Andy Moro: Mixed Blood Multi-Disciplinary Artist Answers the Call of “What Matters Now”
Andy Moro: Mixed Blood Multi-Disciplinary Artist Answers the Call of “What Matters Now”
It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and we at cSPACE have so much to be grateful for.
For one, we have been so lucky to be able to work with Andy Moro as lead artist on our 20/20 Wavelength Project. He has done (and continues to do) an amazing job curating our community submissions, as well as creating this spellbinding exhibit.
The hallways on levels 1-3 of cSPACE King Edward are now alive with some of the most mesmerizing work you’ll ever see. From colourful art printed on plexiglass suspended in the first floor hallway, to videos of some of the most talented local performers projected through windows from the old school, hung on levels 2 and 3, our hallways have never looked more intriguing.
So who is the visionary behind the 20/20 Wavelength Project? We had a chance to ask Andy some questions, and he floored us with his insightful approach to What Matters Now.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with cSPACE!
I am a mixed-blood, multi-disciplinary, nomadic artist. I was born and raised in Ontario near my European Canadian and Indigenous bloodlines. About 3 years ago, writer Tara Beagan and I threw our belongings into a truck and drove west – to be closer to her Alberta family and to embed ourselves in the Calgary scene. We are theatre makers primarily, working on proscenium stages and in unusual / site specific venues. I am fortunate that design work takes me all over the country, and [Andy’s company] ARTICLE 11 tours internationally, so where I call home has never really influenced where we work or vice versa – until now. The explosive Calgary creative scene crept up on us – and for the first time ever I have found myself working hard to increase my “home” time.
The pandemic of course made quick and thorough work of that. What started as an intense case of the stir-crazies quickly turned into an exciting home-practice. The garage became a sculpture studio and thanks to our government’s swift action with CERB, while an entire calendar year of back-to-back bookings simply went poof, I was able to weather a non-performance storm by revisiting my independent studio practice.
Like its skies, Alberta offers big-space – for living and working – at least compared to out of control real-estate markets like Toronto and Vancouver – so for an independent artist living here, space is actually accessible – not to mention beautiful.
A movement that I have witnessed globally – restoring and revitalizing historic sites for cultural industries is perhaps most exquisitely exemplified by cSPACE. Deeter and the cSPACE team have created a cultural hub that rivals similar excellent endeavours around the globe. I have been lucky to work in many revitalized public edifices – from Sydney’s Carriageworks to Brisbane’s Powerhouse, Toronto’s Artscape facilities, Montreal’s Usine-C, Vancouver’s Roundhouse, and so many more. cSPACE stands tall, at the front of the pack exemplifying a rare and sublime mix of community, art, culture, commerce and camaraderie.
The first week we arrived here in Calgary, I attended a production meeting at Making Treaty 7, located here at cSPACE. I was gobsmacked by the space itself and moved to tears by the I Am Western exhibit. I knew then that this building, this community, was a central part of what I now recognize as home.
Why were you attracted to the 20/20 Wavelength Project?
It was a fluke that the cSPACE Wavelength project caught my attention. My independent studio practice has always taken a backseat to the more collaborative Theatre work, but as time and age work their wonders, a quieter, more contemplative workflow has become increasingly attractive. ARTICLE 11 has also been working to create story-based experiences for more autonomous, sovereign viewers – to experience story more like a gallery visit than a lecture or a sermon – on one’s own terms and time.
In Toronto, some years ago, I co-founded a company called Red Pepper Spectacle Arts – creating theatre-based workshops for remote and local Indigenous communities called “The Handmade Theatre Workshop.” It was designed to give creative access to a process at whatever skill and interest level suits – and it was an opportunity for young voices and talents to be heard and respected on their terms, with caring support that was tied solely to inspiration, rather to curriculum.
We built trust and created opportunity based on the expressed desire, if not need, of the participants. From there we initiated a storefront arts studio where we facilitated small and large scale community arts engagements from that base in Toronto’s Kensington Market. We worked with schools, shelters, unions, community centres, soup-kitchens and other arts orgs across the province toward collaborative, inclusive arts engagement that prioritized art-making with high standards resulting in community pride and unity.
Since then, I have developed an international theatre practice. The rigour and occasional exclusivity of mainstream audience marketing practices have inspired us to look toward the installation / gallery scenes; toward working theatrically in that environment. It is our desire to create theatrical experiences where the audience member can move through story at their own pace, lingering or breezing through in any order – as one might do in a gallery. We have been fortunate to receive support for development at Arts Commons and through AMAAS to create theatrically inspired work for site specific locations and galleries. This is how the cSPACE world opened to me officially. The project brief for 20/20 Wavelength read like someone’s Master’s Thesis project – the perfect community-based sculptural, multi-media cultural initiative. This couldn’t be real.
To top it off, the application deadline had not yet passed. The rest, as they say, is herstory.
What’s your vision for the 20/20 Wavelength Project?
Perhaps the most important rule of community-engagement is to listen first and most. Because the cSPACE community is unique by virtue of its remarkably diverse tenant community, the rich history of the building and the wide array of creative and cultural practices that happen here it was immediately clear that my role had to strike a delicate balance between curating a space that supports the self-representation of a strong community while making it easy to engage in a time when that is decidedly not easy.
We are working so hard to connect with any and everyone in the space, to include as many voices as possible. We have made space for visual creation, hand-made and digital, audio work, video capture, the written word, sculpture and artifact – any language and format, we have tools to bring these diverse media, practices, messages together into a unified testament to now, to What Matters Now.
The intent is to represent directly. Uncensored and uninhibited. We are seizing opportunities to engage with Indigenous communities, to prioritize non-mainstream voices – shared authentically. While there are active forces keeping us physically separate, we are challenged to create a forum for the work to be experienced intimately.
In this time, it is most important that we recognize and share our good energies, our faith in each other and in the ties that bind. We need now, more than ever in living memory to feel our strength, our hope and our truths so we can move forward together with intention and integrity through this time of awareness, reckoning and critical reconfiguration.
What do you hope to achieve with the Community Exhibition? With the Art Cubes phase?
It is our sincere hope that the Community Exhibit, and the Art Cubes reflect and represent the light that is cSPACE, our collective creative bliss and simultaneous grief at missing some connections that we may have taken for granted and to reflect the heart of the greater communities back at those communities. Inspired, unifying intent is at the centre of any collaborative process. While it has always been this way, one is challenged to think of a time when the value of an emotional expression was more important to each and every one of us. Art is the symbolic language of collective dreaming – we can communicate forward and backward in time with Art. Art is community consciousness – and the first language of our community here at cSPACE.
As artists, we recognize and embody this truth – we have and will continue to sacrifice ourselves to it, we honour and respect that light and the love it carries. We have a responsibility in this tie to use the tools we have chosen to fight for what we believe – to elevate, enlighten and unite.
What’s exciting to you about doing this exhibit here, at cSPACE?
Toni Morrison explains it better than I could dream to:
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” — Toni Morrison
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.