Artist Cathy Stubington chats with an admirer of her work following her artist talk at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery where her exhibition

Artist Cathy Stubington chats with an admirer of her work following her artist talk at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery where her exhibition

The art of engagement

These flower names turned into a musical round for those people present at Cathy Stubingon’s artist talk at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery

Pussy willow, dandelion, apple blossom, saskatoon, acacia, wild mustard, yellow sweet clover, snowberry, white clover, alfalfa, fall asters, goldenrod.

These flower names turned into a musical round for those people present at Cathy Stubingon’s artist talk at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery March 19.

The list of flowers comes from a bee calendar that Armstrong beekeepers compiled as a part of Armstrong Bee Hassocks, one of Stubington’s 2014 projects, this one done in collaboration with Molly March. Each hassock has a mandala based on one of the most important flowers the bees go to for honey and nectar.

The hexagonal honey comb-shaped hassocks were made mainly at the Armstrong library as a way of sharing the flower list.

Along with participating in the round, people at the artist talk contributed by working on unfinished hassocks – Stubington not missing a chance to engage others in her projects.

Like Armstrong Bee Hassocks, all of the 15 or so projects in Stubington’s exhibition, entitled The Art of Engagement, are about just that, engaging the community through multi-disciplinary art and performance.

With a smile, one way Stubington describes her work is “oblique activism.”

Many of her projects involve dozens of people of all ages and abilities in their creation, often offering education and bridging cultures in subtle yet powerful ways. Puppets figure prominently.

Stubington’s biography notes she was born and raised in Montreal, where she began doing puppet theatre at Picardi Marionette Theatre.

In 1987 she came to B.C. to work with Caravan Theatre.

She moved to Enderby in 1994 and in 1998 “embarked on bridging First Nations and settler peoples with the community play, ‘Not the Way I Heard It.’”

A mural on the Enderby museum is a testament to the large production.

Out of the community play was born Runaway Moon Theatre, where Stubington is artistic director. She explained that several creations have been called community spectacles rather than plays, often taking place over a long distance as well as involving many people.

One of her ongoing projects, which began in 2009, is Calendario. It explores a local calendar based on seasonal indicators instead of one filled with dates.

Armstrong Bee Hassocks is part of the Calendario exploration, as is Swawllc 2013, a collaboration with Splatsin grandmothers that features the order that the swawllc (fish) arrive and flags with prayers for them.

Another is Grindrod Sheep’s Calendario 2013, featuring a huge circular rug made from sheep’s wool. In bright colours  are the stages of the sheep’s world.

Like many projects, it involved young people. Children at Grindrod Elementary created it, with help from farmer Gabriele Wesle.

One visitor to the gallery echoed what many people who participate in and view projects that Stubington creates seem to express.

Looking around, he said: “This has touched my heart.”