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MARCH | 2012



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You’re a man with a lot in the works—let’s start here at the Outreach Centre. When I first started school at the University of Alberta I knew I was gay, so it seemed appropriate for me to get involved. Our number one focus is to create a safe space for our members—a place where students from the University can come and talk about different issues and topics while socializing. We work on a lot of projects— some drag shows, which tend to be our top events. I’ve been here for almost three years now, and it’s let me meet a lot of people. It’s somewhere between a hobby and my work. In terms of school, I’m in Political Science with a minor in English. Obviously if there was an ASL minor I’d take that. What sort of big projects are you guys working on here? Right now we’re working on a project called Firefly in schools. We have a partnership with iSMSS, the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, and our goal is to set up a straight and gay ally group in every school in Alberta. You’ve also spent time doing comedy improv as well? I imagine that might have presented certain unique challenges for you as a Deaf person? I started in tenth grade. We had an improv hour and it struck me as something I could be a part of. I competed at the Rapid Fire festival where they noticed me, and asked me to audition. I was trying to discover my Deaf identity in the world, trying to find new ways to communicate. Improv was a challenge, but they weren’t concerned about how it would work. They were more about finding solutions. Translation delay and dealing with the fact that it’s really two different languages you’re talking about—that was difficult. I learned how to incorporate all of those things into how I was acting, and it really became an amazing experience. I was with them until the summer of 2011. I had so many experiences and had learned so much, but I decided to leave as I’d grown to where I thought I could. Now I’m focusing on school and work.

My presentation is called “Language in the Deaf Mind.” It’s about my experience as a Deaf child in public school. Alberta Education has wonderful ideas about inclusion, but they feel for a Deaf child that as long as there is an interpreter it’s enough. We’re unique though, as we have a cultural identity that comes from using a visual language. Connecting with other people like that is important. As I grew up I noticed there were differences being the only Deaf student, and I don’t want to let that kind of thing happen to other students.


Lastly, you’re speaking at an upcoming teachers’ conference on the topic of Deaf students in our public schools?


What is the Found Festival? The Found Festival is basically the brainchild of Elena Belyea, the Artistic Director of the Common Ground Art Society of which I am the new Executive Director. She’d seen site-specific festivals all over the county and that was her first proposal for the group. So many areas of the city have pretty iconic festivals already associated with them. I understand you’re taking a pretty unconventional approach in terms of locations? For this we’re focusing on non-traditional venue space. Instead of bars or theatres, performances are going to be on rooftops or alleyways or down by the river along the bank. We’ll be doing the festival in Old Strathcona, which really is the most ideal place to hold an arts event in all disciplines—music, dance and acting, just because of the sheer amount of venues. There are going to be ten events, five on each day. Fifty performers between them. That’s a lot of moving parts to manage. We just wanted there to be a cross-pollination of artists and mediums. When they get together to work on these shows, there’s going to be this question of an unknown space added in as well. With what we’re doing the sky is literally the limit in some of these spaces, and it’s going to be really interesting to see what people are going to do. We have choreographers, dancers, a travelling Shakespeare group and more. I’m guessing there must be a lot of practical issues to deal with? My role as Executive Director is handling finances and making sure everything is plausible. We can have this dream, work hard, but in the end we need sponsors and grants and anything we can get. I facilitate that—the planning and the brainstorming. And on the creative side? I’m going to be choreographing and collaborating with a composer on a piece. The mission statement of Common Ground has always been the emergence of artists while allowing people the opportunity to perform and showcase without having to fundraise and rent a theatre. If you want to perform, and you have an idea to share—we’re going to let you do that. It’s up to us to get the funding and the time. You just need to have an idea.

— The Found Festival June 29 - July 1

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You guys have a pretty cool operation here at Haven Social Club. How did you end up starting this whole thing? One night I came to the bar that this space used to be to see a show. I looked at the space and realized I could really do something with it. At the time I was doing small, twenty to thirty person acoustic shows in my basement—just these really intimate shows. I guess that’s where the original idea came from. Looking at the room it was exactly what I’d visualized, and the previous owners happened to be looking for someone to take it over. I had literally three weeks to try to pull something together, but I decided to go for it. What was the toughest part—the part that surprised you? It took a lot to get people to take to it. There weren’t really many music venues at the time, and I’d thought people would go for it. It’s a great room, but it took a lot to get people to come out. It might have been the location, might have been an issue of street-cred. I’ve never been a cliquey one, and it’s an industry that depends on that. You need to be a face on the street that people know to get them to bite into it right off the bat. I’d been working in the music industry, in the production and the lighting companies and venues. I’d done every area of music from managing to playing, and I tried to pump all of that into this. There’s a reason there are sight lines, there’s a reason for everything. Seeing a concert here, you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the experience. I feel that there’s so much that people don’t put into a venue that they really should. It’s a moment that if you capture in the right way, you can make it a better show. We’re really trying to create that atmosphere to allow magic to happen. So there’s a pretty heavy focus on the music I gather. We are a non-for-profit. Haven isn’t for anyone’s pocketbook. It’s here for the artists who want to put on a good show and make some good money doing it. We’re not really a bar; we’re an arts venue. Music, poetry, acting—it’s an events room. What would you say to anyone thinking of coming and checking the place out? I encourage and challenge people to get off the couch. Support live music. It’s a special thing that brings a lot of value to a lot of people’s lives, and there’s no reason we can’t make the scene here better by putting in a little effort. It’s a community thing. One night out of the blue, don’t even see what’s happening—just go out.


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First time I heard of you, I got almost embarrassingly excited that there was a band named after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle villain. We were trying to think of the band name. We wanted to come up with onomatopoeia of a caveman in space or a spaceman in a cave. Krang was that sound. Then we remembered the TMNT villain and it just worked.

The word psychedelic comes up a lot. I’d say that’s the easiest one to throw out there. Chakra-rock? Heavy-Dad-Blues has been used— comes from how a lot of dads and uncles are into the same kinds of things that influence us. They tend to understand where we’re coming from. It’s so hard to choose a genre of music, even to define a genre now. What kind of projects do you guys have coming up?

You guys have been getting some hype from college radio stations? Mostly CJSR. Those guys have been repping us hard—really been a huge help, if nothing else in boosting our confidence. You make it into the charts and it gets you some attention on the Internet, and that is huge. You can listen to anything on the Internet, which in part is why bands like us can exist. Do you guys have a tough time putting yourself into a genre?

We’ve got a split 7” coming out pretty soon with a band from Saskatoon called Shooting Guns. They’ll have one side and we’ll have the other. Our friend has this giant house that backs out onto Victoria Golf course. It’s a huge log cabin, like a ski chalet over looking the valley. It’s hard to believe it exists in the city. We went there for the day to record the song, and it’s going out to be mastered soon. We started playing and sawdust started raining down from the ceiling as it shook. Sun was pouring in through the windows. It was pretty ideal.

The song is called “Shake Joint”—one of our shorter songs. Happens to be four minutes and twenty seconds. That’s short for us. We played a twenty-five minute set at this festival and we ended up being able to do two songs. There are a lot of forums for artists around the city—a lot of new opportunities popping up. Do you guys enjoy the scene here? I love Edmonton. Like any big city with a music scene you can get involved in—it’s easy to listen almost exclusively to music from here. There are so many different kinds here. You’ve got to work a little bit, but the crowds are discerning so the people making music really put a lot into it.



Big day for you tomorrow? Yup, flying off to Geneva, Switzerland, for an internship—an unpaid internship. Nonetheless it’s a great opportunity. Quite a ways to go. How long are you going for? From February 15th until May 15th, but I might extend until the end of May. Officially my title is Advocacy Intern. So far I know the work entails a lot of extensive research on human rights abuses in the Arab world, specifically focusing on Egypt, Bahrain and Syria, which I find interesting, as that region is my area of study. The NGO is called the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies—CIHRS. How did you manage to land that? It’s a pretty cool opportunity. Everyone has asked me how I got it, and it was honestly luck. I was looking for something productive to do and I found the internship, applied and had what they were looking for. I like that even though the headquarters are in Egypt, they’re responsible for major publications that have to do with human rights advocacy throughout the Arab world. That really appealed to me. What did you study at the U of A? Just graduated with a major in Political Science and a minor in Religious Studies. I’m a first generation Canadian and my background comes from Tunisia. My parents—like most immigrant families—really stressed medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and it was pretty obvious I was better at the social sciences. It sounds nerdy, but I really do love Political Science. I love the theory just as much as the current events, but I’ve definitely focused on the Middle East, just because it’s my background so I’m a bit more inclined to be interested. At the same time I feel like the politics there tend to take over in discussing international politics. You hear about it a lot. It’s a pretty prominent area on the world stage right now. There’s always going to be interest there—natural resources being a big part of it. I think especially within the past year with the revolutions, people from there and people who are interested have noticed how the discourse has changed. People aren’t afraid to talk about their rights any more. It seems so obvious to us. We’ve got the freedom of speech and mobility. I can go marching in the streets here if I want to demand something of my government. They don’t have to listen, but I can do it. I saw that difference going there in my childhood.



Why did you want to work at the Youth Emergency Shelter? I always knew I wanted to end up somewhere like this place. Helping youth in crisis has been something of a recurring theme in my life. I figured if something keeps popping up like that, it must mean something. All of the people here seem pretty drawn to it, pretty invested. What is it you do here? I’m the Communication Coordinator, a sort of one-man show running the marketing department and all of our external communications. Website content, events, speeches and grant writing—pretty much anything written that passes through the agency comes through me. It’s a lot of work. It’s hectic, it’s crazy—I never know what’s going to come along and derail my plans for the day, but it’s also immensely rewarding. A lot of people don’t necessarily know what we do, but there are five hundred volunteers and eighty-two staff members. There’s a lot of dedication here. What kind of services do you offer for the kids? We try to do the full continuum, so that whatever stage a kid is at when they come to us, we’ve got something to offer. We offer short-term emergency accommodation, long-term supported independent living programs, life skills, educational support and counselling. Despite being rewarding, there must be a tough side to it as well? There are immense challenges, but that’s what I love about it. It never gets boring and I never live the same day twice when I’m working. Everyone in the organization—be it staff or volunteer, will take the time out of their day to acknowledge your contribution when you do a good job. When you’re having a tough time they’ll take time out of their work schedule to support you. What kinds of things do you guys have coming up? We’ve got our big event, Homeless for a Night, coming up June 1st, which is really big amongst the university crowd. It’s our signature event to raise funds and awareness. Our participants collect pledges and go camp out for the night in Telus field. It’s loads of fun and there’s entertainment and three hot meals. It’s a great way to have a good time while supporting a good cause.




The Freezing Point Art competition’s photography section goes to a business student. Were you surprised? I was quite surprised. I don’t do this as any kind of career—I’m a business student. This is a hobby for me. I had guessed that for arts students exposure would have been a big deal. What are you taking at Grant MacEwan? I’m doing Asian-Pacific Management at Grant MacEwan. It’s similar to a Bachelor of Commerce. Next summer I’ll be doing a six-week practicum in Japan for that, kind of an extended vacation. So photography isn’t something that you’re looking to do professionally? It’s a hobby and a passion, but I recognize that as a career it takes a lot of work to pull in a decent income— at least compared to business. I’m happy with whatever exposure I can get. I spent six years working in a camera store, which was definitely a huge source of inspiration. For the most part though, on the technical side, it was self-taught from magazines and studying pictures online. How did you capture the winning image? That photograph is a bit of a long story. A regular customer at the camera shop where I work happens to be an ETS inspector. I mentioned one day that I’d love to get into the tunnels and shoot some pictures. Not having grown up here, I learned to shoot in valleys and nature settings. When I first got here I didn’t shoot much as I was having a hard time finding inspiration. Pretty big jump from broad, sweeping vistas to an underground train station. What drew you to that? The tunnel was the first thing that really did it. We met up, put on the safety vests and went from there. It was great. The image is of Corona station. We were in the tunnel for about an hour and a half, went further down into the crossover section where trains can change tracks. It’s a pretty striking image for sure. I think the really cool thing is that it’s a place most people don’t get to see all too often. It’s so close to the platform, but people never really see it.

— cpl_smirl/6052147970


How long have you been painting for? I’ve been painting for about seven years. I was in twelfth grade and just found that it was something I could teach myself. I started after that. There was an art teacher who was very supportive of that ability—she really helped me. How did you hear about the Freezing Point art competition? I got an email through Grant MacEwan. I’m a graduate of the Fine Art program, just one of those emails that alumni get. The program gives you a pretty good taste of all of the genres. There’s sculpting, painting, drawing and different kinds of performing arts. It really helped me speak to other artists and articulate my ideas. The sheer scale of the painting that you won with is pretty impressive, and now it’s up hanging in city hall. What’s the story behind that image? It’s a religious painting. I’d done some similar things in the past, and had been commissioned to do this one. They didn’t end up taking it, but after an article written about me went out, I received an email saying I should do a painting based on what happens during the Catholic mass during consecration. That’s when the priest blesses the piece of bread and the wine. You were trying to capture that moment? It’s about what happens spiritually in that moment when the priest blesses the sacrifice. How long was the whole creative process? Two and a half years. I think there was about a years worth of research for this piece—just looking into behaviour of certain things, the way flames behave at different temperatures or the way water drips versus blood. I looked at how light enters into a water droplet and the way those images are reversed, or how blood is the consistency between milk and honey.

You’ve gone back to school after working as a nurse. What are you working on now? Master of Nursing at the U of A in the clinical stream— focusing on advanced practice nursing. My research though is focusing on seniors, specifically ethnic immigrants. I have a good understanding because I’ve grown up in that culture and I recognize those differences. South-Asian people have very specific healthcare needs, research shows. Cardiovascular disorders and diabetes—South-Asians carry a disproportionate burden of those diseases as compared to other ethnicities. It proves that a more tailored health plan is needed. Having honed in on that issue, what kind of change would you like to see? If I could change the healthcare system all on my own, I would probably try to make it more culturally sensitive. I’d like to hone into the different needs of different ethnic minorities. Elderly people alone have their own needs, but when you add in that element of an ethnic minority a whole new set of needs emerge. What was it like working as a nurse? My background is in critical care nursing which is essentially intensive care nursing. My focus has always been adults. Basically I knew I wanted to take that to the next level. Working in the ICU you see a lot of things, a lot of patients—but everything is very fast paced. In a twelve-hour shift you do everything that you need to do for that patient who is acutely, critically ill, but then you go home. Your mind sort of wanders as you wonder what happens to these people after they leave. There’s not a lot you can do. That’s part of why I went back to school— to look at a patients whole picture. And what is that distinction—between a nurse and a nurse practitioner?


Nurse practitioners are people who have practiced as a registered nurse, but get additional training so that their scope of practice can include making diagnoses, prescribing medication, ordering investigative tests and whatnot. You have a little bit more to work with and you can effect a little bit more change. I’d imagine having such a limited time with individual patients would be difficult? As an ICU nurse you see all of these problems, death and chronic illness—it’s tragic. It’s human nature to want to fix things. As a nurse and a South-Asian person, I’m blessed to be able to go back to school and discuss these things in order to move them forward. We cling on to the one thing that we think we can help with, so for me I clung on to this area that I understand. Hopefully I’m getting equipped to deal with it.

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