Along with deep personal connections and a love for the arts, members of the Prince Albert Artists in Communities share one other thing in common: a desire to develop their careers.
Now, Beth Gobeil, Adreanna Boucher and Carrot River’s Marcy Friesen are doing just that with the assistance and co-ordination of lead artist Lynda Monahan, who agreed to mentor the trio for one year.
“I’m loving it,” Monahan said of her role in the project. “It’s a new thing for me. I’ve always kind of mentored other artists but never in this way and with artists whose discipline I’m not familiar with.
“My job basically has been to sort of mentor the artists; including Beth, a writer, Adreanna, who is an actor/improv artist and Marcy Friesen, who is a beader.”
The City of Prince Albert identified a need for arts programming, especially long-term arts programming, and that led to the creation of the Artists in Communities project, with funding secured from the Sask Arts Board.
Monahan wants the artists to work in areas they’re passionate about, such as the connection forming between Boucher and Str8 Up – a Saskatoon-based group that works with former gang members, which recently opened an office in Prince Albert.
Monahan will also help her mentees find grants, look for in-kind donations from organizations, and work with scheduling.
“You tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll help with it,” Monahan said. “We’ve been working with pairing up artists with organizations.”
The program is still in early stages and is focussed on building.
“The hope is once the time is up, artists will be well on their way to building long-term residencies, (and) long-term arts projects in the community,” Monahan. “I just help them find opportunities.”
Gobeil is a poet with a published book titled Breathing Room – which focuses a lot on the story of her son who has Cystic Fibrosis.
“I’ve been a poet and a writer for a long time now,” said Gobeil, who is also a retired teacher by trade. “I love helping others find their writing voice. Everybody’s a writer, they just need a little nudge. That’s really what I want to do, what I love to do.”
With that in mind, Gobeil will be hosting several workshops that will help people learn how to write their own stories.
With Monahan’s help, she is also working with two group homes in the city and will be doing workshops with them.
She is also working with the library on a residency and the Sask. Mental Health Association writing with people at the Nest.
“I think they feel validated when they know that they have a story and it’s important to tell it,” Gobeil said.
“It helps them process grief and trauma and just difficult circumstances in their life.”
To her, putting the feelings and hard stories down on paper in a permanent record can make a big difference.
“I think you can look at it in a new way and gain new respect for yourself and possibly confidence for yourself.” she explained.
Boucher has wrapped up a recent performance of Sting – A Memoir Play, which she wrote and also drew on real life experiences and history to tell a very difficult story that happened to be her own.
“When you talk about having your own story and other people knowing about it and not realizing how it was in their mind, it’s kind of unsettling,” she said. “Some people who knew my parents and knew my mom are unsettled by seeing that, and that makes me feel awful.”
Sting delves into the fact that Boucher’s mother was an addict, had mental health issues and was abusive and how those issues impacted her. She acknowledges that writing the play also had an impact on others, and has discussed it with family members, such as her father.
“When you write something like that, you have to realize it’s not going to go in a linear fashion all the time,” Boucher said. “I wanted him to know I understood that and it was never going to be 100 per cent factual.”
Boucher comes from a large family and knows that some of her siblings were not happy with having it told as she did.
“That’s hard to sit with, but at the same time, well, it was my story,” she said. “They can tell their own story.”
Along with sharing her story, Boucher hopes to share her story telling talents with Str8 Up clients leaving gangs or the prison system. She is also planning to take Sting to other communities, an effort that Monahan is helping with and with a plan to continue the difficult discussions already started by the Prince Albert performances.
“My goal in doing it was to start conversations that I thought had to be had, and I did that,” Boucher said.
“I think there is so much healing that can happen by talking and getting it out, whatever your medium is.”
The cast of Sting are prepared to do it again and if grant money falls into place, they will do it in both Saskatoon and again in Prince Albert for HOP Youth.
The third artist in the program is Marcy Friesen, who is using her beading work in unique ways to bring light to some major topics, like Canada’s truth and reconciliation journey.
Friesen has been working via Zoom and teaching beading, with a microgrant from the Sask. Arts Board and CMHA.
“She is taking her beading to express mental health, to express feelings of depression, for Truth and Reconciliation – many really important issues,” Monahan said. “This is what she wants to teach is a different way of doing beading.”
Friesen has four workshops with youth coming up that will combine her love of beading with the mental health aspect.
The Artists in Communities program runs for one year, but the point is to create something long lasting and create a spring board for future programming.
Photo Susan McNeil Daily Herald
Lynda Monahan, left, is mentoring other local artists such as Deanna Boucher, centre and Beth Gobeil with the goal of creating a long last arts scene in Prince Albert. Missing from the photo is Marcy Friesen of Carrot River.