By Janice Lee
City of Kitchener Artist in Residence 2015
Media: Storytelling, Spoken Word Poetry, Film, Music, Photography, Print
What are the contemporary folk tales of Kitchener? Folk Myths of Kitchener captures the energy and magic of four iconic locations: the Iron Horse Trail, the Libraries, the Kitchener Market and the Downtown. Throughout the year I visited these locations and gathered stories from residents and community members. These stories inspired the poems, which inspired the short films, which inspired the posters. The photographs shown in this exhibit are memories from the story gathering.
The most interesting part of this project was the story gathering. Quite often I wrote down what someone said word-for-word because it was beautiful poetry. I spoke to people across generations and demographics and yet a constant narrative emerged. People loved the Iron Horse Trail for its greenery and getaway-feel from the city. It was a pleasurable transportation corridor where individuals recognized each other and felt at ease. The Libraries were filled with people who loved stories and knowledge. People were in awe of its vast and unending supply of new worlds to enter. Everyone at the market loved running into friends, buying from the same vendors, and making a morning of shopping and socializing. Conflicting stories arose about Downtown. Residents who lived downtown loved it and were determined to animate and improve the culture. Residents who did not live Downtown shared all sorts of negative feelings that it was unpopulated, unsafe and boring. It demonstrated to me that the negative myths of downtown past still lingered. As a storyteller, I wanted to capture all of these sentiments in the poem, and the piece “Chasing Ghosts, Chasing Dreams” conveys the changing face and energy of downtown.
The poetry posters you see in this exhibit were illustrated by three talented local artists who I comissioned to create an image inspired by the poems. Eric Chengyang illustrated the Library and Market posters. Lydia Mainville illustrated the Iron Horse Trail poster. Wendy Bones illustrated the Downtown poster. These posters will be available for distribution for folks to take home and put up in their homes. (I invite you to click on the posters above and download them for printing, but do not alter the posters in any way ^_^)
The short films are the focus of this project. I produced, directed, and edited these films at the Commons Studio and composed the musical underscoring.
It was great fun for me to turn everyday people into spoken word actors in the five minutes I had with each person. It was fascinating to hear the different tones and cadences in each person’s voice. Children held lots of energy and confidence when speaking their lines whereas adults were more tentative. I felt that the appreciation we hold for stories fades away as we age and forget to see magic. I hope that this project brings back the storytelling tradition that is so easy to leave behind.
Thank you to all of the residents of Kitchener who shared stories with me, spoke lines of poetry for the films and were a part of making this project such an entertaining and interesting cross-section of the people of Kitchener sharing stories.
Share and follow the project online with #KitchAir and #FolkMyths