Our Artist-Activists Move North

Claire Kujundzic and I are moving north soon. We bought an old Catholic church in a small town nine hours away from Vancouver, which we're going to convert into a gallery, studio, and home. The town has an arts centre and another church-gallery, and 100,000 tourists pass through the area each summer, so we hope to make a living there and also not be too out of the way. Of course, we will come back to Vancouver regularly to visit, and if our venture doesn't succeed, maybe we'll move back. I've never done the kinds of renovations that we need to do, so at least I'll learn a lot!

I'll miss the Vancouver RC Community and my job as an Area Reference Person. I don't think I met my goal of doubling the numbers, but we do have new people teaching classes, and I keep trying to encourage others to form support groups. One of the most profound things I experienced while Area Reference Person was the outpouring of support I received after my father died a year and a half ago. Samantha thought it was a time for me to get back some of the love I put into the Community. It had a big effect on me as a client: now I can tell more easily in between sessions when I need to discharge!

I've been most effective as a leader in my work with an artists' rights organization. It's the closest thing we have to a visual artists' union in Canada, and a couple of years ago I joined the board of the British Columbia affiliate.

About a year ago, the president of the organization walked into a meeting and resigned.

That left three of us on the board, and the other two asked me to be the interim president. I was officially elected at our annual general meeting a couple of months later. I invited a friend who is a carpenter-poet and labour movement activist to be our annual general meeting keynote speaker. A new crop of people turned out, and we managed to get a new board together. Claire joined, and things have improved steadily since.

Our first few meetings were spent getting to know each other. It seemed important after so many battles, to establish a strong, human base for the work ahead, and it's paid off. All our meetings start with a check-in round and end with appreciations. Everyone agrees that the work has to be fun or it's not worth doing. People often bake something to share.

We've put a lot of time into planning, and the board executive has drafted a manual for active members. I wrote a section on different ways to organize artists' support groups. It starts with an overview of artists' internalized oppression and why it makes sense to organize. There's even a draft policy on criticism and attacks. Our first newsletter just came out (with a union label!) and has brought us a lot of renewals.

Next week I'm on a panel of representatives from the musicians' union, writers' union, and songwriters' organization at an event during an annual cultural festival organized by the labour movement. Claire and I have steadily promoted the artists' rights organization with artists we know or meet, and people are starting to notice our new profile and tone-we keep getting calls. About a third of our 150 members have joined since last June.

We're going to have a strong presence at a provincial gathering of 130 artists next month. A friend who is also an active RCer is coordinating the conference, Claire will be the moderator for large group sessions, and I'm a facilitator for workshops on artists' rights, etc. I'm looking forward to it and I'm quite excited about the potential power our "union" will have as we grow. Thanks for your support for me and for all the work on leadership and class-you've paved the way and helped me keep going when it felt hard.

Bill Horne
Wells, British Columbia, Canada

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00