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September 11, 2018

A Year Later: Catching Up With Emerging Artists, Kanon Hewitt & Julia Siedlanowska

Small projects can have a big impact. The Creative Spark Vancouver grants at ArtStarts help enable emerging artists to gain experience on small projects that could lead to new career opportunities, new community relationships, different perspectives on arts and education, future learning opportunities and exciting multi-faceted projects.

We recently caught up with 2017 grant recipient Kanon Hewitt, who collaborated closely with Julia Siedlanowska on their Waterborne project, to see where they are today, and the impacts the grant has made on their artistic career a year later.


Can you give us a summary of your project?

Waterborne gave youth the unique opportunity to learn the process of creating theatre, and collaboratively create their own performance. Youth conducted their own research, interviewed their parents, and gave presentations to the group to collectively learn about climate change issues and its human impacts. The production coalesced around the subject of fracking to examine climate change issues specific to water. Youth also explored topics close to home like the wildfires that raged this summer as well as the broader topics of displacement due to disasters/climate refugees, gender hierarchies, gender binaries, and toxic masculinity/patriarchy. They also created their own characters and dialogue to explore what a world rebuilt by youth might look like, inspired by current actions in the United States of youth suing the government for inaction on climate change.

In addition, the youth created physical aspects of the production, such as dioramas displayed to the audience, and their costume and prop items. They also created soundscapes of the "worlds" of the play, which I then recorded and edited for the show.

Throughout the creation process, youth shared about each of their communities with the group, telling stories and personal experiences relating to each topic explored in the workshops. Through abstracting and incorporating these stories into performance, the youth connected these collective stories and experiences back to their communities.

What stood out as a memorable moment during the project?

A particularly memorable event was when we began exploring gender binaries and masculinity, and the youngest male participant (age 12) actively condemned the patriarchal misogyny inherent to these topics. The youth blew me away with their poeticism in writing dialogue, their professionalism and teamwork that persisted even after the production opened its run, their thoughtfulness and maturity in handling the topics we explored, and the way in which they looked after each other throughout the process.

It's been a year since this project, how has the experience impacted your career today? What changes have you noticed in yourself?

[Kanon] The biggest change I have noticed in myself in the year since this project has been my newfound appreciation and respect for younger generations. For my project, I worked with youth ages 12-16 to create a play driven by their own interactions with the climate crisis. The participants blew me away with their thoughtfulness and maturity in handling the topics we explored, and the compassion they showed for one another. It's made me appreciate the genius of young people’s minds, and affirmed my belief that youth must be given the same decision-making power on topics like climate change, which will most drastically affect current youth in their lifetime.

As a sound designer, the project taught me new approaches to considering what can be used as an instrument. I created soundscapes with the youth, who used their voices and both conventional and non-conventional instruments to create the sounds of a boat creaking on ocean waves, and the havoc of an industrial work site. It has pushed me to discover the acoustic possibilities of our own bodies and unassuming objects found in our everyday lives, and incorporate this into my future designs.

[Julia] I think back on this project often. For me, it was one of my most successful and rewarding collaborative creation processes to date. This was due to the support we had in place to explore our artistic vision, as well as the impact it had on the participants. Working with these youth reaffirmed my belief in the power of theatre. The project serves as an important reminder for me to take risks and involve young people in theatre. We were lucky to have participants between ages 11 and 16. This range allowed for the older participants to pass on knowledge to the younger (for example in leading group warm-ups). This taught leadership skills and reminded me of the importance of trusting your collaborators and giving opportunities for them to shine and grow according to their own interests and strengths. I learned so much from each and every participant. A reminder to me that we never stop learning and we should never stop playing.

What advice would you give a friend who is applying for the Creative Spark Vancouver grant?

[Kanon] Let your passion for your project shine through in the grant.

[Julia] This is a great stepping stone in a life that will likely be filled with many grant applications. This is an accessible first learning opportunity. Talk to the granting officers and don't be afraid to ask questions in advance. If you don't succeed the first time, apply again. Ask for feedback on your application after you've submitted (it's useful to know why you were or weren't accepted. This should help you in the future to understand what funders are looking for, what may have been missing in your application etc.)

While the grant was awarded to Kanon, we would like to acknowledge the entire Waterborne Artistic Team. Written by Kanon Hewitt & Julia Siedlanowska with youth collaborators Lily-Muna Henshaw, Anthony Goncharov, Daniel Russell, Isabelle Russel, Atticus Cseh. Directed by Julia Siedlanowska. Performed by the youth collaborators. Sound & Projection Design by Kanon Hewitt. Dramaturgy by mia amir. Stage Management by Holly Karpiuk.

Photos by Julia Siedlanowska.


Creative Spark Vancouver grants enable emerging artists to gain experience on small projects that could lead to new career opportunities, new community relationships, different perspectives on arts and education, future learning opportunities and exciting multi-faceted projects. Fall applications are due September 20, 2018. Learn more and apply now!

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