Darcie Davidson and Bryn Brown practising for the Tug-of-War as part of HerART festivities.

Vulnerable women lend their voices

NANAIMO – Fundraiser sees roller derby teams flex muscles to help HerArt project

The Brass Knuckle Derby Dames and Candy Crushers throw down the gauntlet in a friendly tug of war match Saturday (Sept 14) at Maffeo Sutton Park for the Nanaimo Women’s Centre’s Art in the Park.

A major fundraiser and launch for the successful HerArt project, the event has the roller derby teams duelling other community and business groups in a pulling competition. Teams will not only win prizes but also have an opportunity to donate and bring awareness to the program.

The free community event hosts live music with Ave, the Piano Man, Nightwatch, Debbie Ryan, Celeste, Sharon Dudka and Vickie Searle, as well as dance performances, a cake walk, free food and beverages, potato sack races, parachute games for the kids, face painting, raffles and hula hoop-making workshops.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Darcie Davidson, event coordinator. “Even a community canvas that anyone can paint and add to.”

Money raised will be used to provide free art classes and workshops to women of all ages. Last year the HerArt project was able to offer 10 workshops, some of which took place over several weeks and others that were completed in one day.

One of the participating authors, Liza Potvin, said she learned as much from the women as they did from her.

“It was wonderful watching the women explore their feelings and thoughts in a different medium.”

Artists volunteer their time and expertise to present the workshops, beginning in March of next year, which includes jewelry making, painting, drumming, pottery, theatre, creative writing and poetry. Sponsors and money raised at Art in the Park provide supplies, equipment and venues for hosting the various classes.

Davidson said that women dealing with homelessness, tenancy issues and poverty, experience many negatives.

“The workshops engage in positives,” she said. “Providing a positive and encouraging format for self-expression.”

She added that women in poverty, engaged in a service-based perspective, are in many ways invisible. HerArt provides a social outlet for the expression of what social inclusion with no barriers could look like.

“Art expands ones outlook so you aren’t just dealing with crises you’re engaging in creating community.”

Bryn Brown, coordinator of the women’s centre added, “The workshops are a way for women to get connected and to create a dialogue through art.”

And though the conversation begins over art it doesn’t end with the workshops; it culminates at Nanaimo Centre Stage showcasing and displaying the work the women have created, including theatre performances and art displays.

This year with the awarding of a grant from the Kroener Foundation combined with money raised through Art in the Park, Davidson is looking to build the program, add more workshops for youth, increase exhibition space, present honorariums to participating artists and expand the project to include a HisArt component.

Festivities at Art in the Park run from 10 am. to 5 p.m. Artists interested in participating are encouraged to take part in the events and connect with past workshop leaders and coordinators or contact the Nanaimo Women’s Centre. Gift baskets, gift certificates, and a host of donated prizes can be won in the tug of war, cakewalk and races and the community canvas will be available all day.

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