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The Ontario Shebang

Apr 16, 2018

The Ontario Shebang is a multi year, inter-arts, inter-cultural journey into a process that brought together artists and individuals from diverse backgrounds to be supported in a space for creative discoveries, and to explore collaboration and shared experiences. TOS creates a legacy of new and deepened connections, and the capacity to collaborate successfully across differences in perspectives, training, orientation, and practices. The Ontario Shebang is developed and presented by Dreamwalker Dance Company and guided by instigator Andrea Nann.
 

Where?

The Ontario Shebang took place in four Ontario communities and was hosted by each municipality and their local performing arts organizations:

  • St. Catharines (FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and Brock Centre for the Arts)
  • Guelph (River Run Centre)
  • Burlington (Burlington Performing Arts Centre)
  • Kingston (City of Kingston, The Grand Theatre & The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning).


How?

The process in each community evolved over an extended period of time to allow participants to develop meaningful relationships, and to allow Andrea time to adapt and grow the process in response to feedback and reflection from participants. As a result, The Ontario Shebang uniquely manifested itself in each host community, creating an environment for discovery, exchange, collaboration and bridging. Each process concluded in a public, participatory, multiarts event/presentation that featured artists/people from various walks of life and lived experience.

There were a number of different methods that the host presenters adopted to identify and connect with community partners and local artists. Guelph, for example, brought together programming directors from 5 local arts organizations, representing a wide range of art forms, and they each nominated an individual to form the core group of participating artists. This collaborative nomination process expanded the community of support for The Guelph Shebang from it’s very start.
 
The Ontario Shebang's discovery process began with the commitment to do something that had never been done before with everyone participating in the learning and exploration. Andrea explains, “Much of our journey was focused on getting to know one another, cultivating trust, and discovering and practicing new ways of maintaining a strong sense of self while being a member of a partnership or a group. Every meeting session included dialogue and activities to cultivate an explorative practice to ‘move forward’ while ‘not-knowing’ what was going to happen next. The process offered participants tools and strategies to activate states that included ‘arriving, awakening, sensing, discovering, responding, connecting, togethering, and reflecting.’
 
Individuals were asked to make choices ‘in the moment’ with an intention to further the process, thus further the evolution of the group. As the process deepened and the core participants entered unfamiliar territory, we observed amazing changes, amazing outcomes. We started measuring the impact of people’s experiences, and looked for ways of translating what the process was and how the impacts might ripple out. How they would translate into the community or how the process might impact individuals directly and indirectly.
 
The process demanded another layer of observer to become involved in the form of ‘translators’, who tracked the artistic process through 2 lenses - the needs in the community and the experiences of the participating artists and arts organizations.
 
Reflection was a crucial aspect throughout the Shebang process. Reflection guided the shape of each project.
 

Timeframe

The timeframe of each Shebang project ranged from twenty-two months to four years.
 

Communities Involved

Community members were introduced to the project in various ways. In general community members connected to each project via the participating artists or via the host presenters. Here is a complete list of the groups/individuals who participated in each locale:
 
The Guelph Shebang
Artists: Ishra Blanco, Jenn E. Norton, Megan O’Donnell, Claire Tacon, Amadeo Ventura, Bry Webb. Artistic and community translators: Janet Morton and Dorothy Fisher.
Contributing artists: Katie Ewald, Erin MacIndoe Sproule, Janet Johnson, Brendan
Wyatt, Elysha Poirier, and Invoketress.
Community partners: Ed Video, Guelph Dance Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Hillside Festival, Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, Guelph Youth
Dance Training Program and Guelph/Wellington Immigrant Services.
Host: River Run Centre, owned and operated by the City of Guelph.
Host collaborators: Ella Pauls, Danna Evans and Dave Horner.
 
The Burlington Shebang
Artists: Liz Bates, Tomy Bewick, Lisa Emmons, Aaron Hutchinson, Shannon Kitchings, Richard Beaune and Andrew O’Connor, Bridget Bezanson and Leslie Gray.
Artistic and community translators: Trevor Copps and Lisa Pijuan-Nomura
Contributing artists: Mayumi Lashbrook, Trevor Turple, Dan Murray, Korey McDermott, Sebastian Chong,
Matt Miller, Mateo Galindo Torres, Amanda Dudnik, Connor Bennett, Tom Kuo, Brendan Wyatt,
Elysha Poirier, and Megan English
Community partners: Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, The Poacher Ukulele Band, FORM Contemporary Dance Theatre, Tottering Biped, Burlington
Slam Project, Hamilton Audio Visual Node
Host: Burlington Performing Arts Centre, owned by the City of Burlington and operated by the Burlington Theatre Board Inc., a not-for-profit
charitable organization
Host collaborators: Suzanne Haines and Brian McCurdy
 
The Kingston Shebang
Artists: Ebon Gage, Alison Gowan, Kyoko Ogoda, Moyra Riley, Irina Skvortsova, Terry Snider, Harry Symons, Chantal Thompson and Dorothy Young
Artistic and community translators: Nadine Saxton, Jessa Agilo, Elysha Poirier
Contributing artists: Kay Kenney, Aleksandra Bragoszewsk, Helen Yung, Jane Kirby, Tess Girard, Wendy Luella
Perkins, Jan Le Clair, Kala Seraphin, Martee Tegmeyer and Brett Christopher
Community partners: Kingston School of Dance, Birdbone Theatre, Four Directions Aboriginal Centre, Kings Don Taiko, Theatre Kingston, Modern Fuel, Kingston Potters’ Guild, Kingston Lapidary and Mineral Club, Kingston Handloom Weavers and Spinners, Joe Chithalen Memorial Musical
Instrument Lending Library, Kingston Arts Council, On the Wall Street Art Festival
Host: The Grand Theatre, Kingston & The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, both owned by City of
Kingston
Host collaborators: Brian McCurdy, Melissa Mahady Wilton, Annalee Adair, Colin Wiginton, Shannon Brown, Jenny Pedler, Kat Evans, Julie Fossitt and members of the Tett Centre and the City of Kingston Cultural Services Department
 
The Niagara Shebang
Artists: Aaron Berger, Brittany Brooks, Adam Buller, Elizabeth Chitty, Mark Steiger, David Vivian and Deanna Jones. Artistic and community translators: Vickie
Fagan and Annie Wilson
Contributing artists: Maya Bannerman, Shannon Kitchings, Christian Lange, members of Oniakara, the Perpetual Peace Project, Tom Kuo, Brendan Wyatt,
Elysha Poirier
Community partners: Chorus Niagara, Welland Centennial High School, Glendale Public School, St. Catharines Collegiate Institute, Holy Cross Secondary School, Suitcase in Point Theatre Company, Sean O’Sullivan Theatre at Brock University, Sullivan-Mahoney Courthouse Theatre, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
Host partners: Centre for the Arts, Brock University, City of St. Catharines and FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
Host collaborator: Sara Palmieri
 

Genre/Art Form
The Shebang Process is a dynamic practice for diverse people to come together to co-inspire trust, consciousness, and connectivity. At the heart of the process is a practice that called The Conscious Body, discovering the body as the instrument through which we open new avenues of perception and awareness, widen our imagination, and realize new ways to communicate and BE together. With this body, we can explore how our experiences and ideas can interrelate with authenticity; this becomes the basis of how and what we can create together.
Outcomes 
The nature of the final public performances varied. Some coincided with celebrations of the opening of new community hubs like The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines and the re-opening of The Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning in Kingston while others were celebrations in and of themselves in which the community could gather, connect and participate. For the artists involved, The Ontario Shebang created an opportunity to share and grow their artistic practices in ways that they may not have achieved while working in isolation. The process also allowed for the artists involved to discover new aspects of themselves while exploring different artistic mediums in a process oriented, non-judgemental space. The success of The Ontario Shebang can be attributed to the overwhelming generosity from the core artists, participants, partners, guest artists, supporting organizations, and hosting communities; to all those who said “yes” and dedicated their time, energy and imagination to the project.

Budget/Scale
The project received multiyear public support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Ontario Arts Council (Ontario Dances) with project support from Canada Council for the Arts, host city presenting organizations, arts organizations, and community groups.

For more information, check out: 
Introducing all Four Ontario Shebang Communities
The Niagara Shebang : FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
The Kingston Shebang : Tett Centre Grand Opening
The Guelph Shebang : River Run Centre
The Burlington Shebang : Burlington Performing Arts Centre

The Ontario Shebang website
Articles and Artifacts
The Shebang Blog

Contact Information:

dreamwalkerdance [at] gmail [dot] com

 or andrea [at] dreamwalkerdance [dot] com


Testimonials:

“This (the Guelph Shebang) was an amazing opportunity to connect with cultural producers in Guelph and I valued the input and dialogue this engendered. It is necessary to develop trust within a group and this comes from open, inclusive dialogue - there was much trust built over our days spent together, it was a dynamic that was unique to me. The empathetic exercises were encouraging in this regard, we were vulnerable in our individuality, yet supported in our
unified efforts.” - Jenn Norton, video, new media installation artist
 
“The Whole Shebang was a whole new experience for a group of older adults who are fairly marginalized in the Guelph community due their age, cultural and language barriers. The experience made the group feel connected and appreciated. Their enthusiasm for the project shows that intercultural and intergenerational work in communities is always welcomed and really helps with the integration process of newcomers.” - Karen Kew, community integration coordinator, Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington
 
“This process serves as a vehicle for synchronizing the participants with themselves their surrounding and each other. From singing into the body to allowing the peripheral edges of our bodies to grow roots into the ground these exercises teach the body and prepare the mind to make the right decisions when under pressure. ...the flow of the workshop was quite remarkable. Everyone was happy to be there, letting themselves embrace the activity. There were many elements of movement, sensation and discussion in the workshop which were fascinating to capture on film. Through the camera, videographer Lin Rozenszajn and I captured the artitsts’ transformation, from passive onlookers to active conductors of passion and creativity. - Omar Efe, Visual Artist, Filmmaker
 
“Initially I wasn’t sure how The Kingston Shebang process was going to produce results … What was the outcome? For the tenants of the Tett Centre, in four short days we have moved from a group of mostly strangers, who are soon to be neighbours, to a cohesive team of diverse artists who share energy, vision, identity, and a strong sense of community…a collaborative learning process that has set the stage for our collective play, we have cemented our relationships and are open to unlimited possibilities. - Terry J. Snider, President, Joe's M.I.L.L, consultant, facilitator, certified mediator; performance management section, competencies, recognition division of Canada Revenue Agency
 
“Processes like this are so valuable to artists who want to explore new ways to create and who want to open up their minds to new things.” - Brittany Brooks singer-songwriter, musician and visual artist
 
“[The Shebang process] has had an tremendous impact on my own role as an educator, facilitator and performer in this community...Yet, this process resonates at much deeper level than merely a performance of these individual practices and techniques. The Shebang process is ultimately a practice that encourages the cultivation of a deep mutual respect and empathy. It is a non-hierarchical, democratic, and inclusive practice that offers a potential model for building healthier organizations and communities.” - Alison Gowan, musician, composer, facilitator and arts educator; Director of Kindermusik with
Alison; Swamp Ward Orchestra
 
"Shebang forces me to listen to others, to follow my intuition, to slow down my objective-driven brain, remove my organizer hat, and simply engage with the activity presented in the moment." - Tomy Bewick, multidisciplinary artist and writer
 
“ It felt like a very democratic process, where everyone seemed comfortable bringing ideas up. I tend to make most of my creative decisions in private, working alone ... over the course of The Guelph Shebang, I learned to let go of that fear ... In our work, I saw so many incredible decisions made collectively, in the moment, that I'm determined to figure out ways of introducing those possibilities in any future collaborations. - Bry Webb, singer-songwriter, producer, composer
 
"Sometimes it's hard to be proud of yourself as an artist, but seeing what these colleagues of mine are creating and being able to say, 'I have been part of making this possible' is incredibly humbling and exciting.” - Lisa Emmons, choreographer and dance artist

 

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