Episode 133 – Parallels

On this episode, we speak with artist Carol Wylie about her exhibition They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds.

It is an evocative series of portraiture which invites us to consider the parallels between the Holocaust and residential schools, by introducing us to 18 survivors.

Understanding the intergenerational trauma experienced by both the Indigenous and Jewish communities, this series is an important way to acknowledge first-hand accounts of survival, and of building a life, family and community after.

The Jewish Federation of Edmonton has collaborated with Jewish Family Services, and the Indigenous Services team at Edmonton Public Library to bring this exhibition to Edmonton. As part of that, Edmonton Community Foundation was able to provide a small grant to help support a series of Art Therapy Workshops to help people engage with the portraits.

The exhibition is showing at Edmonton Public Library’s Stanley A Milner location until November 25th, and is free to attend.

Register for the November Art Therapy Workshops:
November 3rd, from 1 – 3 pm.
November 20th, from 1 – 3 pm.
Both workshops take place at the Stanley A. Milner Library.

Find out more about the exhibition: They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds.
Learn more about the Jewish Federation of Edmonton and Jewish Family Services.
Gather with Edmonton Public Library through their program: Mâmawô ayâwin.
Keep your eye on https://www.jewishedmonton.org/ to see the recorded talk with Carol Wylie and Terri Cardinal.

ECF Happenings:
Watch the Well-Endowed Web Show!
Read the latest on our blog.
Check out our ECF Fund listing and Strategic Granting Guide.
See more ways ECF connects you with Edmonton’s community.
Check out some of the amazing funds our donors have created.

ECF Grants:
Youth VOICE – Applications due October 31, 2022
* Click here to see all ECF Grants.

Upcoming Student Awards:
* Click here to find details for all of our student awards!

The Well Endowed Podcast is produced by Edmonton Community Foundation. And is a proud, affiliate member of the Alberta Podcast Network.

Image for this episode was supplied by Carol Wylie, featuring a sample of portraits from her exhibition: They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds.


[The Well Endowed Podcast theme music plays] 

Graeme Lummer [00:00:25] Hi everyone. Welcome to The Well Endowed Podcast. I’m Graeme Lummer.

Shereen Zink

style="font-weight: 400;"> [00:00:29] And I’m Shereen Zink. This podcast is brought to you by Edmonton Community Foundation, and we’re a proud affiliate member of the Alberta Podcast Network.

Graeme [00:00:36] Edmonton is full of generous donors who have created endowment funds at ECF. These funds are carefully stewarded to generate money that supports charities in Edmonton and beyond.

Shereen [00:00:45] On this podcast, we share stories about how these funds help strengthen our community… because it’s good to be well endowed.

Graeme [00:00:52] On this episode, we speak with artist Carol Wylie about her exhibition, “They didn’t know we were seeds”, currently showing at Edmonton Public Library’s Stanley A. Milner location.

Shereen [00:01:01] It is an evocative series of portraiture, which invites us to consider the parallels between the Holocaust and residential schools by introducing us to 18 survivors.

Graeme [00:01:10] Understanding the intergenerational trauma experienced by both the Indigenous and Jewish communities, this series is an important way to acknowledge firsthand accounts of survival and of building a life, family, and community afterwards. 

Shereen [00:01:24] The Jewish Federation of Edmonton has collaborated with Jewish Family Services and the Indigenous services team at Edmonton Public Library to bring this exhibition to Edmonton. As part of that, Edmonton Community Foundation was able to provide a small grant to help support a series of art therapy workshops to help people engage with the portraits.

[The Well Endowed Podcast jingle plays in background]

Graeme [00:01:41] Our producer, Lisa Pruden, finds out more about those workshops and about how the artist approached this portraiture series. 

Over to you, Lisa! 

Lisa Pruden [00:01:49] Thanks, Graeme! 

Before we meet artist Carol Wylie, I wanna talk a little bit more about the collaboration Shereen mentioned with the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, Jewish Family Services, and the Indigenous services team at Edmonton Public Library. All three organizations have worked together with thoughtful intention so that this art series can be enjoyed in a safe and meaningful way. 

I’d like to introduce you to Jenna Soroka.

Jenna Soroka [00:02:17] My name is Jenna. I’m, uh, on the volunteer planning group with the Jewish Federation of Edmonton for programming and projects. I’m a part of the Jewish community. I’ve grown up in Edmonton, and right now I’m talking to you from the traditional and ancestral territory of the Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux and Nakota Sioux.

Lisa [00:02:39] As she mentioned, Jenna was on the planning committee that helped plan the programming and events around this exhibition. She had mentioned to me that she was the youngest person on the committee at 25-years-old. Like so many of us listening, she’s part of the next generation to carry her learnings forward. She was excited to be part of this project.

Jenna [00:02:58] When I was approached, um, by Jenn Magalnick, who is the Associate Director for Holocaust Education and Community Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Edmonton… I was, um, intrigued and excited to get into it because growing up at a Jewish school and learning about the Holocaust, that was, um, something very prominent in my education. And as I expanded outwards into the world that wasn’t Jewish, I wasn’t surrounded by that. And learning that not everybody knew a lot about it, I felt it was important to talk about the Holocaust survivors and then bring into it the, um… the aspects of another genocide regarding residential school— um, schools and survivors there.

Lisa [00:03:46] Jenna recognized a parallel between the Holocaust and residential schools. That there is often a gap between what is taught in schools, that is what is understood by people outside of a community versus the lived experience of those within a community. For Jenna, this project was an opportunity to learn about residential schools in a way that was more in-depth. 

I got to speak with Jenna on the very same day the exhibition opened at the library.  September 29th, just ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It was opened with a pipe ceremony led by Indigenous elders, Jo-Ann Saddleback and Jerry Saddleback. Jenna told me about that experience. 

Jenna [00:04:25] With the pipe ceremony, I’ve— I’ve never participated or attended a pipe ceremony before, and there were, um, various members of the Jewish community there in addition to Indigenous community. Um, this pipe ceremony was led by the pipe carriers, um, Jo-Ann Saddleback and Jerry Saddleback. And so Jo-Ann’s the Elder in Residence at, um, Edmont— Edmonton Public Library. And the protocols that they had with the Cree culture at the pipe ceremony, there were parallels to Jewish protocols or the Jewish culture, um, whether that’s from just blessings over food or just having symbolism with numbers, there was the significance of the number four and how many times you kind of pass around the pipe itself. And it was just very insightful that way. But in addition to that, there were just obviously many differences as well. And having that opportunity to learn, but also listen and participate, and there was just such a welcoming, um, atmosphere. It was made evident that our presence was very, um, appreciated. And it was nice to be able to share that space, um, during a time that there’s a lot of pain and trauma from people and— but also healing and just building of trust.

[00:05:40] My overall experience from the pipe ceremony was… it’s gonna sound a little strange, but, like, it’s this, like, warm hug of humanity where it was just very, like… compassion-driven. Like, when Jo-Ann was speaking, there was just a fierceness in how she spoke about her culture and the truths that she had. So I felt very grateful to be a part of it. And it was really— it was really special t-to witness and participate in. I even mentioned it to somebody today. Like, it created a lot of context to come out and then see the art and, like, take it in at full capacity almost. ‘Cause I think sometimes you can— um, it’s easy, at least for me, to come into a space and not be in the right headspace to take in information and process it. I think the events and things happening around the art exhibit are allowing people to— are gonna allow people to process things.

Lisa [00:06:33] Jenna told me about how the planning committee would meet to discuss the vision and goals of bringing this exhibition to Edmonton. And the group kept coming back to three main themes—

Jenna [00:06:44] Which was art, education, and trauma.

Lisa [00:06:47] The pipe ceremony that Jenna told us about is just one of the events that was planned to help highlight these three themes. There was also an artist talk held on October 6th, and there are upcoming art therapy workshops. Art therapy was a great way to acknowledge art, education, and trauma in a way that offered not just context for those learning these histories, but support for the communities who have experienced them. 

Heather Frayne will be co-facilitating these workshops.

Heather Frayne [00:07:15] So my name is Heather Frayne and I’m a counselor at Jewish Family Services, and my background is in social work and also expressive arts therapy.

Lisa [00:07:25] Heather joined me remotely from her home, and like me, she lives by a busy street. So you might notice some traffic in the background. 

Heather told me what the workshops will look like.

Heather [00:07:36] Yes. Well, I am excited about it. So, um, basically people will be invited to check out the exhibition. People can come and it will be— just be a place to sort of respond— to reflect and respond through art-making. I will be sharing a little PowerPoint just about, um, generational trauma and epigenetics. Like, what we know now about how trauma gets transmitted even on— on our genes. So through our environment, of course, but then also, um, genetic. But also how resilience gets transmitted, too. Yeah, not only the… the hard things, but I mean, this gets transmitted just to help us cope and survive. But then also those things that make us resilient, like humour, culture, laughter, faith, stories, recipes. Like, all that good stuff.

Lisa [00:08:25] After discussing the ins and outs of intergenerational trauma, participants will be able to do some art-making.

Heather [00:08:31] So the art-making piece will be, um, to create masks. So reflecting on your inner face and your outer face. So what is the mask that we show to the world, and how do we carry our stories in our face, in the lines of our face? Um, and also what do we kind of hold back and wish that we could share with the world? Or what do we kind of keep hidden? Those stories that we keep a little bit on the inside. Um, so it’ll be a chance to make some art about both of those, our inner and outer face. And then, um, a chance to just share that with other people in the workshop. I think because the— the exhibit or exhibition, the artwork is all about, um, people’s faces and… kind of the struggles, but also the beauty that we can see in people’s faces, just our common humanity.

[00:09:24] And so kind of when we connect to that— to our own stories of our own struggles and our own resilience, then that kind of helps to build empathy and compassion. So that’s one of the underlying goals. And also just sometimes, you know, we hear these stories and we don’t know what to do with all that information or all that emotion that’s built up. So art is— it’s a beautiful catharsis, but also a container. So it’s a really gentle way. And we wanna really balance, you know, not just the… the trauma, but also the resilience. But also not sugarcoat the trauma by just looking at the resilience. They really are two sides of that same coin.

Lisa [00:10:05] Mask making is a wonderful way to explore the complexity and nuance that all of us carry as human beings. This idea of sharing and creating community is a huge part of why Edmonton Public Library, or EPL for short, wanted to host this exhibition. 

I spoke with Emily Riddle.

Emily Riddle [00:10:24] Yeah. [CLIP NEEDS LANGUAGE ANALYSIS] 

My name is Emily Riddle, or my English name. Um, my nêhiyaw name is Okimâw Pipikwan Iskwêw and I’m from the Alexander First Nation here in Treaty 6 Territory. Um, but I live here in Edmonton and I am the Senior Advisor Indigenous Relations for the Edmonton Public Library.

Lisa [00:10:49] She taught me about, I’m gonna attempt it… mâmawô ayâwin.

Emily [00:10:54] Yeah, mâ— yes, you’re pretty close. Um, mâmawô ayâwin. So the mâmawô is, like, the altogether and ayâwin is, like, the gathering component or— yeah, so that’s what makes it the full word. 

Lisa [00:11:05] Listeners, I ask your patience as I learn. Mâmawô ayâwin means “all being together” in Plains Cree or nêhiyaw. Emily told me about how EPL has been working to create a space for gathering.

Emily [00:11:19] Mm-hmm! This is our new event series, so it replaced our “exploring reconciliation” banner, and it’s not a move away from reconciliation, but, um, work to centre, uh, Indigenous knowledge and, uh, worldviews an-and languages and the title and recognizing that, uh, Edmonton has always been a gathering place for lots of different people. And public libraries are a gathering place for ideas and people, too. So to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together. 

Lisa [00:11:48] This is what made Carol Wylie’s exhibition, “They didn’t know we were seeds”, such a great opportunity for creating a gathering space.

Emily [00:11:55] One of the things we really heard from community in opening our, uh, ceremony space, our cultural space in the Stanley Milner Library, which is called, uh, PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN or the Thunderbird House, um, was to create intercultural spaces was actually one of the goals. So, um, having this project in the library, um, as a gathering space for folks from different cultures to learn from one another, whether that’s through art, through ceremony, through, um, workshops and listening to speakers, I think, like, fits really in with the mandate of the library being a place to learn and grow.

Lisa [00:12:29] I asked Emily how the portraits have impacted her.

Emily [00:12:32] Uh, yeah, I saw them online so much through the planning process, but they’re so much more effective when you see them in person. Part of that is… is the scale of the size of the faces, but also just the humanity of these people and their stories and all the lines in their face and their experiences are so, um, available to you right in front of your face in that way. And so, um, Carol Wylie, who’s the artist for the exhibition, actually spoke, uh, last night, um, at, uh, an art opening in… in conversation with Terri Cardinal, too. And she talked about how it’s not her story to tell their experiences of… of the Holocaust or residential schools, but rather her experience of sitting with these people. So the kind of trust and personal relationship really comes through in these portraits.

[00:13:19] I think the whole— part of this project, um, which is hopefully ongoing, is just, like, creating community and solidarity between communities who have experienced genocide and how we continue to heal from these experiences, too. And I think that there’s a lot of— discussing these traumatic experiences is… is really important, but also, um, being able to share our culture. So for example, in the pipe ceremony, um, we had on the 29th, um, nohkom Jo-Ann, who’s our Elder in Residence, was one of the pipe carriers and was talking about, uh, traditionally Cree people are matrilineal, which is the same for Jewish folks, too, uh, are also a matrilineal people. So just discovering these, like, interconnectedness, um, of culture and community and relationship to food and spirituality, I think is… is really powerful and important.

Lisa [00:14:07] The portraits are displayed in three sections of the Stanley A. Milner Library. They are [emphasized] so worth a visit and staff there will be happy to help you find them.

Emily [00:14:16] Yeah! Everyone can come and see the portraits. I think, like, the best thing about public libraries is everything is free. [laughs] So even, like, mem— from membership and no late fees for borrowing materials to being able to go to most events at the library are free. So, um, the exhibition is free to see anytime the Stanley A. Milner library is open. 

We have art therapy workshops. Everyone is… is welcome to attend these. They are, um, going to contain content about the Holocaust and residential schools and how that kind of intergenerational trauma affects people. But most people have some form of trauma in their lives, too. So it is applicable to anyone who would like to come learn about intergenerational trauma and maybe think about how it affects their life or even in their work, too, um, and who they, um, encounter on an everyday basis. So I would encourage people to check those out and to look at the general— uh, the art collection in Milner. All of the new art in the branch is all Indigenous art, too. So I would encourage you to check out that collection curated by MJ Belcourt while you’re looking at Carol Wylie’s “They didn’t know we were seeds.” So there’s lots of art to explore within the Milner Library.

Lisa [00:15:28] This is such a wonderful collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, Jewish Family Services, and Edmonton Public Library to bring Carol Wylie’s exhibition, “They didn’t know we were seeds”, to Edmonton. As you’ve heard, the work is impactful and a great opportunity to create a space for sharing and learning. 

I had the privilege of speaking with Carol Wylie about this portrait series.

Carol Wylie [00:15:51] My name is Carol Wylie and I’m a painter— portrait painter.

Lisa [00:15:54] Carol lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Treaty 6 territory and has been painting portraits for about 30 years. Her focus has been exclusively devoted to portraiture and figuration. Her reason for that is a beautiful way of connecting to people, as you’re about to hear. 

Here’s our conversation. 

[00:16:12] I really, really loved looking at the portraiture, um, and reading your artist statement for it. I am looking forward to getting into more of a deep dive for how you created your portraits and what the experience for you was with those. Um, but I wanted to start with something from your artist statement where you say, and I’ll just read it as a quote, you say, “The connection between Holocaust and residential school survivors that had emerged for me as a settler in Saskatchewan with its notorious history of residential schools was the impetus behind including portraits of residential school survivors in this project.” And so I think one of the words that flagged for me there, uh, was you’re identifying yourself as a settler, and it made me very curious about what your heritage means to you.

Carol [00:17:01] Well, my background, of course, is I-I’m Jewish. I was raised Jewish, but not in a religious family. We didn’t— we weren’t, um, orthodox. We would go to synagogue on the high holidays and we would celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, that kind of thing. Um, but never really in a religious, more of a… of a— as part of a historical and ethnic kind of connection. Um, so I always connected with being a Jew in that way, but not so much religiously. Um, I’m not a religious person. I’m a spiritual person, but I’m not religious and I don’t really follow, um, the kind of doctrines of… of the synagogue or… or the Torah or any of that kind of stuff. Nor am I a scholar around Jewish, um, issues or don’t have a large knowledge base with it.

[00:17:51] However, um, being in Saskatchewan, which also incidentally doesn’t have a super high Jewish population either. So y-you could find that you’re not— you’re often the only Jewish person in a space or in a— at an event or— and I lived in a small town in, uh, rural Saskatchewan for about 20 years where there was only one other Jewish person in the town, actually. And she’s actually one of my Holocaust survivor portraits of subjects. So that’s… that’s great. But I am surrounded by people that are like me in terms of being white settlers. And, uh, in the work that I do through the museum I work at, we do a lot of, um, education of— just a lot of work on understanding Indigeneity and the Indigenous experience and how we can connect to the Indigenous population an-and show work that mean— is meaningful to them. An-and just understand tha-that— more of that worldview. It’s actually right in our strategic plan for our museum.

[00:18:49] So, um, I’m sort of surrounded by the sense of… of having to understand that I am not Indigenous to this land, but other people are, and what that means to them, and what their language means to them, and the loss of that language means to them. And I mean, to some extent I understand that on a… on a… a more shallow level in that my family always spoke English, my grandparents spoke Yiddish and Russian and Polish, and my parents are still able to understand Yiddish. They don’t speak it, though, or they had— they didn’t speak it. And, um, so I never learned it. And that’s actually— I-I feel that there’s a loss in that. So in a very sort of tiny way, I can understand what the loss of language means. When you’re a member of the diaspora, it’s sort of different. You have that expectation that your language might not be front and centre, but when you’re not, when you are in your homeland, but you don’t have your language, I can imagine it’s like a tenfold experience of loss.

[00:19:48] So, um, being, uh, that we— in Saskatchewan, we had so many residential schools here and the last one closed in 1996. I mean, this is not… a past history that goes back a long way. And understanding that with the Truth and Reconciliation commission and the calls to action, it is incumbent upon those of us who are white settlers to make some effort to reach out, to listen, to learn, to understand about the experience that the Indigenous population has been through and the residential school experience and the… the generational trauma that’s resulted from it. And, uh, the more that we can understand and make connections, hopefully the… the better that we can make our present time and just keep moving towards a future where we have some kind of relationship that’s workable.

Lisa [00:20:35] I really appreciate that. Um, having your own experience an-and your sense of cultural community and the things that you were able to keep with that, but also the things you’ve lost with that and holding that in your heart while also being open and understanding of other people’s experiences with their loss of culture, I think is wonderful and important. Um, so with that in mind, can you describe what your approach to creating these portraits was?

Carol [00:21:10] I approached the portraits— First of all, I started with just the idea of doing portraits of Holocaust survivors, and that was just kind of a knee-jerk, panicky understanding and realization that… that, um, Holocaust survivors are aging and very, very soon there will be none of them left alive to tell that firsthand experience. And in a portrait, if it’s done properly, you should be able to… to have some of that experience living in the portrait. Even if you don’t have the words, you may have the story, but then you have the… the actual face that shows you that level of experience. An-and it’s kind of a connection less to the intellect and more to… to the heart, I guess, for… for lack of another way to put it.

[00:21:53] But then, um… besides the things I’ve spoken about in terms of being a white settler and wanting to also bring the Indigenous community into this project, there was a pivotal moment when I was doing Indigenous sensitivity training at my job, and they referred to the fact that the residential school system was called the final solution regarding “the Indigenous problem.” And, uh, that— like, I almost fell off my chair because I always so strongly connect that to Hitler’s sort of speaking about “the… the Jewish problem” with quotations and th-th-the concentration camps and the death camps being the final solution for that. 

[00:22:34] So that kind of connection was adding onto other sort of similarities that were popping up for me between the two experiences. That was sort of the moment that I thought, “Now wait a minute, I have all this kind of feeling regarding wanting to connect to the Indigenous community and wanting to… to… to meet some of the calls-to-action. And then here is this— these things are happening in my life that are telling me that there’s a connection between the trauma of these two peoples.” So I started to research it and found that Robbie Waisman, who is one of my Holocaust survivor subjects, has actually done education with Eugene Arcand, who is one of my residential school subjects in—uh, long before my project started, where they connect and tell their experiences to educate the public. But they do it together an-and so they’re sort of united around the subject already.

[00:23:24] So that’s sort of how I-I started to approach it. And then essentially the first part of it was just to find subjects, which at first when I started I was— it was quite daunting. I decided quite early on I wanted to do 18 because of the significance of 18 in the Jewish faith and the— and the sense of higher life and, uh, wanting to be hopeful in a— in a way when you’re dealing with a lot of dark experience, wanting t-to find a hopeful note in it. But finding 9 Holocaust survivors when I live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I know one, and then finding res— 9 residential school survivors who wanted to participate in the project when I knew none at that time. Um, that was sort of the tricky part for me. And once I got started in making connections with subjects and they started coming to sit for me and I would sketch and talk to them and, um, remember and write down specific things that I found quite poignant, um, to use them, actually, in some of the portraits as well.

[00:24:22] And then everything just started to go. Then it was just sort of an endurance thing that— um, just keep painting, keep… keep talking to people, keep interviewing people, keep sketching, and then keep painting until they were all finished. And there were times when it… it, um— especially if… if there was an experience I had that was especially moving and… and somebody had… had a real— really traumatic experience that they had… had told me about, and as I was painting it, sort of that’s all in… in this sort of sense of movement in my body an-and as I’m— as I’m painting the portrait, all of that’s there. I would sometimes have to go do something else before I could go on to the next portrait. But that was the process, just essentially finding the subject, interviewing them, photographing them, and painting them.

Lisa [00:25:07] It sounds like it was a very… intense process and I’m so curious about what it felt like for you to be across from these individuals who had survived and borne witness to, uh, these abuses. Was there anything that you felt shift within yourself or where you felt a learning or, uh, an experience to take away?

Carol [00:25:36] I don’t know if it would be a sudden shift as much as a gradual shift, I guess. It’s— uh, it’s… it’s one of the things that’s sort of behind the portraits is the— the fact that when you have an experience with one person and you understand what they’ve been through and what they’ve survived, that it’s completely different than hearing the abstract numbers of how many people this happened to. So that was what I experienced with each of these. And not everyone spoke about their experience. I-I didn’t want to retraumatize anyone, and if they didn’t wanna talk about it, we just sat and talked about whatever, for me to have a chance to spend time with them. But, um, I think it… it really helped me to personally understand, uh, number one, the endurance that human beings have. Like, it just— to actually hear somebody’s story and hear what they endured and how they… they flourished afterwards, how they made choices.

[00:26:33] They had children, they… they created a light out of that darkness. It’s… it’s astonishing to me, and I have huge admiration for them. But it’s sort of indicative, especially at a time politically when we’re— so much bad behavior in politics right now, particularly south of the border and don’t get me started on that, but— [laughs] Um, that i-it’s— you lose your… your sense of… of admiration for humanity, you fear for humanity. But then you hear someone like this and hear what they have survived and hear how they have continued on and not just endured, but thrived afterwards. It’s… it’s— it is astonishing. And I think that’s the thing I-I took away from it the most was, you know, that humanity has— is deeper seated than I thought an-and it has more strength than I thought. And as somebody who’s really never… never had to… to live through any kind of major traumatic experience, um, t-to see that that’s there in human beings is… is really something. 

Lisa [00:27:39] I… I love that. It’s like restoring one’s faith in humanity.

Carol [00:27:44] I-I do take that as comfort, I think, in humanity. Just knowing that… knowing that all the trials and tribulations that humanity is facing with climate change and… and wars and, you know, still going on, that kind of thing, that… that there is still some kind of a core of humanity within people that… that they survive. They… they fight back, they endure, and they survive. It’s very comforting.

Lisa [00:28:06] After hearing what your experience was and what your— one of your takeaways, anyways, from your experience, what are you hoping, um, viewers takeaway, with the people who come and engage with your art? What are you hoping they takeaway?

Carol [00:28:18] I’m hoping the takeaway for visitors is going to be the— the experience of a one-on-one with each one of the portraits to… to get some kind of a sense of connection to that experience in hopes that when you do understand the individual experience, the individual trauma, um, you can build some kind of compassion. And again, it’s that sense of not being able to abstract the experience by saying six million Jews or a hundred and fifty thousand children or whatever those vast numbers are that we know cerebrally are… are troubling numbers. Um, they… they just— they fall off you quite… quite easily. Whereas that one experience with that individual, whether it be with an actual individual or with a painted portrait, I-I hope that that resonates a little bit more strongly with the visitor in terms of that experience and stays with them. An-and ultimately it’s t-to hopefully build a sense of compassion.

Lisa [00:29:13] I love how you speak about that connection from one individual to another. And to build that bridge through portraiture, I think, is a really unique experience. Because these histories are very difficult, and I think both the Jewish community and Indigenous community are often spoken about in a way where these traumas have defined them in media conversation… I thought I’d maybe ask, wha-what do you find… what do you find joy in?

Carol [00:29:42] I find joy in my children and grandchildren as anyone else does, I think, um, and progressively more in my father. I lost my mom in 2020, um, but my dad’s still around at 92 and I find a lot of joy in that and, uh, his experiences and… and kind of a newer connection with him than I— and a deeper relationship and friendship with him than, I think, I’ve ever had. So there’s joy in that. And I-I really find joy in the work I do. Um, there’s something about the painted portrait, uh, speaking about that connection between the viewer and the… and the portrait. There’s also this really strong connection between the painter and the subject that I— and I’ve been doing it for decades, and it’s always exciting when I start a new portrait with a new subject.

[00:30:30] There’s something about that connection, and I think I saw it written somewhere that it’s like reaching through the… the flesh and bone to touch the consciousness of another person. And one of the reasons why I think I got into portraiture is because I’m fascinated by the fact that we have this consciousness that’s completely separate from other people. And although we can understand other people and we can, uh, connect with other people and communicate with other people, we can never experience the world the way that they experience the world. And there’s something kind of isolating about that. 

[00:31:01] But when we make these connections, I think it’s our way of sort of helping to… to get through the isolation factor of being alone with our own consciousness and make those connections. So that’s one of the reasons why I do portraiture in the first place. And so I find great joy in that experience over and over again.

Lisa [00:31:19] I love that very much. Um, I personally, uh, think about that for myself as we all have our… our own entire worlds and as we walk around and pass each other in the street and you wave at someone or maybe somebody cuts you off and you see that one person in that moment, you have that one seconds long interaction, but that’s an entire world that just passed you by. And I love that. I find that fascinating.

Carol [00:31:43] Oh, I-I do, too. I-I completely agree with you. And that’s… that’s— I-I mean, it took me two years in grad school to figure out why I can’t leave this portraiture alone, what it is about portraiture that I cannot seem to be dissuaded from or… or swayed from. And, uh… and I— it finally sort of gelled for me that that’s really what it was, was wanting to find some way t-to reach into that… that person and… and touch that consciousness that I know I absolutely can’t experience. [laughs] 

Lisa [00:32:10] Before we closed, I asked Carol if there was anything she wanted to add.

Carol [00:32:13] Uh, the only thing I think that I would add is that I— I’m really intensely grateful for the courage of the people who sat for these portraits because understanding what the project was going to be about and that… that they were going to be sort of defined as survivors, which is, again, sort of a bit limiting in terms of— they’re— they’re, like— they also are… are entire human beings with entire experiences and families and things they do and work they do and places they live and things they like to do and music they play and all of that. That dis-dis-distillation of a survivor can be quite limiting. 

[00:32:51] And, um, in the context of the show, I think it’s sort of important that we… we put these restrictions on just to make the concept quite clear. Um, but, uh, I’m really grateful to them that they courageously either not just told me their stories, but… but agreed to being part of an experience like this. And, uh, really enthusiastically in a lot of cases. I mean, Eugene Arcand and Gilbert Kewistep came and smudged all of the paintings before they went to their first exhibition. And to me, like— it was incredibly moving for me that they did that. Uh, but that’s the kind of buy-in that they have… have given me, the trust that they have laid in me in terms of this… this project. And I am eternally grateful for that.

[The Well Endowed Podcast jingle plays in background]

Lisa [00:33:32] I just wanna take another moment to express. Thank you for, again, sharing your time and… and doing this interview with me. I really appreciate it.

Carol [00:33:40] Oh, thank you so much for inviting me.

Shereen [00:33:42] Thank you to artist Carol Wylie for sharing her approach and process. And thanks to Jenna Soroka, volunteer at Jewish Federation of Edmonton, Heather Frayne, therapist at Jewish Family Services, and Emily Riddle, Senior Advisor of Indigenous relations at Edmonton Public Library. We appreciate the time they shared and their work in making this art series a meaningful experience for viewers and community members.

Graeme [00:34:03] You can see the exhibition, “They didn’t know we were seeds”, at the Edmonton Public Library Stanley A. Milner location downtown. The exhibition will be on until November 25th. We’ll have links to the full details and the artist statement in our show notes.

Shereen [00:34:17] There are still two art therapy workshops to come in November. One is confirmed for November 3rd from 1:00 to 3:00 PM at the library. The other is for November 20th, from 1:00 to 3:00 as well. We’ll have the link for registration in our show notes.

Graeme [00:34:29] In the story, you heard about an artist talk between Carol Wylie and Terri Cardinal that was held on October 6th. The recording hasn’t been posted yet, but keep your eye on the website JewishEdmonton.org where it will be published once it’s ready. We’ll have that link for you, too.

Shereen [00:34:45] We’ll also have links to ECF’s Well Endowed Web Show and the latest on our blog. And don’t forget to take a look at our upcoming granting deadlines and funding opportunities.

Graeme [00:34:53] That’s right. The deadline for Youth Voice Grants is coming up on October 31st. These grants are available for innovative projects or activities that are initiated, led, and organized by young students currently enrolled in grade seven to twelve in a school within the tri-region area.

Shereen [00:35:08] That includes Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, and surrounding First Nations. These grants are for youth teams of two or more students who can apply for up to $5,000 for innovative youth-led projects. These projects can raise awareness of a community issue, address a community need, or resolve an identified challenge in the community. So if that sounds like you or someone you know, be sure to check out the details at ecfoundation.org.

[The Well Endowed Podcast music plays in background of outro]

Graeme [00:35:31] Well, that brings us to the end of the show.

Shereen [00:35:34] Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Graeme [00:35:35] We hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please share it with everyone you know. 

Shereen [00:35:39] And please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Those reviews help new listeners find our show.

Graeme [00:35:44] You can also connect with us on Facebook where you can share your thoughts and see some pictures.

Shereen [00:35:48] Thanks again for tuning in. We’ve been your hosts, Shereen Zink—

Graeme [00:35:51] And Graeme Lummer. 

Shereen and Graeme [00:35:52] Until next time! 

Andrew Paul [00:35:55] The Well Endowed Podcast is produced by Edmonton Community Foundation—

Lisa [00:36:00] And is an affiliate member of the Alberta Podcast Network.

Andrew [00:36:03] This episode was edited by Lisa Pruden.

Lisa [00:36:05] You can visit our website at TheWellEndowedPodcast.com.

Andrew [00:36:08] Subscribe to us on iTunes—

Lisa [00:36:10] And follow us on Twitter at @theECF. 

Andrew [00:36:13] Our theme music is by Octavo Productions.

Lisa [00:36:15] And as always, don’t forget to visit Edmonton Community Foundation at ecfoundation.org.

[theme music continues playing for a few seconds after dialogue ends]

Read Full Transcript