An invitation to witness the beauty that we hold as a community

 Illustration above: Hope by Carime Quezada, Digital technique (2021) @qcillustrations “Sometimes we lose connection with what is truly important. We lock ourselves into certain paradigms that lead us to a state of dissatisfaction with life. The pandemic was a reality check, a wake-up call. We just have to open the door and get out of there; the solutions are always at our disposal because it is part of us. It is in our nature” – Carime Quezada 

By Lilia Yumagulova 

For this issue, we connected with emergency managers, educators, academics, front line responders, youth, and our broader communities to ask some fundamental questions: What inspires you? What gives you hope? What keeps you going?

We found that art can come to the rescue in the face of cascading disasters and seemingly hopeless circumstances.

In this feature section we present you with a collection of artwork, where beauty has bloomed through adversity, ranging from coping with mental injuries through art to seeking inspiration and healing from nature. This collection invites us all to make time to pause, grieve, explore, feel, play, create, and restore by finding inspiration in each other, in nature, and in the connection we feel when we share our inner worlds through art.

Our cover image is a stunning illustration of stillness, rest, patience, and beauty by Neebin Prince, a youth leader from Mattagami First Nation. It is a reminder from Neebin that ‘we must rest in order to protect our spirits and flourish once again when our time comes’.

Daniel Sundahl (DanSun)’s powerful artwork is an important coping mechanism for dealing with the mental stresses of being a paramedic and firefighter. In committing these images to art, his experiences resonate with others and confirm that mental injuries are real and you are not alone.

Carime Quezada, HazNet’s illustrator and designer, shares striking samples of her Nature in Ink series with art as “a break from everything I can’t control”.

Rosanna von Sacken, a consultant and facilitator with 30 years of emergency management experience, shares with us intricate zentagles and extends the invitation for all of us to “look deep within, to search for that forgotten child again, the person with vivid imagination, unafraid of mistakes and willing to experiment”.

Jodi Manz-Henezi, the President of CRHNet and the Program Chair for Disaster and Emergency Management at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, shares a breathtaking piece of two worlds side by side made from a reclaimed window and a variety of hand-cut art glass. It is a “glimpse of what lies ahead if we do not change” intended to inspire resiliency and hope.

Janna Janzen’s Foraging Calendar offers a focus on the life cycle as a great antidote to the despair of processing the mass extinctions, famines, and conflicts driven by climate change: “We have been seeking a catastrophe to break this broken system beyond repair, so we can create something better.”

Alex Whitcomb (artwork) and Daryl Beck (text) remember search dog Keeva in a touching driftwood memorial sculpture in which “her eyes seem to reflect the gentle and warm spirit she had”.

Liz Toohey-Wiese’s artwork reflects on forestry practices, the history of wildfire policy, climate change, and the urban/rural divide in British Columbia. Her piece Zeballos, named after a small town on the west coast of Vancouver Island that was under evacuation for over eight months, was painted to spark conversations about the impact of forest fires on the landscape and communities.

Dr. Ren Thomas, an associate professor in the School of Planning at Dalhousie University, shares a striking watercolour of Halifax and offers the following advice for finding solace in uncertain times: “Connect to nature and you will feel yourself a part of something much bigger”.

Alex Valoroso’s Autumn Raven captures the bright colourful magic that fall brings and she encourages us “to let go of the idea of perfection with art” and focus instead on fun and exploration.

Katie Sperry, an archeologist for Skeetchestn Natural Resources Corporation, offers a poignant Yucwmiʼnmen (the Secwépemc word Caretakers) piece in which she explores “hope that the land will be ‘stitched back together’ (repaired) and non-Indigenous people will learn from Yucwmiʼnmen to live more sustainably with nature”.

Searching for hope is a breathtaking portrait by Julia McClintock, a 17-year-old grade 11 student, that she painted as an outlet to convey her emotions after reading the wartime novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I.

Julia Christensen’s Sunburst and Denendeh pieces are part of her Seaforest project which began shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to cope with homesickness, isolation, and grief, while also seeking to feel more grounded in the natural beauty in her new home.

Timur Reynolds, a 13-year-old youth, reminds us that hope is always in the hands of humanity with a modern interpretation of Pandora’s Box.

Bettina Williams’ vivid alcohol ink art is her artistic medium of choice for rediscovering and refreshing, as it allows her to be grateful, resilient, and confident, to explore the natural world around her, and to exercise self-care and process grief.

Dr. Aseem Grover (photos) and Nicole Spence (text) offer us a bird-eye view of the devastation of floodwaters in British Columbia and emergent hope through the determination of a team of health professionals, emergency managers, and Canadian Armed Forces personnel to bring needed supplies and medical help to the stranded and storm-isolated community of Boston Bar.

Jackie Hildering, a biology teacher, cold-water diver, underwater photographer, and humpback whale researcher, takes us with her to the depths of ocean in search of Sunflower Stars and reminds us that the way forward cannot be guided by the faintness of blind hope nor paralyzed by fear, but must be based on common solutions that connect us as humans to the natural world, to each other, and to the generations to come.