During the first pandemic lockdown my husband, like many, began baking bread. My youngest spent his virtual school ‘recess’ doodling online with renowned childrens’ author, Mo Willems. My eldest painted rocks with inspirational quotes to scatter in our front yard. My middle rediscovered Lego – escaping into fantastical worlds of his own creation. I did my first paint-by-number since the age of 9. As a family we learned how to needle point and made a menagerie of animals for the baby we were expecting. At a time rife with uncertainty, loneliness and fear – our human instinct was to create. We made art in a multitude of ways and to varying degrees of what might be considered a success. We created to nourish our bodies, to learn, connect, escape, explore and express. We created because it felt necessary.
At a time rife with uncertainty, loneliness and fear – our human instinct was to create.
At Writers Collective of Canada we witness the immense power of art on a daily basis through our workshops. We see it in the knowing nod of a listener, the awed silence of the group, or the subtle shift in posture of a writer discovering the power of their voice – often for the first time. While we acknowledge our writing as ‘first draft’ and emphasize the process over the ‘product’ – we also celebrate the magnificence of what emerges. Whether the story is one of grief, struggle, resilience or hope – we honour the courage it took to put that experience into words. Whether the authors’ voice is fragmented English, educated prose, confident and polished or barely a whisper – we listen deeply and in doing so we say to one another, I hear you. I see you.
Acclaimed as both an inspiring community-arts organization and a proven non-clincial support for mental health and well-being, over the past decade WCC has partnered with over 130 leading social service, community, health and arts organizations to offer our unique workshops. Our impact has been felt by strangers gathered in public libraries, veterans reintegrating into society post-service, youth on the cusp of becoming, newcomers finding their place in a foreign land, individuals wrestling with addiction or recovering from abuse, caregivers separated from loved ones, and the community at large as we faced a pandemic that taught all of us what it means to feel alone.
Who we write with and how we gather – around a table, on a screen or in some hybrid model of both – varies immensely but the impact is as unwavering as the beauty of the stories written. WCC is proud that alongside the impact we have in the lives of individuals and communities nationwide, we are also part of a broader community of arts organizations looking to make change. We spark big conversations with our friends at Theater of War; celebrate stories and their brave authors with the Toronto International Festival of Authors; create new art with the talented Art of Time Ensemble; and challenge perspectives with The Power Plant and the Koffler Gallery.
Our writing surprises us, moves us, transforms us, reveals us, heals us and most importantly – connects us. The impact of art on us as individuals, the communities to which we belong and society as a whole is undeniable.
Art nourishes the physical and mental health of individuals and creates more resilient communities. It sparks activism and action, bridges and builds connection, fosters dialogue, helps us make sense of the world around us and fulfills our innate need to feel seen and heard. Translating the complexity of the human experience takes many forms and is seen in the practice of a dancer, painter, musician, actor or writer – each form of artistic expression igniting the next. Art is not limited to those who receive a paycheck for their efforts. If you create – you are an artist. Like we always say at Writers Collective of Canada – anyone who writes is a writer. Our stories – published, performed, shared or silently tucked in a pocket – are all equally worthy of being told and each one deserves to be heard – even if by an audience of one.
If you create – you are an artist.
After a decade of listening, we know, now more than ever before, the significance of what we do and are committed to our role in alleviating the global crisis in mental health associated with isolation and loneliness – one story at a time.
— Shelley Lepp
WCC Co-Executive Director