Pandemic could not deter 4elements in 2020

4elements was able to use its newly constructed mobile studio last year. Construction by Morgan Edwards Renovations. Photo supplied.

MANITOULIN – While 2020 was a difficult year, it didn’t deter the arts, namely 4elements Living Arts.

“(Last year,) 2020, was an unusual year but the arts can thrive during times when people are innovating and looking for new ways to engage,” stated Susan Snelling, chair of 4elements at the group’s annual general meeting this past Monday. “We are looking forward to another exciting year of change and growth in community engagement in land-based arts on Manitoulin Island, although maybe not quite so exciting as the one we just had!”

Ms. Snelling began the meeting by welcoming everyone and having each of the board members, including Richard Lathwell, treasurer, secretary Samantha Ramage, and board members Natalie Hastings, Melanie Hunt and Gail Los introduce themselves.

“Thank you to all our board members on the call including Candice Irwin and Mary Collins,” said Ms. Snelling. 

Ms. Snelling noted that her report, “is an opportunity to reflect on what happened for the fiscal year October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020 and includes noteworthy items through early January 2021.”

“4elements Living Arts is pleased to be delivering on our vision and mission,” said Ms. Snelling. The 4e vision is engaged in experiences of land, arts and community, with its mission statement, “to nurture and inspire community engagement in land-based arts on Manitoulin Island.”

“4elements was supported once again with Ontario Arts Council core operations funding. We are grateful to the Ontario Arts Council for this critical support,” Ms. Snelling told the meeting.

Ms. Snelling explained, “during our past year, our major focus was on building a mobile studio, with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The mobile studio concept originated many years ago with 4elements’ first executive director, Sophie Edwards, and we are so pleased that, in 2020, even during a global pandemic, we were finally able to make it a reality, with hard work by Morgan Edwards, our builder.”

The mobile studio will allow 4e to further its goal to be less tied to one place, and more able to deliver programs in a variety of locations as the need arises. The mobile studio will also be live/work space for artist residencies, allowing artists to spend a period of time immersed in a location to do land-based work, explained Ms. Snelling. “We are grateful to Candice Irwin who has been advancing our work with the mobile studio and residency program.” 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in March, arts and community organizations were hit hard, like so many other industries,” said Ms. Snelling. “During the early months of the pandemic, Jordyn Fitzgerald served as our executive director. Since mid-summer, we have been limited in terms of programming and have left the executive director role vacant for the time being.” 

“Recognizing that we would be limited in terms of in-person programming, we turned to social media,” Ms. Snelling said. 4elements offered creative prompts each week through the summer, providing ways that community members could engage with land-based arts in their own homes or in physically distanced ways.

“We received many lovely examples of ways that people saw the world from where they were,” stated Ms. Snelling. 

In September and October 2020, 4e offered Elemental Festivals in three communities, including Kagawong, Providence Bay and Manitowaning over three successive weekends where artists could be viewed working on-site. These artists included Jenna Carter with weaving, Sharon Preen with land-based painting and a mural by Mike Cywink. 

Mike Cywink, left, was the featured artist at the 4elements Elemental Festival, held in the town of Manitowaning last fall.

“The festivals featured a local artist doing a piece of work on site, live music and the mobile studio on site. The artwork will remain with 4elements as part of the décor of the mobile studio,” said Ms. Snelling. She pointed out 4e welcomed more than 150 community members to the festival and they were supported by dedicated volunteers. “4e is grateful for funding from the Canadian Heritage Local Festivals fund to support Elemental Festival. Louise Hayden provided amazing co-ordination for the festival. 

Ms. Snelling pointed out 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 the 4e website and also at a book store in Toronto. Sales have continued to be steady.

Ms. Snelling also thanked Lupe Perez for the social media posts for 4e over the past year, generously doing this work for free. She also designed the covers for the Early Learning books. “We are very fortunate to have Lupe working with us.”

Board elections were next on the meeting agenda. The nomination and election process was carried out by Mr. Lathwell. 

“I believe we can have up to eight directors on the board, at this time we have five members,” said Mr. Lathwell. 

Board member Samantha Ramage nominated Ms. Snelling, whose term had run out, to return to the board, and this motion was seconded by Melanie Hunt. 

Mary Collins was also nominated for one of the board of directors positions, but she indicated for now she is happy to volunteer and help out 4e. 

Nominations were closed by Mr. Lathwell, who pointed out Ms. Snelling had been nominated with no contest, and therefore would be acclaimed to the board.

“It is nice to have another year behind us, and another year in front of us to continue to do our work and projects in our communities, and continue to be innovative and creative,” added Ms. Snelling.