by Guest blogger, Katie Hoogendam
As many of you know, one of Gwynn’s projects lately is preparation for the Northumberland Festival of the Arts taking place September 16 to Oct 2 this fall. The theme for the Festival is “Celebrating Resilience” and Katie Hoogendam, poet, writer & interdisciplinary artist, responded to that concept in a way that really got Gwynn thinking about art and the artists who create it. We think it will get you thinking too,
This blog originally appeared on the Northumberland Festival of the Arts (NFOTA) blog on June 3, 2022.
“Who can bend and not break? Not one of us. And yet, the moon also rises. The peonies bloom. Someone hands you a glass of water. Your thirst is quenched, for a moment, and you are touched by the kindness of that person, the significance of that glass of water.” Katie Hoogendam
What does art have to do with resilience?
What do we make of resilience? The capacity to bend but not break? They say reeds are resilient, but so are various plastics, those that float like undulating rainbows across the vast oceanic expanse. What is it to be resilient? As a person? Are you one who has survived the pandemic, but who has suffered loss nonetheless? Have you grieved an absence? Are you grieving now? Are you alive, but full of lost things? What does art have to do with resilience? Is art-making an act of defiance? A laughing into the void? Does making something new and formerly unimagined somehow re-set the balance of all that has been taken?
Creativity in community
Within our local artist communities, with each wave of COVID like an ocean it seemed there would be no legitimate moment to stop and take stock—no crest of a wave from which to gather perspective and examine all that has come before and all that will be—to take an accounting for all that we have lost and all the hope and optimism and perseverance it will require to mend what has been broken. We waited for that moment, but it did not arrive.
History is not predictable as we live our way through it; more waves came and instead of waiting for a crest from which to gain balance, we learned to brace ourselves for the next impact. After multiple bracings, some of us learned to capture the momentum of each new onslaught—to ride the waves. We learned that creativity helps one ride waves. And community. Even better—creativity in community, with community.
Who can bend and not break? Not one of us. And yet, the moon also rises. The peonies bloom. Someone hands you a glass of water. Your thirst is quenched, for a moment, and you are touched by the kindness of that person, the significance of that glass of water. In fact, you feel compelled to write a poem about it. You feel compelled to paint a picture of her hand. You feel compelled to compose a song about water, glasses and glasses of unending water.
You almost broke or you shattered completely and yet, even now, you feel the need to respond to the universe, to make something of it all, with your very own hands. You cannot explain this, yet your body, like all green things, bends toward the light—toward life, uncertain as it is.
Art is for everyone
The theme of Northumberland Festival of the Arts 2022 is resilience. Artists local and some far-flung will share with us from the rich caverns of their talents what it means to make art while the world appears to implode, while finances are stretched, while our futures seem uncertain. Whether or not you consider yourself an artist or patron of the arts, NFOTA is for everyone because art is for everyone. We all bend toward the light.
Celebrate Resilience this September 16th to October 2nd in locations all around Northumberland County (more than 40 events/16 days/8 townsa) as NFOTA celebrates and supports the resilience of local artists and the strength of our shared community. Let’s celebrate our gorgeously illogical human capacity to find beauty under rocks and in dark places—and when beauty cannot be found, to roll up our sleeves and make some!
Meredith K. Hoogendam (Katie/Merkat) is a poet, writer & interdisciplinary artist. Folklore, feminism, and a deep love for the natural world inform her art. Her work appears in publications across the U.S. and Canada. Her play, Plan X, debuted at the 2019 Spirit of the Hills Northumberland Arts Festival (now Northumberland Festival of the Arts). Her most recent collection of poems, Spring Thaw (Glentula Press), launched at Cobourg’s independent bookstore, Let’s Talk Books, in April 2022. Her forthcoming poetry collection and collaborative art project, Grief Forest, is in the works for 2023. You can find her on Instagram @merkatart.