There are few artist collectives that could claim a run of over fifteen years. Crammed to the gills with art produced for over a decade, BEING Studio is exactly that.
This converted classroom, tucked away on the third floor of the Bronson Centre, is quite literally bursting at the seams with artworks. The creators are a group of artists who work independently and in collaboration with other local artists out of this space. They are adults with developmental disabilities of some kind and they are some of the most prolific creatives I have ever met.
Their current major project is an Indigogo campaign that aims to support and expand the BEING studio’s activities—namely moving work out of the crowded classroom and into more public shows and community spaces.
“I want to tell my own story, in my own words.”
The campaign offers a rare chance to purchase prints and perks from the artists. I had the opportunity to visit artists in the studio, while they worked away. I asked what people thought about having their prints for sale, and it’s clear this is something new and exciting. The urge to create is something any artist understands and getting your pieces out of the studio and into the world is thrilling: “I want to tell my own story, in my own words. I want to be able to show my own work, in galleries,” says Analisa Kiskis.
I asked Francis Laube, a long time attendee, about creating artwork and having BEING as a space to do so, and Francis shared that she’d been painting and drawing “since I was a kid—I wish a I had more time. I like to do it in my regular schedule. How can I do everything I want to do. You can’t just sit around and be bored!”
Caroline Joanisse, one of BEING’s members, shared that being an artist is “almost like being a higher being—a way to express yourself.”
Recently, the artists at BEING began working with local artist Christopher Griffin to create a series of collaborative paintings centered around the plight of the Northern Right Whale. “Some canvases I began and they finished. Some, they began and I finished. One I did with Jake [Riseborough] involved us both working on a large canvas at the same time.”
“It was quite humbling,” says Griffin. “I needed to fully accept that they were true artists and approach it as an equal collaboration. We also had to be equally open to the other taking our vision to new directions and learn to give up control. These are early steps, but very exciting.”
“These are works of art that stand on their own. The talent and skill and vision is equal to—if not greater than—many artists with no such ‘challenges’. They have something of value to share with people and that is the real accomplishment. “
BEING has taken steps to be more visible in the broader artistic community. Recently, that involved several of artists complete skateboards for the All Hands on Deck benefit co-hosted by Birling and Beyond the Pale to benefit For Pivots Sake. Their work also appears at the newly renovated Ottawa Art Gallery.
“We start with the premise that everyone has a significant voice and it is the responsibility of the group to find the tools to listen.”
Rachel Gray, one of BEING’s facilitators, shared her perspective on what makes the studio unique: “BEING Studio is unusual in that it is a space dedicated both to creating innovative contemporary art and to supporting the voices of artists with developmental disabilities. These goals are not unrelated. A fundamental step in supporting the creative work of artists with disabilities is fostering an inclusive environment, and this often involves approaching expression in radically new ways”
“At BEING, we start with the premise that everyone has a significant voice and it is the responsibility of the group to find the tools to listen. It is amazing how this shift in perspective changes the dynamic of a community. I believe that part of the strength of the work produced at the studio is rooted in this shift. An open environment provides space for people to think in new ways, to experiment and to be vulnerable—in my mind these are qualities essential for creating great art.”
This inclusive approach is bringing this group of artists into the broader artistic community. Their fundraiser focuses on increasing the opportunities for the artists to show and sell their work in a more professional capacity. It also offers a rare instance where you can purchase prints and drawings that have never been shown publicly before. I suggest you make your way to this campaign and explore the works that are sure to surprise and delight.