GUEST BLOG POST BY MEG HARDER, SENIOR LIBRARY ASSISTANT
If you frequent Central Library in Kitchener, you might recognize me as the person at the information desk who helps you find that-book-you-heard-about-on-the-radio-can’t-remember-what-the-title-is-maybe-the-cover-had-a-bird-on-it. I imagine that in our many interactions you have come to believe my life looks something like this:
What you might not have known is that outside of my job at the library, I am a visual artist. So my life is actually more like this:
But actually, I am very privileged to say I have the freedom to make art that I love and enough community support to keep it going – including the support of the library. I am a graduate of the University of Waterloo Fine Arts Program, which included an exchange to the Bezealel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Israel. Inspired by the politically imbued art world I was immersed in while in Israel, I have been interested in understanding the capacity of art to address and affect local communities and issues. Since returning to Canada, I have focused on addressing primarily environmental concerns through sculpture, installation, and collage.
Most recently, I have been pursuing an art practice in alignment with the longstanding animating cultural principal of bio-regionalism, a notion or intuition that we can find our physical and spiritual truth in the local natural systems that we inhabit. The resulting work acts as a point of mediation between individuals and the bio-region and imagines alternative ways of living. This includes resisting artistic practices that require consuming goods that have come from somewhere else.
I started by creating some collage work with recycled paper on wood panel which grew in to the work featured in Mediating Nature, my first solo show, which debuted at the Art Gallery at Central Library last winter, supported by The Waterloo Region Arts Fund.
This past spring I was honoured to be chosen as the first annual artist-in-residence at rare Charitable Research Reserve , an ecological reserve that promotes research, education, and appreciation for local ecology. During my time there, I collaborated with ecologists to create installation and traditional art materials such as paper, pigment, and tools using invasive species or green waste. I hoped this process of art making would not only elevate the local bio-region in the minds of community members but also contribute to restoration of the local environment.
Drawing on similar ideas, I created the installation Civilization of the Wild featured in the public art biennial Contemporary Art Forum of Kitchener and Area (CAFKA) this June. This was a site-specific installation of debris huts on Roos Island in Victoria Park where the community was invited to learn and share knowledge about the local bio-region. A debris hut is four-season human shelter made from foraged natural materials inspired by squirrel’s nests. The occupation of Civilization of the Wild in the region’s urban core was meant remind the community of their fundamental connection to the natural world.