist and social entrepreneur Nancy Currie, creative transformation happens every day. Nancy collects things that no one else wants, and provides a space for anyone to come and transform these scraps, left overs and rejected bits and pieces into beauty!! (To read more about Freestyle, check out Matthew Liebenberg’s article in Swift Current’s Prairie Post.)
Nancy also invites artists, from near and far, to offer PLAYshops and workshops and share their skills with anyone who would like to come. Since she opened Freestyle in November 2015, guest artists have included Megan Currie (floral beading and painting your spirit animal), Trea Jensen (watercolours, watercolour mandalas, wire sculptures and wire and fabric), Orla Moen (geli printing) and regular Friday night artist Blinddog.
Imagine this – that a small city like Swift Current has a space created especially for bringing people together to transform stuff – rejected stuff – into art.
I like to think of how important it is to follow through on a vision and create space like this. It takes courage and pluck and commitment. I watched a group of 9 to 11 year olds come in. They had arrived for a PLAYshop but they really didn’t need one – they were so enchanted with all the stuff everywhere, with the colour and possibilities and they could not stop looking. Those kids could have “freestyled” all afternoon. Freestyle Art and Supplies is a visual smorgasbord.
I like to think about how the visible spaces we create on the outside can nurture the space we all carry and hold in our insides.
A few examples:
I used to work in a community room in a busy school. Often we were creating art and there was art all around the room. Students would come in burned out, tired, discouraged and accept a cup of tea and a quiet place just to be. They would observe the hum of creative activity around them. More often than not, they would eventually pick up a paintbrush or a pencil and begin the healing act of creating something themselves. I often wondered if an art table, an artist and chairs and supplies for others to create were put in the foyer of a busy high school, would that change that particular space? Almost certainly!!
For years, I created art at the kitchen table or in a corner of our livingroom or bedroom or on the floor. Art supplies were tucked in the corner of just about every room in the house. Some months ago, our youngest daughter moved out, cleared out her room and said, “Mum, this room can be your studio.” It is. What a gift!! Each morning, I walk upstairs in wonder that I have a whole dedicated room to creating art. I have had many happy moments around my small table alone or with one or two others playing with paper or paint. Our whole house has changed because of this one space. The space inside me has changed because of this room!
Moving away from art spaces for a moment, I think of my first overnight visit to the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer where I was encouraged and supported to spend time in silence. In our hectic world, I felt in awe that such a place existed. Glenn, one of the co-directors , even makes a point of filling bird feeders at lunch so as not to intrude on the solitude one finds in their small cabins in the woods. To find a place which honours quiet, “useless sitting” and being still in a world which can be noisy, busy and over full seemed to me to be a miracle. This beautiful place honoured my need for space within myself.
Whether we are creating a space to create art or a place to be still or a garden of beauty and wonder, it matters not. Such spaces invite us to STOP, to take notice, to step out of our day to day rhythms.
My ideal world has an art table around every corner – in midst of a busy day of shopping, for example, I like to imagine an art table. I sit down, begin to create something with my hands and my entire body settles down. I slow down. In the grocery store, just behind the baked goods, an art table. I have just enough time to do a Zentangle. In the process, I know exactly what we should have for supper and I continue my shopping. In a public park, on a beautiful day…an art table… where seniors can chat with families, where people of all ages can respond and celebrate to the beauty around.
I am grateful to Nancy Currie, and the surprising and inviting space she has carved out in Swift Current. It makes a difference to me…it makes a difference to the world. What follows are photos of those who came and enjoyed this space, and whose wonderful spirit enlarged Nancy’s dream.