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On The Art of Writing: Sister Writes Magazine & Launch

January 20th, 2016     by Anna Gallagher-Ross     Comments

Photo by Andrew Williamson

2015 was a busy year for the Sister Writes program. We hosted three seasons of creative writing workshops led by Founder and Program Facilitator, Lauren Kirshner; offered an advanced writing workshop for long-time members of the program; brought guest authors in for one-off special events; facilitated six dynamic onsite workshops for women’s agencies around Toronto; and established Out Loud!, an annual writing conference for LGBTQ youth. To round off such an incredible year, in early January, we opened the first ever Sister Writes exhibit, The Art of Writing. The exhibit also served as a week-long launch for the latest issue of the Sister Writes magazine, which publishes stories by the writers in the program. The Art of Writing brought together fifteen portraits of a Sister Writes participants, photographed by Toronto-based Kate Schneider. The portraits are also featured in an exclusive photographic spread in the Sister Writes magazine. Equal parts exhibition and magazine launch, The Art of Writing was a tremendous finale to a productive year and a celebration of the hard work, skill, and imagination of the women of Sister Writes.

A piece of writing is a work of art, but so is the process that brings it into being. The Art of Writing celebrates both the verb and the noun: the writers process of writing as well as the writing they produce. The exhibit began with the questions: Where do you write? What inspires you? Kate Schneider then took a walk around Toronto with each Sister Writes participant, and their portraits reveal their answers.

The Art of Writing, at The Black Cat

The Art of Writing, which ran from January 2-9, 2016, took place at the storefront art space, The Black Cat. Located in the west end of Toronto, The Black Cat, a former smoke shop and then hair salon, has a tiny square footage but boasts ten foot walls and big front windows that make the space feel bright and airy. Upon entering the The Art of Writing, the viewer was met with black and white portraits of each writer hung at eye level and evenly spaced around the room. The portraits portray women writers inhabiting the places around Toronto that inspire them—the park they go for walks in, the desk they write at, the chair they sit and think in. Each writer’s gaze rests somewhere different, sometimes somewhere in the distance, sometimes meeting the eyes of the viewer, perhaps the beginnings of a story already percolating. Above the portraits quotes from different Sister Writes writers’ stories illuminated the walls. Each quote revealed a unique writer’s voice, but when read left to right, as one walked around the room, the diversity of voices harmonized, creating the essence of one story. A listening station with headphones located in the center of the room enabled viewers to become listeners, selecting and hearing excerpts from stories read by their authors.

Photography by Kate Schneider

Photography by Kate Schneider

The Art of Writing offered a glimpse of the woman and the writer behind the story. When reading through the work of the talented writers of Sister Writes, many common themes emerge, echo, and refract: the hard work of raising oneself, of raising others, of pursuing dreams, of coping with adversity, of being an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances. All the stories refer to the power of the vantage point achieved by age and wisdom, the process of reflecting on our former selves, and the learning that comes through the process of living, of aging, which might be considered the most fundamental art.

—Anna Gallagher-Ross, Curator

In the coming months The Art of Writing will be reborn as a permanent online exhibition on the Sister Writes website. Viewers will be able to take a virtual tour of content of the exhibit, as well as access photographs of the actual event.

Sister Writes is a creative writing program for women based in downtown Toronto. Founded by writer Lauren Kirshner in 2010, with support from Sistering, Sister Writes provides women with the opportunity to work with professional women writers, collaborate on storytelling in a workshop setting, and publish and launch a literary magazine. For more information, visit the Sister Writes website.

Tags: art, youth

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