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

Visual Art in Local Language Classes

On May 17, 2017  new Canadians created colourful art pieces for The Wisdom of the Trees arts project during their regular English class at the Beaverbrook Library.

As each participant becomes a part of the installation, they acknowledge their position in our human forest: in their community. Margit asks each artist to visually describe how their roots influenced their choices in life and share these stories with the group.

It was interesting to see how the universal language of visual art helped to communicate various ideas of identity with the participants in each wokshop. Everyone was interested to find out how we define Canadian Identity. I chose to work with the idea of trees and forests which I thought symbolized how this multicultural country accepts and celebrates diversity.” says Margit as she reflects on this workshop.

This was another opportunity to collaborate with a language teacher and create a learning environment in which students are working with a professional visual artist alongside the language teacher.

It was fascinating to see how art making stimulated students’ vocabulary, command of syntax, and use of metaphor.  This experience demonstrated how teachers can use visual art as a powerful tool to help  language learners encounter language in dynamic ways, build vocabulary, and make rich cultural connections. Participants were able to practice strategies for engaging with works of art and collaborate with peers to develop connections. While the emphasis of this workshop will be on teaching foreign languages through the visual arts, this method is also applicable to teaching any other discipline. Many teachers feel that through integration of the arts into their academic lessons students are able to learn more deeply because they use varied ways of thinking and problem solving.

One artist rights “Peace, harmony and diversity” on her tree. Another draws the flags of the countries that she has lived in and another simple writes that she drew her tree beside water because she feels the need to live close to the water. Another draws the roots of her tree in gold and writes that they represent her family members who are so good, they are represented by the colour gold.

Margit adds: “Artmaking in a participatory setting becomes a process of discovering within us our inner child, the sensitivity needed toward fantasy in everyday life. Each creation becomes a cosmogram holding the frequency of love and curiosity needed to maintain our creative energy. This simple change of consciousness carries the potential for us to look around and see how life shines. Once this change is made it was easier for students to open up and translate their artwork into words.”

It was a great experience to bring some extra fun to our local library language lessons! We hope that the participants will continue to use art as a way to relax and organize their thoughts in a visual way.

Margit Hideg, June 2017

Margit Hideg

WISDOM OF TREES, BACKGROUND

In this post, we take a deeper look into what inspired Margit Hideg to bring the community of Kanata together for this year’s Neighborhood Arts 150 Project “The Wisdom of Trees”. Margit Hideg is a Cantley-based Hungarian-Canadian, an artist, designer and educator. Here, she explains how nature has always fueled her artwork and the deeper connections she hopes participants will make through the workshops.

 When did you first feel the parallels between nature and people?

One of my greatest inspirations is artist Pablo Neruda who said: “I always felt myself stifling as soon as I left the great forests, the timberland that drew me back like a mother…My life is a long pilgrimage…always returning to the woods of the south, to the forest lost in me.”

By listening and living close to nature since my childhood, I studied nature in order to communicate in profound, artful ways.  I have developed the ability to look for and recognize the interconnectedness of all things in life. I have learned to follow nature’s example in order to free up my true nature, my true identity. Because Art-making is something that runs deep within my nature, creativity is the one constant and reliable means of transport on my journey of self-discovery.

My previous artworks have been based on how nature copes with disaster and humans deal with illness. During my sickness, my creative process became a healing process, a ritual of many interactions between me and nature. In the inseparable processes of living and Art-making I aim to manage my mind in a tree-like way. To imagine that my thoughts flow through me just as the wind passes freely between branches of a tree, and to encourage my mind to be strong yet flexible as the tree that stands strong just where it is, whatever the conditions.

Because of these experiences, I have worked on displaying how nature works in such an interconnected way.  My work throughout my career is made to inspire people to reconnect with nature and the community. I often worry that the mass media of this day and age creates a life of illusionary realities that disconnects ourselves from one another.

I have been reading Peter Wohlleben’s popular book The Hidden Life of Trees throughout this project. He writes of the surprising social life of trees. They communicate through roots systems and a fungi networks. Neighboring trees seem to send more support to trees they like, ones that don’t crowd the forest, and isolate others that grow array. He says through his research, it looks like trees know where their children are in the forest. Beech trees attack other species and show allegiances. Willows and poplar trees are loners and city trees struggle as they are separated from their communities.

This book helps us to look at our landscapes with added curiosity for the strong standing trees around us. When drawing comparisons, one can see differences between human morality for social life and nature – which is helpful to ponder as well.

Margit’s symbolism of the body of a tree in comparison to a person’s levels of consciousness:

  1. Level 1 – Roots. The origin of the tree. In our workshops we use “our roots” to symbolize where we come from both geographically, and relationally – for example one’s family can be appreciated as their “roots”
  2. Level 2 – Trunk, the consciousness of the plant. Here is stored the plant’s master intelligence, the blueprint of the genetic code. It is the level of self-discovery.
  3. Level 3 – Crown – Higher self – the spiritual teacher, the integration with the holistic organism of the landscape. In other words, the top of the tree is what is most seen in the broader picture, it soaks up the sun and is what flourishes from the healthy roots and trunk. For an individual, it is the act of re-creation, liberation and transformation through creativity.
  4. Branches are the vitality of the tree. If we cut the branches the tree loses the communication with the roots. In a symbolic way, this is also true for people. That’s why I include a meditation in my workshops, a mental recreation element. I want to create a bridge between branches and roots, in respect to humans, to create harmony with ourselves – this is only possible through learning to listen to our inner guidance. The language of creating this connection is not based on the rational mind. This is a new language of wisdom, peace and love yet to be developed.  I encourage participants to re-focus and remove their masks and discover who they are. To cultivate personal interests and give their presence to the world.I strongly believe that the more you know yourself the more you fit in the community. For my college students I developed a self-branding exercise in order for them to discover their creativity, and uniqueness which leads to an original and authentic way of thinking.

 What are your main motivations for the project?

I have been dreaming about a participatory community project, where I would have the opportunity to:

  • Engage and celebrate process-oriented work
  • Break down barriers to participation
  • Collaborate with businesses and organizations
  • Feel the interconnectedness with each other
  • Reflect on how our culture and roots influence our choices in life and help us discover and appreciate our uniqueness and values similar to the diversity of the trees in the forest

To use my interdisciplinary experience in visual arts, media, installation and graphic design:

  • Develop a multi-sensory project based on human-nature connection.
  • Demonstrate the ways nature helps us to ground ourselves: managing our mind in a tree-like way – to slow down and tune into the language of nature, which is ultimately our source of creativity.
  • Create a multi-sensorial experience through my extensive knowledge of graphic design and interactive storytelling
  • Design and teach workshops and sessions based on my recent studies in Performa Masters in Education program at the Sherbrooke University.

The Theme of Trees:

  • I am concerned about our growing alienation between society and nature. Trees have less and less value in a consumer society because have they are often seen as having little financial value.
  • And most importantly, to celebrate our diversity in Canada through the wisdom of the trees.

With my work, I am trying to bring people back to nature. I strongly believe we need to spread the message that we have to ground ourselves like trees, in order to find our sense of self, and to celebrate the fact that we are interconnected with all species, parts of the same web of life, and therefore we are responsible for each other.

Margit leaves us with these thoughts: 

Plant seeds of Joy, Belonging, Wisdom and Love.

They grow in silence, tuned with nature.

Let them hear their heartbeat, their own voice.

Slowly their creativity starts to blossom.

They become happier and deeper connected with each other.

As we delve more into the idea, it’s fun to realize truths about trees that we may not have previously considered. These are ideas that don’t naturally surface in the daily Ottawa grind, and that’s why this project designates a time to intend our minds toward these contemplations. They are unfamiliar connections amongst very familiar landmarks: Canada’s trees.

Margit Hideg, June 2017

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.