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Arts

Seasons of Hope

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This article originally appeared on The Creative Hive Blog on May 15, 2019.

Season Of Hope Fundraiser: A Fine Art, Fine Jewellery, and Fashion Show

Spring is the ultimate season of hope…right?  Seeds get planted and there is anticipation about what will grow, how it will grow and how strong the roots will be to steady it when life comes roaring through.  Having hope or being in a season of hope is powerful for Sonja Deklerk.  It means there is a future and it means there is a chance for beauty to shine brightly.

Sonja exudes kindness…it was flowing from her the first time we met and I instantly knew she was special.  She like so many others popped in to The Creative Hive to see what was going on, but with an idea it may be the right space to host her upcoming Fashion & Art show.  That was it.  I was wrong about that because it was the beginning of getting to know a person who is inspiring in most everything she does.  I hope in the next few paragraphs I can give you some insight in to the inner workings of this Mom, Wife, Creative Soul, Artist, and Entrepreneur who has her own story to tell.

There was a slight chuckle when Sonja described how long art has been an important part of her life and she clearly remembers selling her drawings on the corner in her cul-de-sac at 4 years old.  Sonja has never been scared of sharing her art…actually she says it’s the most rewarding thing in the world when you see an idea or concept come to life.  For the most part, Sonja describes herself as a very joyful person, but there is another side of her…depression.  It’s that side of her she is most nervous to share, but confidently admits “there is a part of me that is good…a part that is bad…the healthy and the sad…it’s all me.”

There is an innate strength in standing up and sharing your story.  Sonja shares hers to help connect her to the community and wants to be an example or advocate to anyone else who struggles with depression.  She first noticed something in grade 6 when she suffered long stretches of not feeling right and not sleeping .  By 14, she was seeing a doctor, but it wasn’t until after her second child was born at 22 years old, Sonja was diagnosed as bipolar.

The diagnosis wasn’t all bad…it gave some answers to everything she was thinking and feeling, but at the same time Sonja says she still very strongly felt it was her fault.  That if she just tried harder or was more positive she would be able to manage this.  The diagnosis was hard on her entire family…her husband was still a student and they had a one year old son and a newborn.  Then her dad passed.  It all added up to Sonja realizing she had to get up and share to save her life.  She had to reach out.

While she knew that, the feeling of isolation was strong.  She explains she felt like she didn’t belong and the negative self talk was overwhelming.  It came to a point where she attempted suicide.  She was in the ICU for a week.  Family came to say their goodbyes.  It was touch and go and when she came out of it she was low enough to be admitted on the psychiatric unit.  She had extreme guilt that she had attempted suicide and says she just wanted to shrivel up and isolate herself because she was too afraid to face the world.  Sonja says matter-of-factly that there is no way to sugar coat this… it happened, but at the lowest of lows she found the strength to fight her way back.  Her strength came from talking.  Sharing her story and opening up about what she struggles with each and every day.

That isn’t the end of the story.  It does’t just stop there.  For Sonja some days are great, some days are okay and some days are awful.  It’s how she deals with each and takes care of herself that allows her to continue to move forward and live her life to the fullest.

Her online blog sharing her journey back to health allowed her to connect with a supportive group that she could also help.  In the past 7 years her mission has bent advocate for mental health breaking down the stigma through art, singing and writing.

Her show The Seasons of Hope is happening at The Creative Hive on Saturday, June 22.  It’s a collection of very joyful pieces and the unveiling of a new style of painting Sonja has fallen in love with.  It’s also a showcase of her jewelry pieces that she’s crafted for more than a decade.  The latest line with inspirational messages…affirmations you can touch daily to make you feel stronger.

Sonja says it’s important for her to make sure people know they matter.  Just by your very nature you are a living breathing soul with value.  Believe in yourself.  Have the confidence and courage to seek help or help others.  Life is better when you surround yourself with love.  Life is better with hope.

Learn more about Sonja Deklerk here.

Get tickets to Season of Hope here.

 

Arts

A note from Edmonton

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by Glenn Kubish

“My name is out front, but that’s not true, not by a long shot. They reinvent the music at a level that is just outstanding.”Sean McAnally

Halfway through my second beer of the Edmonton Jazz Ensemble’s reunion at the Yardbird Suite, I saw it all quite clearly. I know, I know. A jazz club on a June 30 afternoon is a peculiar place for illumination in Edmonton. It was 23 Celsius outside, blue sky, soft wind, the kind of gentle weekend day that Edmontonians pine for during the winter months up here on latitude 53, the kind of day to be outside in the river valley—or, at least, to luxuriate in the walk across the warming asphalt from the car to the mall. But there I sat, inside, in a kind of reverse hibernation den, and, with 150 others, listened to the sextet dig into songs from 30 years ago.

The music was superb, as far as I understand jazz, which is not far. I love jazz, I marvel at the way its practitioners are able, to my ear, to detonate single notes and then walk around and play in the fallout. Like they are inside a snow dome of their own shaking. I love the horns, especially. Watching Jim Pinchin on tenor saxophone, Al Jacobson on trombone and Sean McAnally on trumpet, I saw those jazz musicians for what they are: human beings who stand on stage with their lungs twisted and hardened into brass visible on the outsides of their bodies. There is nothing as natural as artifice.

I am thankful for jazz, too. Life is emotionally complex. Music that matches that complexity, music that suggests other ways of being in the world can be more of a consolation than anything else. But understand jazz from the inside? Nope. I come from 3/4- and 4/4-time people. Good people from northeast Edmonton. People of the waltz and fox trot and polka in the church basement. I love jazz, I am grateful for jazz, but I didn’t understand how Sean counted the players in with a whispered “1–2–3–4,” and then a nod, and then waited a couple of seconds, and then, when the music finally started, how the colour purple happened to me. I went with it, though. I drained the beer. I held the empty glass up to one eye and watched through the thick glass on the bottom the refracted musicians playing in whatever time signature they were moving in. Cool.

EdJE, back in the day

Sean, Jim and Al (backed by Chris Andrew on piano, Rubim De Toledo on bass and Joel Jeske on drums) played tunes from the EdJE’s 1989 recording, Something’s Here, along with a song composed by Pinchin (In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro) and another by Wayne Feschuk (Roadrunner), an original EdJE member who was in the audience. Back in the day, EdJE was a Jazz City-sponsored supergroup composed of some of the finest young jazz players in the city. They played festivals across Canada and toured Europe. They won the Alcan Jazz Prize. They were nominated for a JUNO. In time, they scattered. Al hung out in Germany. Sean went to New Jersey where he teaches music at a prep school and, as an ex-patriate, naturally coached the women’s hockey team.

Sean ad libs 

Through the years down the shore, Sean has protected his Canadian perspective. That was on display, too, between songs at the Yardbird. He had some things to say to his hometown audience. So we could better understand, he used words. He mentioned that his mother is 100 years old. A cheer went up. He talked about Saskatoon berries and Saskatoon pie and Saskatoon soda. He got lost in a meditation about the old Hinterland Who’s Who interstitial commercials we all watched growing up on CBC. “If you want more information about the loon….” He carried a beer on stage in a Tim Hortons paper cup. He riffed about toonies for no other reason, he confessed, than to say “toonie into a microphone.” He celebrated the musical tradition he is a part of that traces back to American jazz and blues singer Clarence “Big” Miller, whose sculpture stands out front of the Yardbird Suite, and Edmonton pianist and bandleader Tommy Banks, whose variegated portrait hangs in the Yardbird foyer next to saxophonist P.J. Perry’s. Perry himself, still making music, stood just inside the club’s doorway and listened.

Something’s beer

Sean went deep Edmonton.

Introducing Spring Breeze, he explained the title came from the caress of air that greeted him one day in Edmonton in the old Victorian house he shared with musician friends on 117th Street after he had opened and unsealed a draped and soundproofed window. The foam baffle hadn’t been enough to keep the police from visiting every so often. (The police reference ticked off another box on his Canadiana tour: peace, order and good government.) What struck me with momentary force was the way he said “117th Street.” Or, maybe, the different way I heard it. I imagined hearing a New Yorker say 117th Street and how, to me, that would have sounded like such a place up somewhere in Harlem near Columbia University close to Marcus Garvey Park. Say 117th Street in Edmonton and it lands more like a nameless piece of the mundane grid imposed on the city. Unless an artist says “117th Street.” Then it becomes a place in words and then out in reality.

EdJE set list, June 30, 2019

Introducing his arrangement of Tom Waits’s Lonely, Sean explained how the tune, so new that the players didn’t have the music charted in notes or chords, came to be. Last December, Sean and his wife and his children were planning to visit Edmonton for the family matriarch’s 100th birthday party. Accommodation proved a challenge. Vrbo wasn’t working out, airbnb wasn’t working out. Through a family contact in Edmonton Sean learned about a house, one neighbourhood over from the Lynnwood neighbourhood where he grew up, whose occupants, a husband and wife, were to be in Europe at the same time the New Jersey McAnallys were to be in Edmonton. House seekers and house offerers had never met. Via email, the house was gifted.

“My wife said what kind of weirdo would do that?!” Sean recounted to the Yardbird crowd, who responded with polite laughter. When it subsided, he said sorry (another check). “Well, I shouldn’t say weirdo. I was embellishing. And I said, no, no, that’s who we are. To me, it seemed perfectly normal. It was obviously incredibly generous. But I grew up in Edmonton. I get it. So, we did it. We stayed in this house.”

As it turned out, the couple in whose house the McAnallys lived had a turntable downstairs, and taste in vinyl. From a drawer Sean’s son Matt pulled out Closing Time.

“I went, Oh, my God! Because I listened to that I can’t imagine how many times,” Sean remembered aloud. “In fact, now listening to it again with him and since I realized I had been influenced by Tom Waits sort of subconsciously.”

Sean did what musicians do. He paid for his family’s room in music, with a world debut of the Lonely arrangement, with his house-sharing friends as his guests in the crowd. The trio met after the show. It was a vintage Edmonton story and encounter. Sean left them with a canvas-mounted photo that had been on an easel on stage with the band. His son had taken the photo at high noon on December 22, 2018, a short walk from the house. It captured the elements: spruce trees, ice chunks in the river, the sun low in the southern sky. (Each player had a photo copy of the pic as his chart during High Noon. I took one home, along with the set list.)

Matt McAnally’s photo, High Noon inspiration

Toward the end of the show, Sean sounded one last note. He thanked the jazz volunteers in Edmonton, and then turned to his fellow musicians on stage, humbly. Sean shared with the audience the inexpressible joy a composer feels when his music is given life and dimension and colour by other players.

“My name is out front, but that’s not true, not by a long shot,” he said. “They reinvent the music at a level that is just outstanding.”

And then, motioning towards the other members of the Edmonton Jazz Ensemble, Sean gave us two final words.

“It’s them.”

The Yardbird Suite sits on Tommy Banks Way near the southern tip of Edmonton’s historic Strathcona neighbourhood. A little north, you will see the lovely river valley crowned by the new Walterdale Bridge. Back south a few blocks, you’ll experience the trendy Whyte Avenue shopping district lined with pedestrians and bicycle riders. Both valley and sidewalk collected self-summer-starved Edmontonians on the sunny afternoon of June 30, 2019. For two hours inside the dark of club, a jazz band reunited, renewed the music of its youth, and its leader collected the Edmonton he knows—and gave it back to us.


Sean McAnally
Glenn Kubish, Author

Originally published at http://glennkubish.blogspot.com on July 2, 2019.

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Arts

Art in the heart: Wednesday walking tours are back for summer

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Need extra motivation to get outside during the lunch hour this summer? ArtTourYEG walking tours are a great way to learn about local art and history in our vibrant Downtown core.

Join the City’s Urban Renewal team for guided Wednesday walking tours to learn more about Downtown’s growing collection of public art, featuring highlights from the existing self-guided tours on ArtTourYeg.ca

Some of Edmonton’s most diverse and controversial art—the work of modern cubists to contemporary rebels—is found in the heart of the city. Uncover the stories behind our love of quirky steel sculptures, tributes to over-the-top personalities and sculptures we almost threw away. 

2019 walking tours dates:

July 3: Ice District to Jasper Avenue

July 10: Churchill to McKinney

July 17: Quarters

July 24: Ice District to Jasper Avenue

July 31: Churchill to McKinney

August 7: Quarters

August 14: Ice District to Jasper Avenue

August 21: Churchill to McKinney

August 28: Quarters

All tours take place Wednesdays at noon. Eventbrite pre-registration is required. Sign up now, for free.

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