Margit Hideg

Unveiling Party for the Wisdom of Trees installation at the Beaverbrook Library

On Saturday June 24th, at 3:00pm Councillor Marianna Wilkinson, AOE Arts Council Executive Director Victoria Steele, artist Margit Hideg and the Beaverbrook Library staff welcomed Kanata and greater Ottawa community for the grand unveiling of the “The Wisdom of Trees” community arts installation which is made from more than 150 pieces of art made by members of the Beaverbrook Library and staff of Kanata based businesses: YouiTV, Thinkwrap, Martello and Ericsson. After a meditation on the symbolic parallels of trees in forests and human individuals in communities led by Margit, participants took time to reflect on their Canadian identity: in thought and appreciation of themselves, their culture and family roots. They then designed a triangular mylar piece with paint markers in a way they felt visually depicted their identity within their community.

The installation fit the spirit of the library: it is vibrant in colour, casual, playful brings to unity many ununiform pieces representing people of all ages, backgrounds and occupations.

In this blog, Margit reflects on what she learned through the making of this installation.

How have you changed as a person as an artist after this experience?

This project has gave me a much richer definition of my role as an artist as more of a “the citizen artist”. It is art by the public and the artist, and might well be laying the groundwork for a paradigm shift in how we view art and artists in our culture.

Through collaboration the art is moved out of the museum/gallery and into the spaces of daily life. During the process I’ve empowered myself together with participants through their work.

Artists have experienced the isolation of small, specialized audiences and the pressure to do more accessible work.

As more and more of me commit to community projects, my work is raising critical questions about the role of the artist in these projects and about the exact timing of the artistic act. Depending on the situation, sometimes as an artist I was restricted to the role of facilitator—apparently submerging my own identity, expertise, training and talent into the collaborative action of the group. In the group, the art is taken in a new directions, the original idea is challenged – that can be hard to let go of as an artist, but this project has helped me see the value in letting the idea be dynamic through the group’s progress.

APA_TNA_0149_2017-06-24_15-36-24What are some key points you learned?

  • In all participatory approaches, it is important to ask who the participates are. Power relations matter within all communities, and some groups or individuals always have a louder voice than others.
  • I grew stronger in my project management and budgeting skills
  • The way people learn to work together on one project it is an example of how a community can work together in a strong effective, peaceful manner. Everybody had a chance to express themselves. Isn’t it astonishing that a large work of art can be created in such a short time when people work together?
  • Collaboration is the key in this new work. Because one of the primary goals of most community-art projects is to address social questions, this project included thinking in fields like social work too. I saw the library as such as important player in a healthy neighborhood.

APA_TNA_0163_2017-06-24_15-47-38How was this similar to other collaborative projects you have done?

  • Community art projects allow audiences different ways to engage with and experience the art work through installations that are often site-specific and make use of objects and ideas from the communities. Some of my collaborative projects combine participatory action research with art production.
  • Community and collaborative arts practices: bring people together; foster trust between participants and increasing their generalized trust of others; produce a source of pride for residents in their community, increasing their sense of connection to that community.
  • Community events inspire, heal groups of people, through the production of commonly shared stories and representations. A community cannot be a community without a shared project.
  • Engagement in community arts activities contribute to personal and social development, help people to feel better and healthier and build new skills and knowledges,
  • Social benefits include enhanced connections and networks, improved local image, stronger sense of place, identity and heritage.
  • Local regeneration: changes in perceptions of place, increased confidence and stronger relationships between community and government.

APA_TNA_0166_2017-06-24_15-49-20What was something that stuck you at the actual unveiling?

The realization, that the final installation no longer represents my own signature and it has a collective ownership.”

Margit sought to encourage the community of Kanata to reconnect with themselves, each other and the nature around them with this project and the installation unveiling was a satisfying afternoon in the library were the realization of these goals was palpable. Guests at the unveiling circled the hanging structure in the library seeking out the piece that they had made and shared with each other their reasoning for drawing what they did. One participant found hers and explained to her friends:

“I don’t feel like an artist as much as I am a photographer. I drew a leaf because it was a picture that I had took not too long before I came to the workshop. I focused on the veins within the leaf in my photograph, and my mylar art piece.”

The guests also poked around the installation, pointing out to each other pieces that struck them as unique or impressed them for different reasons. The unveiling party was a time that everyone involved shared their appreciation for each other’s help throughout the project and their appreciation for the new relationships they formed as their art pieces hung knitted together in the background.

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Margit Hideg

Lunch and Learn, The Wisdom of the Trees

In this post, we hear from the participants of the workshop hosted by Ericsson in Kanata as they explain how they chose to visually express their identity as a tree.

“This is my tree. When I think about the roots and the crown, I think about where I came from and where I am now. I am now in Canada and I come from China and lived in Japan and also have worked for a Sweden Company. [She represented these by drawing flags in the crown area of her tree] But the root, I think all of that is coming from the power of knowledge, diversity being able to appreciate a different culture and to adapt to my environment. That includes language, technical skills and cultural comprehension. [She drew alphabetic letters, numbers and symbols in the roots area] I think that’s given me a very strong, solid foundation that has set my dream free – so I have the two wings. I think I would like to go to more places, experience more in this world, other cultures, other lands, other people. So, that’s how I came to this picture.”

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“The entire thing represents a tree. You see the two parts that are brown, signifies the soil. And two parts of water [2 blue triangles] and sunlight [yellow triangles] – the essential components for a tree. The tree produces beautiful flowers [pink triangle] leaves [green triangle with many white and red spots] and other fruits also the white and the red symbolizes Canada and ultimately we are reaching towards the sky so that’s the blue. The geometry is representing the mathematical side of me, being an engineer and the colours represent diversity in cultures – which is my culture.”

lunch2“I come from Hong Kong, I think I have a humble beginning, but I am a caterpillar that will turn into a butterfly in this diverse nation full of freedom and opportunities and abundance.”

blog3.1“This is a person – supposedly! [She laughs at the blue figure at the trunk of the tree] And this is Canada. [She point to the ground that the tree grows out of that is coloured as the Canadian flag.] And this is the hands as the roots. That’s the person and this is the background of a person – they are an immigrant. [She points to a Venezuelen flag in the crown of the tree]. I am from Venezuela. And this is the freedom that we have in Canada. [She points to three birds flying near the tree] And these are my three kids.”

blog3.3“So this represents our family, we have four children – my wife and I. The tree represents the importance of family structure in society. It represents the importance of fostering the growth of our children and allowing them to be independent and make, hopefully, good choices!”

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This picture I was trying to convey Ericsson values and as part of network society as how we relate to diversity and inclusion. One of the things I really like about Ericsson is their complete interest in doing good things for the world. The trunk shows the strength of our values, diversity and inclusion and how that will help make the world a better place. In the sense of supporting the whole global society, network society and actually helping diversity no matter where it sits in the world. And I was trying to draw a hand as it sits in the branches to show that this is a supporting factor to help enable everything. And along with this is a little bit of love sprinkled in [she points to the hearts drawn around the tree].”

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Quotes by workshop participants from Margit Hideg’s project The Wisdom of the Trees

 

Margit Hideg

Feeling “Togetherness”

Neighborhood Arts 150 assitant artist Lisa Flick shares her experience with the Wisdom of Trees open workshops in the Beaverbrook Library:

I feel like there is a sound of “visual art”. There is that distinct silence that happens when people are focused on making a colourful design. I love that sound. This said, happy and quiet conversations spring up between the participants during the workshops. Kanata Residents of all ages are drawn into the Wisdom of Trees workshops where they are asked to reflect on the symbolism of trees in forests in comparison to themselves in their communities, then they are asked to draw a tree on a mylar triangle.

A mother and daughter come in together who are relatively new to the area. We begin to chat about what brought the family to the area. Her response comes with an experience-based counsel:

“Lisa, remember this: no matter where you live, the thing that counts is the people. I moved here to Canada and sure – the winters are tough – but you can put a coat on and you are all set. Where I used to live, we had mountains, beaches, great weather but people just felt too competitive, too money driven. Here, the kids don’t have four hours of homework in grade four, it’s more relaxed, more friendly.”

It felt so rewarding to hear the reflections and appreciations for Canada’s culture move around the table. “Welcoming and relaxed neighborhood environments” were elements of our culture that participants cherished as well as multi-lingualism. Several kids at the table chattered about their great visions for their artworks flowing seamlessly between French and English or Mandarin.

In these multi-generational family discussions, many parents would come into the workshop thinking only their kids would do the art. Some parents said: “Oh! I can’t do art” However, with the supplies set out before them and some gentle reassurance, they – perhaps reluctantly, began. That’s my favourite part! I love bringing people to break through their inhibition to drawing or painting and realising that they are indeed able to create something beautiful just by putting colours on a page. That’s the place to start art. By just starting. Creating with little skill and experience is still creating.

Our goals for these projects were beautifully simple, yet things we really believe are important to take the time to consider: our gratefulness for our communities, and to become reaffirmed in our personal identity in regard to others around us. We also want to pause to give some recognition to a beautiful staple in Canadian landscapes: trees! I noticed how much I disregarded Canada’s incredible greenery when I went traveling and it would be a shame if we Canadians came to take the trees in our communities for granted.  We are really enjoying the workshops for how they are so fully reaching these goals. We hope that the gratitude participants connect with during the workshops sticks with them as they go about their daily lives in this refreshed attitude.