Tag: art

Learning Power and Vulnerability at CSOP

Marnie Klassen

For the first time in my degree, I took a class purely on a recommendation, and man alive am I glad I decided to.

After some conversation and discernment, my academic advisor told me that she thought I should take Arts Based Approaches to Social Change from the Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP). I liked the idea of getting some credits out of the way and having an excuse to come back to Winnipeg mid-summer. The course sounded mildly interesting, and though not related to the direction my Interdisciplinary degree seemed to be taking, I decided to just do it.

“You’ll probably enjoy it,” I told myself. “Doesn’t matter if it’s related. It makes sense for other reasons.”

Pretty soon my books came in the mail and sat on my shelf for most of April and May. Suddenly, I was booking flights to go to Winnipeg, and started my reading.

The opening ceremony of 2018 CSOP.

I walked into the auditorium where the opening ceremony was held and breathed a sigh of relief as I saw some familiar faces from CMU, and two women I had met at different conferences over the past three years. “I have a community here,” I reminded myself. “Whatever happens this week, I am learning in community.”

That sentiment proved truer than I could have imagined.

In my class were 11 students, and we represented at least 6 different countries. Despite the incredible diversity of culture, age, and experience, we began to know and trust each other quite quickly. How could we not when we were dancing, painting, and acting together?

Throughout the week we participated in numerous creative activities which helped us to understand various aspects of conflict, violence, and reconciliation. Here’s a couple of examples:

On Tuesday we made memory boards. In some parts of central Africa, stories are told on Lukasas, or memory boards. They are visual and tactile displays of cultural stories.

IMG_0729s

Our class divided into two, and each group created a picture/diorama representing our story and community. Then Babu (our instructor) went over to one group and destroyed their Lukasa, telling them that a member of their community had done it. He then came to my group, wrecked our Lukasa, and said that the destruction was by a member of the neighboring community.

After spending so much time trying to represent who we were, it was devastating to have our Lukasa ravaged. Our task then was to talk about how we would rebuild, how we would forgive, how we would move on. It was difficult!

On Wednesday, we participated in forum theatre. 10 of us lined up our chairs, and Babu and one volunteer did a dramatic reading behind us of a domestic violence scenario. It was powerful.

Afterwards, we divided into groups based on the response we were least likely to have in real life. My group was the “intervening” group, and we were all young women, painfully aware both of our power and our vulnerability. It was incredibly eye opening and empowering to talk and act with these women and come up with an intervention that kept us safe and allowed for the abused woman to get the help she needed.

Marnie (R) with classmates.

CSOP has taught me a lot of things – it’s taught me about using the arts in peacebuilding to be sure, but it has also taught me about this balance between power and vulnerability. As budding peacebuilders, we have so much opportunity to effect change and participate in the goodness in the world, but we also carry our own vulnerability and smallness with us. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like we are enough. At CSOP I learned to hold both truths, but to hold them with other people. This is the moral imagination – staying grounded in the here and now, and imagining a more life-affirming world.

Marnie Klassen is going into her third year of Interdisciplinary Studies at CMU.

A New Kind of Jam Session

With such a historic building on campus, CMU is bound to have many hidden treasures. If you’re like me though, you probably aren’t aware of most of them. But thanks to fourth year interdisciplinary studies student Samantha Peters, a CMU gem is being opened to the community. The weekly ART JAM that Peters is running as part of the Spy Tower Press Book Arts Association is now giving the CMU community access to the art room/printing press on the third floor of the north campus building.

A New Kind of Jam Session - Art Jam with Samantha Peters

The Book Arts Association was sparked when Peters fell in love with CMU’s printing press last year through the History of the Book course with Prof. Paul Dyck. Peters said she and Dyck began to dream of what the space could become over the summer. 

“We talked about how we could make the space work better and be more usable. We decided that if we were going to make it more usable, we should use it more,” Peters said.

And that’s exactly what Peters did. She now offers weekly ART JAMs; lunchtime sessions where students, staff, and faculty can bring creative projects to work on, and plans to offer other workshops as well.

“We want this to be a community thing where people can work with their hands together,” Peters added.

A new kind of Jam Session - Art Jam with Samantha Peters

She notes that this is not your typical community gathering, which is just fine with her.

“I’m an introverted person, and if community building is centered on visiting and talking, I tend not to stay very long,” Peters said. “But what I love about things like the ART JAM is they’re kind of like an introvert party. People can just come and work on stuff, and as conversation arises, you follow it. But the whole point is not having to generate conversation. So part of it is making space for community gatherings where the focus is on the hands.”

For Peters, the Book Arts Association and ART JAM go much further than just giving an art outlet to the CMU community, though. It offers people a way to express themselves that doesn’t include digital technology and media.

A new kind of Jam Session - Art Jam with Samantha Peters

“As we move more and more into a digital world, people are saying we’re going towards a paperless society,” Peters noted. “But I actually don’t think it will happen that way. We are such embodied creatures that we are going to become thirstier for this kind of stuff.”

Peters points out that this idea of embodiment is even more important in a theological context.

“I know that in the world of theological discussion at CMU, there’s a lot of talk about embodiment and wanting to overcome the mind-body dualism that we feel like we’ve inherited and has been harmful. So I think the more ways that the community can practice embodiment, the better.”

But at the end of the day, Peters hopes that at the very least, the ART JAMs and printing press can become a place of release and escape for students and staff.

“It’s great to get out of your head. It’s easy to get lost in thought in academics.”

Peters invites all CMU students, staff, and faculty to get involved by joining the Spy Tower Press Book Arts Association page on Facebook.

Jason Friesen is our lead blogger, and he’s in his final year of a Communications and Media degree at CMU.

Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU

portrait of Christina Waldner for post - Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU
When I started going to CMU in 2006 (yes, it’s been that long), I was so nervous.

I had many reasons to be uneasy, one being that I had a physical disability. You see, I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a chronic degenerative disorder. SMA is a complex condition but can be best summed up in the phrase, “The mind says go, but the muscles say no.”

Since the age of three, I have been in a power wheelchair and need physical assistance in carrying out daily tasks. I struggle a lot with fatigue but have been chipping away at my BA one course at a time.

Instinctively I knew I had an uphill battle in terms of professional opportunities, and thus became laser-focused on my education.
 
To me, attending university wasn’t about my social calendar or dorm life. It was about my GPA, the skills I would learn, and studying as much as I could. I felt the need to work twice as hard to open doors in a competitive job market. (Does it sound like I was fun at parties? Nerd alert!).

Perhaps similar to the experiences of international students, first generation students, or students with financial responsibilities, I felt enormous pressure to succeed.

That being said, the faculty and staff at CMU have been nothing but supportive, from helping me find note-takers, to advocating for accessibility on campus, to always offering a word of encouragement.

Once some of the staff found out I was an artist, they were quick to offer support and someone even suggested I sell my cards in the bookstore. Feeling overwhelmed, I turned the offer down. After all, university is strictly about academics, right?

Cristina Waldner with a friend and classmate at CMU. Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU

It wasn’t until midway through my time at CMU that I realized how misinformed I was about my university experience. I came to a crossroads where the pressures of perfection were pulling me under.

Recognizing that I had created an idol of my education, I surrendered my academics to God. In this surrendering, I found a peace that was as liberating as it was transformative.

My perspective shifted as I began to appreciate CMU in a more holistic way. My eyes were opened, and my heart was ready for new friendships and new opportunities.

I approached the manager of CommonWord about selling my artwork and to my amazement, she said yes. My cards and paintings are now sold in the bookstore and I’ve been blown away by the positive response.

samples of Cristina Walder's cards on sale now at CommonWord Bookstore. Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU

Soon after, Sandra Loeppky asked if I would share about being a student with a disability at forum. Feeling emboldened, I agreed and the morning turned out to be an incredible blessing. Other students shared their experiences as well and I began to realize the power of storytelling.

No longer feeling like I was just “that girl in a wheelchair” on campus, I was now in charge of my narrative. Recently, I started a blog to bring awareness to SMA and build a community-like space where people can relate to my experience in some way.

While health concerns have forced me to take more distance education courses as of late, I’m still a CMU student at heart. I am nearing the end of my studies but have cherished my time on campus.

To every freshman out there, know that there will be stress and probably more exams and papers than you know what to do with. Yet, there will also be experiences that will enrich your life in profound ways beyond the pages of a textbook.

New year. New semester. New opportunities. Let’s get started!

Cristina Waldner is completing a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Counselling Studies, as well as a 3-year Bachelor of Arts in English.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén