Aging Vitalities: An interview with Nadine Changfoot

Nadine Changfoot is Associate Professor of Political Studies, Trent University, a member of the Trent Centre for Aging Studies Executive Committee, and Senior Research Associate with Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice. 

Nadine recently spoke with Kayla Besse about her Aging Vitalities project. Watch an excerpt from the project with/on our Vimeo channel.

Kayla Besse: What drew you to BIT in the first place? 

Nadine Changfoot: What drew me to BIT was the vision and commitment to bring non-normative experiences loudly and proudly into the world through artistic and research creation that is both serious and playful. I’m very excited to be part of BIT’s creative and intellectual wave of artistic creation research and technological innovation and leading one of its projects, “Aging Vitalities.” I had the amazing opportunity to work with Carla Rice and Eliza Chandler and the fabulous team at Re•Vision to bring disability experiences into the world through the project “Mobilizing New Meanings of Disability and Difference” (CIHR funded). The impact of storytelling from lived experience into multimedia and accessible short documentary was incredibly powerful for storytellers, researcher-storytellers, and audiences. Stories that needed and wanted to be seen and/or heard, got to be told, and there were audiences ready and hungry for them. From this project, I learned that marginalized older persons have stories to tell and there are audiences who want to see/hear these stories, but there is a gap between the two and the two need to be connected. The idea for the BIT project “Aging Vitalities” germinated from this idea.

KB: Could you tell me about your Aging Vitalities project, for folks who wouldn’t know anything about it? 

Aging Vitalities starts from the premise that diverse older persons have vibrant energies and experiences, however, these are often not welcomed into conversations and public spaces. For the first Aging Vitalities workshop held in Spring 2019, older persons, which unsystematically turned out to be all women, were each invited to share a story of their lived experience of aging, and create their own short 2-4 minute multimedia documentary. With the support of Re•Vision’s artist facilitation team, twelve beautiful stories were created by women ages 55-89, identifying as settler, Indigenous, Holocaust survivor, living with disability, racialized, and queer. From these stories, new meanings of aging are emerging which can be mobilized to support new imaginings and possibilities of growing old. The stories were recently presented and warmly received at ReFrame Film Festival 2020 in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong.

KB: What are some of the key themes or insights that delighted you, or that you learned from working with these storytellers?

KB: What are some of the key themes or insights that delighted you, or that you learned from working with these storytellers?

Key themes emerging from the stories that are a source of delight as well as serious reflection are the multiplicitous ways of aging, the time immemorial Indigenous traditions and ways of aging which are to be respected and honoured, and the wellspring of creativity experienced by storytellers. Within the twelve stories, there is expressed a multiplicity of meanings and experiences of becoming older, something not surprising in light of the diversity within the group. We are socialized and shaped to think of a human life in singular terms, as linear, proceeding forward in time in an able-bodied and minded way, and also in an acquiring way. We acquire this, we acquire that. We get better at this and or that. Then, once a certain time of life has been reached, age-wise, which often becomes linked to a loss or decline in physical, cognitive, financial capacity, boom, and with frequently accompanied ageist and ableist pitiable responses, aging becomes represented or imagined as a downward downhill trajectory which can be understandably quite disheartening, fearful, and anxiety-inducing when they are presented in this way. To buttress against fear and anxiety around this view of aging, there is a huge anti-aging industry to provide so-called “fixes” to fight against aging. In contrast, the stories of Aging Vitalities tell viewers that a person need not fight aging. Instead, of fear and anxiety and “fixes,” aging offers experiences to be welcomed, savoured, and shared! The stories offer welcome alternatives for embracing and proudly aging. They bring into the world experiences of aging that are desirable and rich in reflection of vivid, vivacious lives, relationships, and community.

Aging Vitalities is honoured to have stories told by Anishnaabe Kwey who brought into the world Anishnaabe experiences and traditions whereby becoming older is welcomed and intimately connected with all relations, both human and non-human, and in relationship with the land. Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg interdependencies among humans, animals, plants, ancestors and more come alive in these stories. Resistance against colonial dispossession, disappearance, and cultural genocide and the vitalities of Anishnaabe ways of knowing, healing, and living in good ways are beautifully presented with great care. There is much to learn much from these stories for their many gifts.

The stories, Anishnaabe and settler, do not shy away from pain and loss experienced during a lifetime. What they do is share the profound depth of life changes and their visceral, affective, multiple layers, as well as the transformative becoming they usher into the fullness and wholeness of aging, a fullness and wholeness experienced importantly in relationship, in community. Thus, these relationships and communities need very much to be well supported. This support includes robust funding for institutions of healthcare, long-term care, and community care accessed by older persons, including and especially in Indigenous communities. Just as important as the support, is the needed leadership from diverse older persons: Indigenous, those living with disability, on lower incomes, racialized, and queer. Their leadership is crucial for the very design, interactions, technologies, and programming that these institutions will deliver.

Storytellers also shared that they thoroughly enjoyed the discovery of their own creativity during the workshop process and continue to seek and bring more creativity in/to their lives. They also really enjoyed having access to the cutting-edge Re•Vision computer and software technology used to make their documentaries. The workshop was a pivot point for storytellers in that it provided a place to stop and reflect upon their lives. The community created by the storytellers remains a lasting important memory, and a wellspring from which their growing creativity continues and flows. That we can come together to mobilize the stories at venues such as ReFrame Film Festival or the Canadian Indigenous and Native Studies Association (CINSA) resurges and extends the energy of the community created by the workshop into diverse audiences.

KB:What does aging (and/or disability) have to teach us in the time of self-isolation and COVID-19? 

Aging Vitalities Storytellers were invited to reflect upon the following question: “What does aging (and/or disability) have to teach us in the time of self-isolation and COVID-19?” Their answers and stories are provided below.

Alice Olsen Williams: Is inadequately addressing Indigenous people’s vulnerability to a disease like COVID-19, yet another settler way of getting rid of us?”

I am Indigenous, an Anishinaabe-Kwe from Namegosibiing (Trout Lake in Treaty 3 territory), but now living in Oshkiigmaang (Curve Lake First Nation) in the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabe territory.

Self-isolating in this time of working to stop the spread of COVID-19, has given me lots of time to think about what is going on. I wonder, “How is this COVID-19 serving the ruling class?” Throughout settler history, Indigenous peoples have been deemed expendable by our governments to infectious diseases introduced by Europeans, and more recently from the H1N1 flu epidemic in 2009. Even while there is recognition from the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada of the increased vulnerability of Indigenous communities to COVID-19, I wonder how much will really change for Indigenous peoples. The recovery of the economy from this pandemic will also involve the continued view that Indigenous peoples’ lives can be shortened and expendable to do the “dirty work” or work “no settler will do” of extractive industries. Meanwhile, broken treaties result in inadequate housing, education, healthcare, income supports, unsafe drinking water and repeat settler history that Indigenous peoples are treated less than human. Is inadequately addressing Indigenous people’s vulnerability to a disease like COVID-19, yet another settler way of getting rid of us?

Joanne Pritchard: I am vulnerable as I tick boxes of being a senior, living with lifetime bronchial weakness, heart and kidney disease, and living alone.

I am a senior alone in my home. I am fortunate that I have learned how to acquire my bread, dairy, and vegetables through the support of my local small businesses and farmers. I am thrilled by all I am learning and how local businesses are adapting. There are losses: my adult children have lost their income, two having to have closed their small businesses. As a parent, their worries have become mine.

I am missing volunteering, social contacts, and a full calendar. I am aware of my vulnerability, living alone, and living with lifetime bronchial weakness, heart and kidney disease. I am also fortunate to be able to receive healthcare by telephone and continue my lab testing with all precautions. Finding self-balance is important. My arts practice gives me a sense of accomplishment and joy.

Ann Barrett

A lot of improvements to the system of long term care are needed, including proper staffing levels, improved salaries so workers can earn a living wage without having to go to several work places to make ends meet, benefits including paid sick days, and improved regulation of the industry.”

Before Covid-19 turned up in our lives I was a woman who had gone through the stages of being a partner then a caregiver then a supporter to my husband of 55 years. Now I can add the label of distant observer to that list.

This pandemic turned up 7 months after my husband moved into a long term care home. He has what is sometimes described as Parkinson’s dementia which affects both his physical and cognitive abilities.  He had reached a point where I was no longer able to support him at home even with lots of help from health care people. He settled into his new home and was well looked after by good staff. I would visit 3 – 4 times a week to tell him about family and friends, push him around the home and gardens, attend social activities, sit with him, hold his hand and hug him.  I was the link to who he was and the person who knew him best . 

It has been 5 weeks now since I saw or connected directly with him. Before that it was clear that sometimes he knew who I was and other times I wasn’t sure he made the connection.  He was able to feed himself and the staff, who are trained to move and lift him, looked after personal care needs. I never had to provide the essential services that some family members do for their loved ones but spending time with him was important to both of us as well as staff.

Now of course I can’t visit him. So I am reduced to sending cards and treats which are put in quarantine for a few days and then given to him by staff. Because of his challenges he hasn’t used a phone or iPad on his own for years and it is very hard to understand what he says.  I have phoned occasionally to see if I can find out how he is doing but seldom get a reply. I know people are tired and doing their best and feel guilty about pulling them away to answer my call.  Am I adding one more thing to their work if I ask if they can help him with a phone? Would hearing my voice help or confuse him? Would it help him or them if they had to tell me he is declining? Would it help me? These are just a few of the things that run through my mind at those times when I don’t have distractions. 

So once again I have been reminded what many of us who are aging already know.  We don’t have total control of our lives. Things won’t always go the way we planned. There are some things we can control and other things we have to let go of. Staying connected with family and friends can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to share real feelings. Take care of yourself.  Don’t shy away from making end of life plans.

What changes might help in a future situation? A lot of improvements to the system including proper staffing levels, improved salaries so workers can earn a living wage without having to go to several work places to make ends meet, benefits including paid sick days, and improved regulation of the industry. Perhaps it is time to question whether there is a place for private homes in the long term care industry. 

And expanding the ways that new technologies can be used to enhance communication and connections between families, their loved one and staff on a regular basis.  As an older person I am aware of the limitation of my skills in this area but see the potential for increasing connection even when distance or viruses keep us apart. 

Mary Gordon: “We can use this period of isolation to prepare for the future, to live more simply.”

I’ve been working with a small, dedicated group in my city for several years, with a philosophy called Bridges Out of Poverty.  It’s not your usual do-gooder charity. In fact it turns the conversation about poverty upside-down, and gets people talking to each other across the lines of economic class that we’ve drawn in our western world. 

Our Bridges teams aren’t trying to lure poor people into the middle class. In fact, we’re learning about the resources that other economic classes have to offer us. They become the leaders in our workshops and weekly gatherings. The theme that has underpinned this community movement since its pilot group is “food, fun, and story-telling.” Nothing happens without it. 

We bureaucrats, teachers, farmers, hospitality workers, and tradespeople learned quickly to shut up and learn.

As we redesign our community processes around a pandemic and isolation, the lower-income prophets in our group told us they felt like the rest of the world is just “catching up” to them in terms of world view. We are learning to live without some of the things we’re accustomed to. We don’t go out to bars or restaurants. We can’t go watch a hockey game. We’re not allowed to go to the cottage. Can’t even get to church! We are learning to live with ourselves, without “losing it”. 

They tell us that friends and family are what’s important. Our relationships. Having friends who can lend us soup till the next paycheque; who can fix our flat tire; who can pick up our meds and drop them off; people who care about how we’re feeling.

We have a lot to learn from these citizens, the true “experts” in poverty. After a lifetime of puzzling over the myriad schemes for reducing poverty, I am learning to look at it from the inside out. We use zoom technology to capture the food, fun, and storytelling of our Bridges experiment, to solidify the relationships we’re building, and to rely on our friends with long experience in “living with less”. 

We can use this period of isolation to prepare for the future, to live more simply.

Aging Vitalities at ReFrame Film Festival 2020: left to right, Mary Gordon, Melodie McCullough, Sally Chivers (co-researcher), Nadine Changfoot, Ann Barrett, Joanne Pritchard. Photo credit: Tristan Peirce.
Aging Vitalities Panel Discussion: left to right, Alice Olsen Williams, Ann Barrett, Mary Gordon, Paulette Lackenbauer, Gisele Lalonde, Charmaine Magumbe, Joanne Pritchard. Photo credit: Tristan Peirce.

Accessing the Arts Focus Groups

Poster advertising the project.
Graphic image poster in shades of purple, white, and black. Text at the top says “Paid opportunity for disabled artists.” Image of a laptop in the middle says “Accessing the Arts Focus Groups.” The Bodies in Translation and Creative Users Projects logos are along the bottom.

As part of the Accessing the Arts initiative, Bodies in Translation and our research partners Creative Users Projects are working with communities across Canada in the co-creation of a digital strategy that removes barriers in the arts and creates more opportunities for people with disabilities to experience and access the arts. 

From April 24 – May 20, 2020, we are hosting a series of virtual co-design thinking workshops facilitated by guest artists to open conversation and share our stories around what it means to access artistic experiences. 

Participants will be asked to consider and discuss the following questions, to explore how our community is participating in the arts sector pre- and post-COVID-19:

  • Tell us a story about a memorable artistic experience (either as a creator or an audience, or both). What made it so memorable/impactful/impressionable?
  • What are the most important factors that drive you to choose one event or opportunity over another?
  • How have you (as an artist or patron) and your community been responding, or what kind of responses have you seen, to the current situation?

These sessions are prioritized for disability-identified community members. Individuals who are selected to participate will be paid $100. 2-hour workshops will be limited to 6 participants, and 1-hour workshops will be limited to 3 participants. The workshop sessions will be recorded for research purposes only.

Submit your expression of interest to participate in a focus group (Google form)

Artist Facilitators

Yousef Kadoura

Yousef Kadoura was born in the midwestern United States and raised in Ottawa Ontario, he is a Lebanese Canadian actor, writer, producer, and curator as well as a right leg below knee amputee. Yousef is a graduate of the Acting (2017) program at the National Theatre School of
Canada. Since moving to Toronto from Montreal he has worked as the Curator-in-residence at Tangled Art + Disability co-curating the Flourishing series in 2018. He was also the producer and creator of the podcast series Walking the Space (2017) a three part podcast exploring disability in Canadian theatre.

Yousef is also a founding company member of Other He/Arts a new performance collective which came together initially as a producing vehicle for the Yousef’s show, One Night, in Aluna Theatre’s Caminos festival (2019). As an artist Yousef seeks to draw from a plurality of experiences and disciplines to expand the boundaries of performance in pursuit of accessibility, presence and shared experience. 

H. Jordyn Taylor

H. Jordyn Taylor is a Toronto artist and disability rights activist. After getting her start showing her work in LGBT youth art shows, Jordyn studied drawing and painting at the Academy of Art Canada in 2010. While continuing to refine her skills as an artist, Jordyn got involved in the disability arts community and the Cripping the Arts movement beginning in 2015. Since then, she has been focusing on illustrative work that explores themes of chronic mental and physical illness, challenging societal notions of disability and bodily integrity. Jordyn actively participates in gallery shows at Super Wonder Gallery and The Freedom Factory, the latter of which hosted her first solo show in February 2019.

Jessica Watkin

Jessica Watkin is an interdisciplinary artist-scholar, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. Her dissertation is about Disabled Artists in Canada and how they make performance, care structures, and Disability Dramaturgy. She is an Accessibility Consultant and Designer, fAcilitator, Educator, and creative Problem Solver. She works with the British Council to facilitate Relaxed Performance and Disability Justice trainings.

Chris Dodd

Chris Dodd is an Edmonton based Deaf performing artist, playwright, accessibility advocate and Governor General Innovation Award finalist. He is the founder and artistic director of Canada’s national theatre festival dedicated to the Deaf performing arts, SOUND OFF. He is an artistic associate with Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre and is one of their Playwrights in Development. His solo show, “Deafy”, is currently touring and will later be published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2021. Other acting credits include “Queen Seraphina and the Land of Vertebraat” with Saskatoon’s Sum Theatre, “Gravity” with Edmonton’s Theatre Yes and “Ultrasound” at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille. Chris holds a degree from the University of Alberta’s Drama program. He was recently the recipient of the Guy Laliberté Prize for innovation and creative leadership by the Canada Council of the Arts. 

Erin Ball

Erin Ball is a circus artist and coach based in Kingston, Ontario. She runs and owns Kingston Circus Arts. Erin is a mover and storyteller who focuses on aerial arts and some ground acrobatics. She took a year off in March 2014 due to life changing events that resulted in having both lower legs removed. She has since returned to her passion of training, coaching and performing. She loves collaborating, adapting and creating new/different ways of executing skills. In 2017, she developed a workshop and manual, called Flying Footless, a course for aerial coaches who want to work adaptively and make their teaching more inclusive. Though it was not immediate, Erin has really embraced being a part of the Disability community. She has won accessibility awards, hosts a ground-breaking yearly amputee circus camp and has taught and performed internationally.

Aislinn Thomas

Aislinn Thomas is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice includes video, performance, sculpture, installation, and text. She culls material from everyday experiences and relationships, creating work that ranges from poignant to absurd (at times straddling both). Her recent works explore the generative nature of disability while pushing up against conventional standards of access.

Recent exhibitions include Draft Systems WRO Media Arts Biennial in Wroclaw, Poland; TALK BACK at Flux Factory in Queens, New York; and commissioned projects for the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Aislinn is a settler of Ashkenazi and British descent. She lives and works on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to the Six Nations near the Grand River in Ontario, Canada.

Wy Joung Kou

Wy Joung Kou is a queer, chronically ill, multi-disciplinary artist based in Tkaronto. As a performer, their experience spans from spoken word, to dance, to movement, to sound. As a mosaic artist, they are a poet, turned visual-tactile storyteller. Their stories are ones told in languages of colour, texture, grit, and feeling. Grounded in a disability justice framework centering accessibility, community and interdependence, their artistic practice is interwoven with personal narratives of grief, diaspora, care, illness, and intimacy. Kou’s educational trajectory as a professional artist has followed a path combining mentorship and community-models of learning, skill exchange, and collaborative process. They are the founder of the Sick & Disabled Queer Zine Fair (Tkaronto, 2018-19), the inaugural winner of the JRG Grant for Artist with Disabilities (2018), and are a member of RAW – Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers.

Into the Light wins Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award!

We are thrilled to share that “Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario” has received The Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award! This award celebrates individuals, groups and communities for their exceptional contributions to heritage conservation – cultural and natural, tangible and intangible.

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. The Trust identifies, protects, promotes and conserves Ontario’s heritage. The Trust conserves provincially significant cultural and natural heritage, interprets Ontario’s history, educates Ontarians of its importance in our society, and celebrates the province’s diversity. The Trust envisions an Ontario where the places, landscapes, traditions and stories that embody our heritage are reflected, valued and conserved for future generations.

Into the Light is co-curated by Mona Stonefish, Peter Park, Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Evadne Kelly, Seika Boye and Sky Stonefish. This exhibition of artistic, sensory, and material expressions of memory aims to bring one of Guelph’s dark secrets, as well as stories of survival, out of the shadows and into the light. Co-presented by Re-Vision: Centre for Art and Social Justice, Bodies in Translation, and Respecting Rights, Arch Disability Law.

The exhibition is now closed at the Guelph Civic Museum, but you can read this piece by Evadne Kelly and Carla Rice in The Conversation Canada that outlines some of the experience, “Universities must open their archives and share their oppressive pasts.”

Dolleen, Sky, Evadne, and Mona on stage receiving the award at Queen’s Park in Toronto.
Evadne standing behind Mona, with a number of other people sitting and standing around them. They are both wearing red and smiling. 
Sky, Dolleen, Evadne, Carla, and Mona smiling together.
Mona smiling, wearing braids and a beaded sheriff’s hat, holding the award.

BIT Big Picture Committee Meeting

Members of the BIT Big Picture Committee standing and sitting together, posing for a group photo. There are 20 people all together, in 2 rows.

On February 27-28, 2020, the Bodies in Translation Big Picture Committee gathered at 10C in downtown Guelph, to connect around successes and strategies at the midpoint of the grant. BIT is a Partnership Grant, after all—we wouldn’t be what we are without the hard work and community of all of our wonderful partners!

Our first day together brought:

  • a review of our Midterm Report by BIT co-directors Carla Rice and Eliza Chandler
  • a first screening of the Oral Histores of Disability documentary, presented by Karen Yoshida and Erin Macindoe-Sproule
  • an introduction to the BIT knowledge platform and learning modules led by Kayla Besse (coming soon!)
  • an introduction to the Artist Directory led by Lindsay Fisher (coming soon!)
  • a group taxonomy activity led by Lilith Lee

On the second day, each committee member gave an update about what they’ve been working on for BIT, and we were treated to two tours at the Guelph Civic Museum: a tour of Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario with Evadne Kelly, and a tour of VibraFusionLab: Bridging Practices in Accessibility, Art and Communications with David Bobier.

Creative Users’ COVID-19 Resources

We hope you’re all keeping safe and well at home in these uncertain times. Our friends at Creative Users Projects (@ProjectCU on Twitter) have put together an accessible COVID-19 resources page, which includes information in #ASL, plain language, digital communications, and more. Check it out here.

They are also currently sending out their Connector newsletter on a weekly basis, which you can subscribe to here, to keep up on the latest in arts funding opportunities, calls for participation, and upcoming events.

How a radical form of accessibility is pushing the boundaries of theatre performance

Dr. Carla Rice and Kayla Besse’s latest on Relaxed Performance in The Conversation Canada. Read it in full here.

Image description: a photo of Erin Ball performing at Cripping the Arts. Over the photo in white text, it says “Radical accessibility pushes boundaries of theatre
Carla Rice, University of Guelph and Kayla Besse, University of Guelph

Have you ever been nervous about going to the theatre?
Maybe you’re unfamiliar with theatre etiquette, maybe you have children or maybe you find it hard to stay still for hours feeling trapped in your seat. In Shakespeare’s day, theatregoers drank, ate and socialized their way through performance.

There is a more generous way to engage with the arts, and related to this, much to learn from disability arts in particular.

Let bodies be bodies
Relaxed performance — an approach to performance that challenges what have developed as strict expectations and codes for audience and performer engagement and behaviour — is making theatre and other types of live performance like fashion shows and musical events more accessible.

[Keep reading]

Upcoming Exhibitions Featuring Vanessa Dion Fletcher

Vanessa Dion Fletcher is an accomplished artist and Bodies in Translation artist-in-residence for 2018. She is a graduate of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, where she obtained her M.F.A. in 2016. Vanessa has received several awards for her work, including the Textile Museum of Canada Melissa Levin Emerging Artist Award. For more information about Vanessa, please visit her website:

Vanessa will be exhibiting her work at several exciting upcoming events:

Inside Voices, a film by Vanessa Dion Fletcher, will be shown as a part of “That’s So Gay (TSG) 2018: Say My Name.” This group show is curated by Syrus Marcus Ware, and is presented with the 8th annual 10×10 Photography Project and Nuit Rose & Pride Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel. The exhibition runs June 13th till August 5th with the opening party on June 21st from 7-10pm. Artists will present Pechu Kucha talks (short presentations) on July 17th from 6-9pm.

This year’s participating artists are: Xanthe Blister, Quill Christie-Peters, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Myung-Sun Kim, Wy Joung Kou, Gabrielle Le Roux, Life of a Crap Head (Amy Lam + Jon McCurley), Patrisse Marie Cullors, Desmond Miller, Just Seeds Collaborative (Jesse Purcell + Mary Tremonte)

The TSG 2018 subtitle, Say My Name, refers to the #Sayhername campaign, centred around the killings of black women, in particular of black trans women, and the massive campaigns around Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) across Turtle Island.

[Still image from Inside Voices by Vanessa Dion Fletcher. There is a screen with a photograph of a bleeding cervix. The screen is surrounded by a soft brown curtain.]

In Vanessa’s words: “For TSG I am embracing the connection of female anatomy with domestic and interior spaces, lining the walls and floor with textiles creating a tactile comfortable viewing space.”

For more information about the event, visit the Gladstone Hotel website and the Facebook event.

Another exciting exhibition, Crosscurrents: Canada in the Making features Vanessa’s ongoing work with the Textile Museum of Canada. She created a work (in progress) entitled Body Image for the exhibition.

Body Image by Vanessa Dion Fletcher. Her description is The image is of a pelvis and legs with blood dripping into the ground, the phases of the moon are present with an abstraction that references florals patterns or clouds

[Body Image by Vanessa Dion Fletcher. Her description is included in the quote below.]

According to Vanessa:

“The image is of a pelvis and legs with blood dripping into the ground, the phases of the moon are present with an abstraction that references florals patterns or clouds. I have been making and remaking this image in different forms for several years. I hesitated to start this work because I felt like I was repeating my self, but people seem to be very pleased with its new iteration and materials, perhaps I put too much emphasis on the new rather than returning to an always becoming image of a body.”

The exhibition is curated by Roxane Shaughnessy and includes artwork by Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Brenda Lee, Meghann O’Brien, Amanda Rataj, and Ovilu Tunnillie. The focus of the exhibition is the role that textiles play in storytelling, identity- and history-building and expression. From the curator’s description:

“At its core, Crosscurrents considers how textiles old and new stimulate the sharing of new knowledge and insights. Many object stories are held by the communities in which they were made. To reveal them, we have reached out to makers, family members, historians and artists to share their perspectives and knowledge, and summoned their collective voices – foregrounded through gallery commentary, social experiences, workshops, talks and performances, connecting diverse perceptions, passions and understandings from the past and the present into the future.” (Source)

Crosscurrents runs from June 27th 2018 till March 31st, 2019, with an opening reception on June 27th.

For more information, please visit the Textile Museum website.

My Head Lay on a Trusty Word

You’re invited to experience My Head Lay on a Trusty Word, a documentary film exhibition by Roberto Santaguida. This is the final exhibition of Space Shapes Place, a national series of vibrant commissions produced by Tangled Art + Disability.

Opening Reception: April 19, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Exhibition dates: April 19 – May 19, 2018
Location: Tangled Art Gallery S-122, 401 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON

Fork on table top
Still from exhibition

About the exhibition

My Head Lay on A Trusty Word marks a new installation by Montreal-born filmmaker Roberto Santaguida. The narrative sculpts a tale of his own personal journey: at fourteen years old, Santaguida ran away from home and dreamt he found redemption on the Atlantic coast. For this project, the artist replicated his travels east, revisiting the small towns, scenic routes, twilight beaches, and the woman who helped him find his way back.

About the artist

Since completing his studies in film production at Concordia University, Roberto Santaguida has worked extensively in documentary and experimental film. His films have shown at more than 250 international festivals around the world. Santaguida is the recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award and a fellowship from Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany.


Tangled Art Gallery is in a barrier-free location. Audio description will be available for the exhibit. For public engagements we will have ASL interpreters, live transcription and attendant care present. Service animals are welcome. We request that you help us to make this a scent-free environment


Tangled Art Gallery is located in studio 122 on the main floor on the 401 Richmond Building. The closest accessible subway station is at Osgoode Station. The closest accessible streetcar stop is the 510 Spadina Queen Street West Stop (Queen Street stop going south from Spadina Station, Richmond Street stop going north from Union Station.)


For images, interviews, or more information please contact: Kristina McMullin
P: 647 725 5064


A still of My Head Lay on a Trusty Word. The frame features a table setting with a plate of food, one fork and one glass. The tablecloth is cream coloured with a bright red floral pattern. The image is grainy like old film.

Co-Design Session #1

We are holding a co-design session on October 19th, 2017 from 10am-2:30pm at the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University.


What is a co-design session?

A co-design session is an opportunity for diverse members of diverse communities to come together to collaborate, experiment, and explore a problem or project. The objective of the Bodies in Translation co-design session is to explore different perspectives on sharing digital information and creating teaching/learning tools in interactive, useful and playful ways.



Here is some more information about what we are hoping to get out of the day:

The co-design session will explore how we can effectively share knowledge generated over the course of the grant with different users. Broadly, the goals of the co-design sessions are to explore what the knowledge platform could be, what potential users want to see in a platform, how users would want to engage with the platform and how the platform can act as an effective teaching and learning  tool. A major goal of the co-design session will be to learn about how the platform can best mobilize the pedagogical possibilities of activist art. Here we use “pedagogy” to refer primarily to higher education teaching contexts; in other words, we wish to know how higher education instructors and learners across disciplines as well as educators and learners within policy-making and practice institutional contexts and in community activist contexts would like to engage with the platform and what kinds of resources would be most helpful to them. Relatedly, we would like to know what artists, activists, designers, and community members might like educators (including educators who belong to these groups) to know and teach about and what they want learners to understand (and if relevant, put into practice).

More concretely, we are asking:

  • What are the pedagogical possibilities of an interactive knowledge platform?
  • What forms will the “interactivity” take?
  • What modalities will be most useful for different target audiences (i.e., visual, voice, text, etc.)
  • Under what conditions would people want to use the platform, and for what ends?
  • How can we attend to the needs of different audiences at the same time?
  • How can we hold multiple sets of accessibility needs while designing the platform?
  • How can the platform spark the curiosity of those who might not otherwise imagine inclusive and accountable ways of working?

Our main audiences include:

  • Artists
  • Designers
  • Educators
  • Students and learners
  • People who might not otherwise be thinking about non-normative models of embodiment in their practice
  • Policy-makers and practitioners in diverse institutional contexts
  • Activists
  • Historians
  • Community members

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Andrea LaMarre via email at or by phone at 519 993 6435.