State of the Arts

Victoria Ward

Ottawa epiphany

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” Joseph Campbell

Philosopher, teacher, adventurer Joseph Campbell wrote a lot about transformation. I have been thinking about this since my return from a whirl wind blogging trip last weekend in Ottawa. My sister Mariellen Ward is an internationally renown travel blogger whose is one of the most read blogs in the nomad universe. She writes specifically about travel that changes you.

She set up a brilliant weekend through the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and Ottawa Tourism which saw us scurrying about the famed Parliament Hill area, Tweeting and generally getting in as many sites and sounds as one can handle in two days. There were two reasons I was with her, one, she is writing a series of blogs about our Irish heritage and staying at my log cabin near Irishy homestead areas between here and Ottawa fit perfectly. And, I sometimes blog for the website Travel + Escape about cultural touristy things, so I was Robin to her Batman blogging adventure.

Our Chateau Laurier view. Hard not to be inspired with all the architectural symbolism.
Our Chateau Laurier view. Hard not to be inspired with all the architectural symbolism.

Upon arrival we realized the Liberal leadership convention was across the street and our weekend was full of Liberal mucky mucks and media types sightings in the lounge near our room and lobby of the hotel. One of our stops was to visit the famed D’arcy Magee’s, a fed staffer hang out on Sparks Street. It has some museum relics such as Darcy’s death mask and so forth but the night we were there it was packed with drunk, happy young Liberals. Hunter S. Thomspon being on of my sister’s heroes, we decided we had to get into that convention among all the other things we were doing.

We were able to secure media passes to the convention (very heads up on the Liberal party of Canada to recognize bloggers as real media) and arrived in just enough time before Justin Trudeau took to the stage to become the new shining star of the Canadian political scene. Something happened in that moment and I still can’t figure out how to verbalize it. Perhaps I am writing this blog too early but with writing you need to do it when you can otherwise it kind of disappears.

Will this man change politics in Canada. Right now there is every hope.
Will this man change politics in Canada? Right now there is every hope.

I think Justin might be a transformative person. I say this because being close to him and watching his physicality made me realize that there is something more going on here than his blinding good looks. He has an ethereal quality, seems a deep thinker and displays a gentle approach that isn’t like a politician at all. It made me think that politics isn’t something that only a lucky (or unlucky depending on your feelings about politicians) few get to partake in but it can be a community of people who want to elevate their lives.

It was very serendipitous to open my email the next morning and read a wonderful blog from my colleague Trout in Plaid regarding artists and their participation in politics. She smartly outlined how artists can help bring about great change and innovative thinking through their skills as people who campaign continuously, exist in a public sphere and must constantly adapt to change.

At present I have many followers and followees on Twitter who are doing just that. Creative Time Reports is a website that brings together artist driven projects in the US and around the world that have real political impact. Artists are creating events that highlight wage gaps, income disparity, food crisis and many other aspects of our culture that governments and businesses are not responding to with enough critical attention.

We have had now over thirty years of conservative politics; low taxes for the rich, corporate power over governments, out sourced manufacturing due to maximizing profit shares for stockholders, erosion of civil liberties, war and a financial system that seems to now run everything regardless of actual reality. What do we have because of all these great conservative ideas? The worst income gap between rich and poor since the depression, crumbling infrastructures, shrinking institutions and social programs hanging by a thread. Nice.

The convergence of culture and politics might be a saving grace to this dire situation. Art can be a gateway to engagement. I still believe art should just exist for art’s sake but I do find it hopeful that so many artists today want to use their skills, vision and work to help push a political and societal transformation forward. As Canadians we may not have an Arab Spring that we recognize as such but we can transform our political landscape as dramatically as Egypt is trying to do. Art should play a role and it looks like it already is.

Photographs courtesy of Mariellen Ward,


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