4Elements Living Arts receives funding to build mobile studio

MANITOULIN – The 4Elements Living Arts group has received funding that will allow it to build a mobile studio, using tiny home concepts, which will further their goal of being less tied to one place and more able to deliver programs in a variety of locations as the need arises.

“We have a couple of big news items, one being that we received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) so that we will be able to build a mobile studio using the tiny home concept,” said Susan Snelling, chair of the 4Elements Living Arts board of directors, after its annual general meeting last week. She explained the studio, “will be mobile, so for instance it can be used both for artists that want to do work on the land somewhere (artist residency) or moved around the Island to deliver programs at events such as powwows and festivals. Rather than make any group come to us, we will be able to go them.”

“The work on the mobile studio will happen through 2020 and should be ready to present at Elemental Festival 2020,” said Ms. Snelling. “We also hope that the mobile studio will be a live/work space for artist residencies, allowing artists to spend a period of time immersed in a location to do land-based work.”

4e welcomes public input on how the mobile studio can serve Manitoulin Island, said Ms. Snelling.  “We are excited to have received this funding. We are also looking for community input on what this mobile studio will look like.” 

She noted an architect is currently working on a design for the mobile studio. “It’s hard to say at this point how large the studio will be; usually using the tiny homes concept it would be under 400 square feet, but we might go even smaller. We want the studio to be mobile.”

Ms. Snelling said the second piece of major news from the annual general meeting is that, “Kirsten Nelson has just resigned from her role as the executive director for personal reasons, and thus we will be looking for a new candidate in the coming weeks. We are very grateful to Kirsten for jumping in, who learned about 4e and moved us forward with our processes and programs—especially Elemental Festival 2019. It is too bad she is leaving; Kirsten did an excellent job.” 

At its annual meeting it was pointed out 4e has brought on some new board members. While the current board members (Susan Snelling, erin-blythe reddie, Samantha Ramage, Richard Lathwell and Melanie Hunt) are continuing, three new people have joined the board including Maggie King-Roi, Natalie Hastings and Gail Los.

 “We are pleased to have all of these people sharing their energies with 4elements!” stated Ms. Snelling.

In Ms. Snelling’s report at the meeting she noted, “at the end of 2018, we were continuing an intense period of strategic planning. Our strategic planning produced the following guiding principles, which were shared last year. The 4e vision: engaged experiences of land, arts and community; and 4e mission statement—our mission is to nurture and inspire community engagement in land-based arts on Manitoulin Island.”

“We also developed goals and objectives for the next two years,” said Ms. Snelling. “The first goal for 2019 was to recruit a new executive director. In March 2019, we delivered on that goal and hired Kirsten Nelson as executive director. Our next directions were to advance a coherent and sustainable program strategy and build our partnerships. We are pleased to say that with Kirsten’s leadership we have made progress on both those fronts.”
“In terms of programs we were approved for year two of OAC core operations funding, although with an eight percent funding cut, resulting from cuts to OAC at the provincial level. We are grateful to the Ontario Arts Council for this critical support,” said Ms. Snelling.

“We completed ‘Walking Waters’ in March 2019,” continued Ms. Snelling. “This project was funded by a grant from the government of Ontario and involved students from the Sheshegwaning St. Joseph’s Anishinabek School and the Gore Bay Charles C. McLean Public School, exploring traditional routes along various waterways on the Island. Thank you to Lauren Satok who co-ordinated this program for 4e. Walking Waters was very well received and we have received inquiries from others interested in having a similar program.”

Also, in March 2019, 4e moved out of its office location in Kagawong. “We have decided to become virtual, less tied to one location and more able to move around the Island for program delivery,” said Ms. Snelling.

“In September 2019, we offered Elemental Festival after a one-year hiatus,” continued Ms. Snelling. “The Festival was an ambitious, four-day celebration of the arts, held in Kagawong. We welcomed more than 300 audience members to the festival and were supported by many dedicated volunteers. We are grateful for funding from the Canadian Heritage Local Festivals fund to support Elemental Festival.”

Ms. Snelling continued, “the books, ‘The Art of Land-Based Early Learning Volumes 1 and 2’ and ‘Learning the Land: Creative Community Engagements,’ written by Sophie Edwards and Heather Thoma, are sold on our website and also at a book store in Toronto. Sales have continued to be steady and we continue to offer workshops for educators with the support of Heather Thoma as a facilitator.”

The meeting was told preliminary plans for a 2020 Elemental Festival are underway for September 25-27, 2020. Potential artists are being contacted and grant applications are being drafted. “The theme for this year’s festival is ‘You are Here,’ with a focus on maps, way-finding and looking for direction,” said Ms. Snelling.

Ms. Snelling added, “we are looking forward to an exciting year of change and growth in community engagement in land-based arts on Manitoulin Island.”