links loved: the conference edition


Oh man, there was SO MUCH to take in at the Creative Economy Conference! (It even made me feel a little “hungover,” as I wrote about yesterday.) I was just blown away. I scribbled lots of things in my notebook, lines and inspiration and ideas, but especially stuff to follow up with on the Internet, and share with you all. So here is a list of links to some of the rad stuff I heard about or saw at the Conference! I hope it inspires you to be part of it next year: the Creative Economy really does affect all of us.

Lisa Bugden of Film & Creative Industries Nova Scotia spoke. She shared this video about how the show “Haven” is shot on the South Shore of NS (2:33), using it as an example of how the creative industry promotes places in the province around the world.

She shared this video, a book trailer for “Damaged” by Pam Callow, as an example of how people can get creative with promoting old media in new ways.

She talked about how Sarah Richardson (speaker at the conference the day before) had visited the Centre for Craft and Design’s shop and been blown away by the work there, and shared it on her blog. Ms. Bugden used this as an example of getting your products into the hands of “influencers”.

Anne Manuel of the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation (Newfoundland) spoke about how the Plantation works to incubate artists and launch them into their careers. (Some of the artisans who work out of the Plantation include Renee Scott (Brindy Linens), Graham Blair Woodcuts, and Joelle Blandford (Nature’s Threads).)

Mark Barone of ArtsmArtcities spoke about how the Paducah Artist Relocation Project that he led in a blighted city in Kentucky. This 2:45 video by ABC News shows a bit more about the project. He also talked about his new project, An Act of Dog: A Museum of Compassion.

When Tonya Surman took the stage I fell in love a bit. She’s a fantastic speaker, smart and funny and relaxed. Forgive me for swooning a little! Here is a 3:09 video where she describes the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto she helped to found and run. Her message was: “It’s up to us,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Check out Gavin Sheppard’s Instagram account to see his photos of his two weeks in Cape Breton working with youth.

Folks from the Centre Line Studio as well as Youth Art Connection (YAC) were there for the panel discussion, too, to talk about the importance of connecting youth with art that they are passionate about.

I got to meet Mitchell Bailey, a 16-year-old hip-hop artist from the CBRM putting out videos on YouTube. He’s fantastic! You can hear the interview with Gavin Sheppard and some of the Bud Squad on CBC’s Information Morning here (it’s 15:06). In it Gavin says the brilliant line, “There IS nothing to do here, until you decide there is something to do, and then there is a hundred things to do!”

Find out more about getting involved in the National Youth Arts Week happening in May, and one of the sponsors is the Michaelle Jean Foundation, which I hadn’t heard about, but it sounds like they do really neat stuff too.

Sabine Fels of Arts Express (Halifax area) was also there and talked about her program and all the cool stuff they’ve done. (She mentioned in her talk something in Chicago called “After School Matters,” which I’d like to check out when Adam and I visit the city this summer!)

And Brian Riley, an Artist in Residence at the J.L. Ilsley High School, gave a talk about his work. This is his website.

And here is a piece in our very own Cape Breton Post about the Conference.

And this isn’t from the Conference exactly, but it’s a shout-out to my friend and classmate Hollie’s fiancée Matthew, who makes a living from streaming himself playing Minecraft online, in New Waterford. He’s on Twitter here and his Twitch channel is here. I had no idea about Twitch gaming before I met Hollie at NSCC, and have loved seeing Matthew build his dream career. One of these days I’ll get around to having him share his story here on the blog!

So basically, we live in an amazing place with so much talent and potential, and creativity and sustainability is up to us. And it excites me so much.

Have a great weekend!

Posted in Art, Business ideas, Community, Day to Day Life, Education, Leah's thoughts, Sustainability, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“conference hangover”

… is totally a thing.

I got home at 3 from another busy and inspiring day yesterday at the Creative Economy conference and went straight to bed.

I briefly considered going for a walk or doing some yoga but by the time I got in the door I realized just how exhausted I was.

I didn’t even check my Facebook, which I hadn’t looked at all day because I no longer have it on my smart phone. Just pulled the blinds and got in bed and conked out for three hours.

I think, especially for creative community-builders who frequently do things voluntarily, it’s really important to recognize and respect our own physical and mental limits. Not in order to make excuses and say “I can’t do something,” but in order to pay respect to our bodies and minds that work really hard and then need a break.

I was all revved up after the conference and wanted to write six different blog posts, and clean my house, and follow up with the people I had met, but… my body and mind needed to sleep.

So I did. And it was so, so good.

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conferenceday1 Anyone who knows me or who has seen me in public will tell you I don’t mind showing my excitement about things.

I forget this truth about myself, until I’m in a big public meeting and then re-realize it around when I start clapping and going “Woo!” and generally embarrassing myself.

I say this because yesterday* I was at the “Growing the Creative Economy” conference yesterday and it was awesome. The folks at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design do such a great job putting the whole thing together and it is such a feast for the mind and soul. conferenceday2

I took copious notes and filled several big pages of my sketchbook, and will be doing so again today, so no doubt I’ll share more of what I took in at the conference in a later post. (There were so many great stories about similarly downtrodden and in-shift-mode sorts of places, like Cape Breton is, using the arts to revitalize their economies, and I’ve got lots of links to share too.) But right now I’m typing this as the chicken for our Caesar salad is grilling, and then after dinner I plan to veg out on the couch with my fellow, who I haven’t seen all day, and watch some “New Girl” and “Mindy Project”, so I’m keeping this short.

(*Well, technically I was attending today actually, as I’m typing this on April 15 and getting ready to schedule it to post tomorrow.)

Anyway, I was just thinking about how I “conference”, if “conference” could be a verb. It’s taken me a while (like, I’ll be thirty next week, so that long) to realize my best method for getting the most out of a conference experience. And it’s actually not to network like crazy and try and chat with every single person I can.

It is to go to the event, and smile, and listen. And write stuff down, and clap and get excited when a speaker says something brave and true. And to eat with the others and smile more. But then I really need to take a break. I need to get outside, and be alone. That is super important to my inner peace, my ability to listen when we go back in for the afternoon sessions, and my ability to keep my excitement and inspiration from turning into “holy crap I’m overwhelmed!”

conferenceday3 conferenceday4After I got home it was so beautiful out. Warm and windy. I got to walk in my sandals! I was thrilled and so happy to take a long walk around the neighbourhood.

I’d love to know how you network and “conference”, because I definitely think there is more than one way to do it.

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a bit on job-searching

jobsearchingBack in January when I set my “four simple goals”, I was really gung-ho and thought for sure I could have a job lined up for post-graduation by April.

Ha ha ha. Ha ha.

did line up my work term in January, and then I focused on my schoolwork and thought, “There is plenty of time to job-search. Months, even!”

There was one time back in January or early February that I went in to the Northside Employment and Resource Centre just to check it out, and when chatting with the staff there was told that it was a good idea to come in regularly, just to get known there. I thought, “I’ve got Monday afternoons free of classes, so I’ll go in every Monday afternoon.”

But then, life happens. Other things come up, other things take priority. So it was just yesterday when I found myself home from school a bit early and over by the Employment Centre anyway at the post office, and decided to go in. I wasn’t really sure what I would do there — sit on my computer and job search, I guess? — but you’ve got to start sometime. I was, admittedly, a bit nervous. I’m not even sure why, but I was.

I went in and chatted with a staff member. She showed me the job boards and told me about the services of the Centre. I talked with another lady about a program called “Career Focus” that is for 30-and-under recent graduates who have never worked in their field before, and filled out an application. Then I looked around, looked at the job postings on the boards, said thank you and that I would be back next week, and went home.

It was through the Baddeck Employment Resource Centre that I got the funding to attend NSCC two years ago and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the staff there are top shelf, just fantastic.

One important part of “figuring out the next step,” I think, is actually “being OK with not knowing what the next step is”. That doesn’t mean, “doing nothing and hoping something falls in my lap,” but it does mean that it is good and healthy to work towards several next steps at once, while intentionally practicing trust that the future, no matter what it looks like and what job I’m doing in it, will be abundant.

Are you a great job seeker? Do you hate it? Any other random thoughts on it you’d like to share? I’m game. :)

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life lately // early april 2014


This is definitely the “crunch time”! Just two more weeks and I am done classes. That is just nuts. So there is lots on the go, lots to do, so much that I am pretty sure it will not all get done, but, we’ll see! Someone once told me at a different time when I was super stressed out that “inch by inch, life’s a cinch,” and so far I’m doing alright. I’m working on things steadily, but also refusing to burn myself out or stay up late. When I do that, that’s when I start to unravel, and then nothing gets done. So I’m also making sure to make a meal every night with Adam, and spend time relaxing on the sofa with him, and get to bed at a good time, too. Then I’m not feeling burnt out during the day when I need to be productive.

Because really? There is very little in life worth losing one’s sanity for.

(Laughter yoga definitely helps though.)


So my class has organized a fundraiser so that we can all attend the “Growing a Creative Economy” conference that is being held next week in Sydney. (This is my post from the conference last year. Crazy that that was a whole year ago already!)

lately2 lately3 lately4

We all made original art and then framed it for a silent art auction. We also baked goodies and are selling them by donation (50 cents to a dollar). Aleena, our classmate who is originally from Pakistan, does beautiful henna artwork so she has been doing that for people at our table too, for $10. And we have a button maker on loan from our teacher Heather, so we’ve got pens and pencils and are letting people design their own buttons which we make for them.

It’s been really fun so far, to be downstairs by the busy cafeteria, chatting with passers-by about what we’re doing, and about art and creativity. Whatever we don’t raise the Student Association will top up, but we’ve already raised almost $200 and all we need is $490! A few more days of the fundraiser and I think we’ll almost raise the total. Pretty cool.
lately5Being silly with the water tower on a walk on Monday.

lately6Early morning sky and the pine tree by our deck.

lately8 I am loving burning pure beeswax candles while I work, these days. They smell so nice and the flame is a nice thing to look at and stare off into, when I need a mental break.

I also joined the Graphic Designers of Canada association as a student membership! Which is good for two years after graduating, too. So this falls under the “figuring out the next step” goal from my “four simple goals” for the year: thinking about what lies ahead after graduation, and starting to plan for it.

(And I’ll be writing a proper update on that goal, and what I’ve been doing towards it, soon, just like I did for the “move more” goal. Oh and the other two goals too! Man, there really is too much to do and not enough time. But, life is good!)

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what if // 1


(Feel free to think I’m bonkers. I do, half the time!)

The background: On the weekend I went to a “Laughing yoga” class at the Green Lotus Studio in Sydney, because I’d heard that laughter is super good for you, and wanted to see what the heck “laughing yoga” was all about. Plus it was free (donations accepted). So, free + laughter = Leah is hooked.

And once I got over the discomfort of feeling completely ridiculous, clapping while shouting “HO HO, HA HA HA” over and over, and staring strangers in the eye, it was actually a lot of fun. The different exercises the teacher had us do were a bit like acting exercises you might have done before: for example, one of the exercises had the room of 25 or so women pantomiming driving a “laughter scooter” around the room and then bumping into other people and having to be mad and also apologize “in laughter.” Another had us all pretending to eat hot soup and getting the giggles, over and over.  Yet another had us trying to laugh completely silently, which I found really difficult!

So I guess the brain doesn’t realize whether you’re really laughing or just imitating laughing, which is why these exercises work so well. Plus, the act of laughing, as well as feeling completely ridiculous, makes you laugh, for real. One woman actually had to sit down, she was laughing so hard!

In between the little acting exercises we’d stretch our arms way up, and bring them down, breathing deeply as we did so. And we’d stretch our necks and heads too. We did this, laughing exercises followed by stretches, for about an hour. (The Laughter Yoga website is here if you want to learn more.)

And afterwards, I was in *such* a good mood, and felt released, in a way. Free to just be a goofball. I felt, well, happy. I laughed with a little boy in a shopping cart at the grocery store. I talked to the man who made my falafel at Lebanese Flower and he actually gave me a little cup of spices to take home with me! His daughter said, “He never does that!”

So that whole experience on Saturday, as well as a conversation with a friend at the yoga studio about happiness indexes and measuring happiness, got me thinking that I’d like to do a “what if” series here on the blog. I like “what ifs” because they get me to stretch my mind and my imagination, and the way to create a better future really does start with imagining it. Several years ago when I was recovering from depression and anxiety, my counsellor would ask me “What does your life look like, when you have overcome this?” Just imagining it was the start to making it happen.

So this isn’t a strenuous exercise. You don’t have to commit to anything, or sign up, or give your email to one more thing. We’re not forming committees or boards. It’s a freebie: a no-commitment sixty seconds in your day to let your mind be free and just fantasize about this island, these communities we live in, and how they might look and feel in the not-so-distant future.

Here’s today’s “what if”: What if a report came out tomorrow that said, “Cape Breton has been ranked as the happiest place to live in the whole wide world!”

Now just imagine it for a minute. What would life look like here? What would your daily life be like? What would really matter to people, what wouldn’t matter? What would we have done to make this so?

You can leave comments, or not, it’s up to you. But I always read them. :)

Have a great Monday!

Posted in Community, Day to Day Life, For Fun, Health, Leah's thoughts, Towns + communities, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

links loved / april 5


When I type or write “April” these days I’m a little unbelieving. Looking out the window it really doesn’t feel like April, that’s for sure!

Here’s a round-up of some lovely things I saw on the Internets this past week.

I just discovered Shauna Niequist and I have a feeling I’m going to read a lot more of her in the future. This post is called “SHOULD is a warning sign.”

I love the new Casual Friday feature at A Beautiful Mess. Life is about all the moments that happen while you’re planning and putting things together.

My friend Laura in Toronto sent me the link to this 16 minute video about a man who left his high-pressure medical career to roller-blade along a beach all day. It’s called Slomo.

I liked this walk through a small Arkansas town.

This print.

If you have a thing for beautiful doors, you’ll love this post by Katie of her trip to Quebec City last year.

I’ve been loving following Suzanne MacNeil’s Instagram feed of the nurses’ protests in Halifax this week. She’s a rabble-rouser and I love it!

Elise released her first three podcasts this week. They’re fantastic, but I also love how she is so honest about how she is building her brand through them, and why she “just gets started” on big projects instead of trying to figure them all out beforehand.

Now I’m off to the market for some crepe-y goodness, and then a yoga class called “Laughter Yoga”… I’m intrigued! Have a fantastic weekend my dears.

Posted in Community, Day to Day Life, For Fun, Leah's thoughts | Tagged | 2 Comments