With the new year came Artscape’s announcement of an exciting program, facilitated by Artscape Daniels Launchpad: The Rural Creatives Springboard.
In collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC), and supported by TD Bank Group, Launchpad put out a call for Rural Creatives in order to support and amplify the diverse voices of creative entrepreneurs across Canada.
The virtual program launched in January 2022, made up entirely of practicing artists, creators/makers, social entrepreneurs and storytellers – two of whom sat down with us to share their experiences.
Meet Tuija Hansen, an artist and designer, and Shauna Rae, a producer – both of whom completed the latest iteration of our Springboard. Read on to learn more about their stories!
When a friend forwarded Tuija Hansen the application for the Rural Creatives Springboard, she was just arriving home from an artist residency in Iceland.
‘The timing was perfect!’ she said. “I had a good feeling about the possibilities it offered.”
Hansen, a Finnish-Canadian textile artist living and working in Robinson-Superior Treaty territory in Thunder Bay engages with her heritage by bringing it to the present. Her work and life are centered around ethical foraging, plant-dyeing and handweaving. She told us that being surrounded by boreal forests and a rich cultural heritage inspires her work.
“This body of work has taken me to different regions in the province of Ontario, as well as artist residencies in Finland and Iceland, where I continue to do research in traditional textile methods and develop ways of working with local flora and communities.”
The artist and designer explained that the Springboard provided creatives with a chance to meet others after a long period of isolation – adding that the regularly scheduled meetings fostered a sense of kinship and familiarity for participants.
And as a result, Hansen shared this exciting news with us: “Excitingly, an opportunity that I couldn’t have predicted has developed because of the Rural Creative Springboard: I’ve been searching for a specialized digital loom to rent for use in Canada, and it turns out that Artscape Daniels Launchpad in Toronto has one of six looms in the country!” she said. “I couldn’t believe the coincidence!”
In addition to this serendipitous experience, Hansen added that the Springboard offered her new ‘food for thought’ regarding facets of the entrepreneur’s journey. “I personally appreciated the one-on-one mentorship sessions with the guest speakers that allowed me to focus on specific areas of my practice for development.”
Pre-COVID era, Shauna Rae would treat herself to creative writing retreats every year – getting together with other like-minded creatives. But the pandemic put a halt to that tradition.
It wasn’t until the producer discovered the call for the Rural Creatives Springboard that she jumped at the chance to connect with other creatives again – especially ones who are rurally situated as well.
“At first, because of my age (55) and not being an artist that sells tactile pieces or projects, I was a bit apprehensive, however, it quickly became apparent that this was a learning and growing experience I could have never imagined,” said Rae.
The producer describes herself as a conduit for folks whose voices have been lost, or ignored. Her company, Radar Media, was created to amplify underrepresented voices, facilitate conversations to spark meaningful change, ensure humans are treated fairly, and form communities of like-minded individuals that allows humans to live authentically as they move through the world.
“I am a white woman of privilege, ally-in-training, attempting to use that privilege to amplify others. I’m also a rural entrepreneur,” said Rae. “I worked for a decade as a radio journalist and then a decade in communications, PR and community engagement. The last few jobs I had, I worked with rural entrepreneurs in Ontario. But I felt like showcasing the stories of minority groups was just box-checking for the orgs I worked for, so I wanted to change that…I started Clearing a New Path™ weekly podcast, and a weekly newsletter to amplify, inform and engage rural Canadian women-identifying and non-binary entrepreneurs in order to unite us and for us to act, as one.”
Rae recalls how nice it was to absorb the teachings of others from the program – not only from the mentors, but the other participants.
“It’s been amazing to see us support and cheer for one another and I just can’t say enough about the mentors! Both their sessions and the one-on-one support have been so very helpful and supportive. Peter, Tracy and Casandra were phenomenal leaders as well. Bravo to Artscape and Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity!”