Category Archives: Community Fusion Project

All about the Community Fusion Project. Updates, happenings and sessions.

Connecting – Just One Reason Why Art Matters

CAMP :: The Lodge Series - "All Family Lodges" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 40"x72"

CAMP :: The Lodge Series - "All Family Lodges" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 40"x72"

Art Matters. It has a way of creating bonds between human beings that is beyond words. On those rare occasions when it happens with impact, it’s a soul-filling experience for everyone.

Sometimes it’s just not possible or desirable when you’re dealing through an agent  but a great gallery will foster a brilliant three-way relationship. With the middle man, you’re one step removed  from the relationship. Those new adoptive parents of that baby you’ve spent months nurturing, growing and creating are just a little bit further away.

Like all great parents, you raise those babies right so they go out and stand on their own. You send them off into the world not always knowing where they’ll end up. It’s a great privilege to know when they’ve found a new home where they’re cared for, loved and cherished…and it’s lovely to know where they live.

I care that the collector has as much information about my process in creating the work, the thought and materials that go into it, and the person that created it. That’s more than 80% of the reason why I write this blog..the other 20% is obviously therapy. Ha. Giving that back-story makes it all somehow more relevant from my point of view.  There are special moments and connections that I cherish.

About five years ago, I was out painting at Spray Lake, and while I was working on the piece, my family was playing on the shore of the lake – a large family gathered at the point near my painting location, and their lives literally walked into the painting and into ours.

Their purpose that day was to honour the life of a husband, a grandfather…a father. They spent awhile on the point in service and then scattered his ashes. That’s a moment in my painting life that I will never forget. I painted all of that in – I was suddenly a part of all of their lives and this event. When a young girl from the family wandered down to see what I was doing, she told me that it was her grandfather, and that this had been his favourite place on the planet. It’s pretty much one of our favourite places on the planet too. I finished the work, gave it to her and asked that she give it to her grandma. A few weeks later, I received the most beautiful note from the family but more importantly, it was the day and the connectivity through art to life and death that mattered.

The New Parents

Jeff Kovitz, QC with his Janice Tanton painting

Jeff with the newest addition to his collection.

Last weekend, Kevin and I were thrilled to connect again with Jeff Kovitz, who chose “CAMP :: Lodge Series – “All Family Lodges” to grace his residence.

Jeff had been searching for six years to find a piece that fit into his collection in a certain spot in his home, and was struck by the image of this work in progress that I’d posted on Facebook. That’s an early stage to feel those heartstrings pull. Six weeks later, when the painting was completed, I sent Jeff a jpeg of it. He wasn’t sure that it had “grown up” to be the piece for the two spots he thought it would work so we thought it would be worthwhile to at least try it out in the space and see.

Delivering the piece over to the house to see if it was a fit, my son Jacob and I were in for a treat as Jeff so graciously toured us through his home and introduced us to his magnificent collection and his lovely daughter Jodi who was visiting.

I knew Jeff as a friend and a colleague from his role as the Chair of the Board of Governors of The Banff Centre when I worked there as Program Manager for Aboriginal Leadership. We’d had occasion to have lunch together after he learned of The Community Fusion project and he graciously opened the film and exhibition for the project on it’s launch.

Jeff ‘s enthusiasm and care for artists, the artistic process and the state of the world is evident in his support of every facet of disciplinary study in the arts, and we’re grateful to know him. His love for the arts is evident, not only in his service and leadership capacity but in the beautiful and superbly self-curated works that hang in his residence, from the thoughtfully situated sculptures… to the music  by the invisible piano player on a wondrous grand (player) piano that plays magically throughout his home – a work of art in itself. Every piece has a story and a provenance.

This ….is art-full living!

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir in Janice Tanton's studio

We so enjoyed this wine together in the studio.

Holding up the painting in the selected spot, I think we were all surprised at how well it fit – that it belonged right there in that very spot – no other home…no other place. If I had tried to create a work specifically for the placement, I’m not certain that I would have been successful – it was somehow meant deep-down for Jeff. Art finds it’s own way. My baby had found it’s place in the world and I’ve extended my family.

Kevin and I hung the painting for Jeff. It was the first time that we’d ever done this together and it was a special experience for both of us. There were a few laughs along the way, that’s for sure! Kevin makes the stretchers and stretches the linen for me so it was fitting for him and meaningful for us both to be a part of the final process of seeing it where it belonged. To celebrate the work, Jeff gave us a lovely bottle of wine. We enjoyed it together in the studio that evening, toasting our baby into the world and wishing well to those who would encounter it as well as it’s new caretaker. I have to say that I am truly more pleased that this piece is with our friend who has it, than I am that the painting has been sold. It’s good to know and serves my heart well.

The Relationship of Art To Life To Art To Life…

"Lie To Me"

"Lie To Me" ©2010 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 40"x60"

This is what I love so much about art and it’s many forms – there are relationships everywhere. I have a relationship with the work as I think about it, watch it become reality before my eyes and create it. There are times when I can look at a piece that I’ve done, and remember the conversations I had, the meals, the music I listened to and the times and events in my life while I worked on it – those are the stories that are embedded in the work. For instance, the work above, “Lie To Me” was created while listening to Jonny Lang‘s music and named for the same song, “Lie To Me”. His music inspired me and by a freak chance (or perhaps NOT such a freak chance…) we met Jonny and his backup singer Jason Eskridge and had the opportunity to share a coffee and talk about the painting, the song and the connectivity between artforms.

I have a lovely client now who was so moved by this work, that she’s commissioned a similar piece…and I’m thrilled to work with her, because it’s the relationships that I know will grow as she sits for this work that will matter.

There is a relationship now with the experience we had while placing the work with Jeff, and there will be new relationships formed for him while it lives in his home. Art connects us and creates space for new experiences and dialogue. This is the true value of a work, whether it is a piece of theatre, music, writing, sculpture, dance or a painting that somehow moves us.

Oh yes. Art Matters.


Related Links and Articles:

Keeping Gallery Relations On The Up and Up – Alyson Stanfield

8 Seconds – TEDxCalgary Features Janice Tanton

I’ve been sorta, kinda, maybe… definitely….kinda…sorta…a little bit HIDING this talk, but I think I got “outted” today by the wonderful folks at TEDxCalgary when they blasted this email today to all the amazing participants and Calgary area folks. I’m learning to celebrate when good things happen, but I still have trouble watching myself in this video.

Honestly…I would have rather gone 8 seconds with the bull at the Stampede.

Thanks to everyone for the comments and to so many of you who have been inspired to have a little creative fun of your own. That makes me feel great!

I look like I’m blowing kisses to the audience, but in fact, I was suffering from a severe case of dry mouth while I was on stage, and had just finished an awesome boob joke following the chicken breast guy that spoke before me. I’m thankful for that, because it sure set me up!

If you haven’t seen the video, there’s a link below.

Enjoy…and CREATE!

TEDxCalgary 8 Seconds Email Photo Featuring Janice Tanton


The Infamous Famous TED Talk

Related Posts:

Breaking Through

Fear and Acceptance

TEDxCalgary – Janice Tanton :: The Language of the Creator

The fine folks at TEDxCalgary have done a wonderful job making me look good on film, and I want to thank them for the opportunity and challenge. An extra special thank you to some inspiring Full Time Human Beings who helped me find my voice: Donna Kennedy-Glans, Elder Tom Crane Bear, Dr. Laura Brearley and to Dr. Nick Nissley. Thank you all so much for modelling bravery and respect in such human ways and action.

I hope you enjoy this presentation, take some time to think about how you can develop your own relationships and language of creativity to build stronger communities and organizations. Sing, dance….paint…..create! Be a human being.



Breaking Through – Masks, Stagefright and Creatively Being.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending  TEDxCalgary at the Glenbow Museum and hearing some amazing speakers deliver on the topic of “Breaking Through: Exploring the frontiers of ideas and actions.” I also…was greatly honoured to be one of the speakers, and this was the biggest breakthrough for me.

Dog Ate My Homework

My Imaginary Conspirator.

It took me two weeks to think through whether or not I could do this – to break through the safe, quiet solititude of my cocoon-like studio and step into the stage spotlight to share. I had visions of tripping down the stairs and landing face first as I walked in…throwing up on the first few rows of the audience (that literally would be a repeat performance for me). My insane left-brained mind created all sorts of “don’t do this!” scenarios, creating fears and tons of reasons. I think at one point, I even texted my speaker coach to tell her that the dog ate my speech. (Sadly, she knew we didn’t have a dog.)

My biggest fear for the past couple of months (okay…years), has been this odd form of stagefright. Yes. It’s true. I suffer from stagefright and am a die-hard, diagnosed introvert!

I think that was my biggest personal breakthrough was in conquering a very real fear of public speaking, baring my soul and telling my story as me…in front of an audience. Odd – because for such a long time, I literally LIVED in the theatre in my 20’s, loving every opportunity to portray interesting characters in classic stories in front of hundreds of people.

It’s not usual that we accomplish this “breaking through” metamorphosis on our own, but we DO tend to think we are alone in our fears. Not so. I’m ever-grateful to my fellow speakers and my speaker coach, Donna Kennedy-Glans for the encouragement and support to try, and for sharing with me too, how nervous they all were too, about “getting it right” on one try. I’m thankful for so many of my friends and family who encouraged me through this.

My observation in the short-term for all of this is:

It is so much easier to don the mask of a character, with a story that is written for you, which is not about you – personally.

The Comedy and Tragedy of Masking Your True Self

The Comedy and Tragedy of Masking Your True Self

“Acting” distances you from yourself (if you’re good at it) and you tell someone else’s story through your own filters & experience. This theatrical artform has become prolific in our day and age and is reflected by the masks we don in our jobs, and all the separate situations we might find ourselves every day.

We modify our behaviours to hide little bits of our gorgeous, breath-taking human selves…. out of fear.


“Fear, in my opinion, is just a misguided form of creativity.”

How might it be for all of us if we were able to all just “be” ourselves in every situation? What might arise from this and for us? What might this intimate sharing of stories reveal about each of us, in our fragile human state.

I learned so much over the weekend, not just from the rich content, brilliant ideas and brave folk who attended, spoke, volunteered, organized and tech-savvied the whole event, but from the act of openly sharing meaningful personal stories, despite nerves and all of the other distractions that accompany family life.

When you conquer that petty fear, show your true self authentically, magical things happen. I feel so lucky to be able to watch my children model that every day for me.

I think this is the experiment I am in as a Full Time Human Being for the remainder of my life, and I encourage you to uncover the creativity inside of you which is masked by your fears.

Tell your own…..

Once Upon A Time

August 5th – Postscript note: If you would like to witness first hand, my fearful moments, the TEDxCalgary talk is now posted here: The Language of The Creator.

Press Release: TEDxCalgary – Breaking Through: Exploring the frontiers of ideas and action

Janice Tanton Logo (large)FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE::

We are excited to announce that Janice will be one of the speakers on June 4, 2011 for TEDxCalgary.

The theme of TEDxCalgary this year is “Breaking Through: Exploring the frontiers of ideas and actions.

“I hope am humbly honoured (not to mention a bit nervous!) to share what I have discovered through art with the TEDxCalgary participants.” – Janice Tanton

You can apply to attend TEDxCalgary and join a group of interested folks from 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 4th at the Glenbow Museum theatre. The lineup of speakers include:

“TEDxCalgary 2011: Breaking Through will bring you the stories of many modern explorers. In their own ways, they’re exploring the frontiers of ideas and actions that help us to better understand and work with the complex systems that surround us: agriculture and food, education, medicine, global conflict, leadership and collaboration, and others.

It is as much about the perseverance and discipline of making profound breakthroughs in thought and action as it is about the discovery itself. Speakers have visited many of the frontiers in their fields, and bring back their perspective on a crucial dimension of moving forward toward the future; grappling with and improving the many systems within which we live day-to-day. They will open your mind to the possibilities of change that they’ve helped to bring about through their own efforts. More importantly, they will give you a chance to take up the challenge of their work and make your own even more powerful discoveries.”

For more information or to apply to attend, please visit:

TEDxCalgary 2011: Breaking Through

Sunflowers of Light and Love In A Sea of Contempt

Vincent Van Gogh Sunflowers 1888

Vincent Van Gogh Sunflowers 1888

The morning after a depressing election in Canada, resulting in what effectually is an illegitimate democracy from a population representation viewpoint, I saw and heard from many hardworking mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers who work so hard for their families, their professions and gender equality crushed, despairing and inconceivably saddened by the results of a majority Stephen Harper Conservative government, the only government in Canada ever to be found in contempt of parliament.

Street Art Protest of Harper Government, Canmore, AB

Street Art on Bow Valley Trail, Canmore, AB

Turning inward, I went through varyious rollercoaster stages of disbelief, shock, anger, and sadness that our trusted systems had failed us. I questioned so much…and rightfully so.

Despite my grief over this weeks electoral events, I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. The Creator sets a course for us and while we may not have the reason “why” at the time when our paths seem so dark, a light always shows itself if we are patient and accept it with an eye for opportunity.

Wednesday of this week, that first little light shone so brightly, in the form of eighteen six year olds that it was blinding and unmistakable. Assisting Grace’s teacher, Mme. Sara Alarie, I, along with another local artist and mom (Fonda Sparks) to volunteer and help the class out with an art project for Mother’s Day. The kids were to create a painting after Van Gogh’s sunflowers.Painting Van Gogh Sunflowers

Walking into the classroom, greeted by excited little sunshine faces all ready to paint and get messy for their Mothers reaffirmed my faith in people but more importantly…in myself. Fonda, Sara and I did little in the session but ensure that the kids had their paints refreshed. It was amazing to us, how little we were needed, and how organized, independent and creative they were.

We watched a miracle unfold in front of us. Despite a well-laid plan, they seized the day for themselves, out of love. Breaking every rule they ended up with the perfection of creation all on their own, with such little guidance from us. At times, there was silence and only the music in the room and the sound of love. Such is the way of the artist, the activist and Van Gogh and we would do well to remember that. Every time I work with children, and especially in the Community Fusion project sessions, I am shown again, the beauty of the human spirit.

On Mother’s Day, we honour not only our own wonderful Mothers, but all women in our world. This week, I received the best gift a mother could ever hope for in the form of 18 lovely little ones painting….loving…..learning……finding and showing the sun. I want to share that with you.

I am humbled, gifted by their love and reaffirmed that my pathway is still my pathway. let the light shine….we are so much stronger than the darkness and love ….will always prevail.

Thank you Vincent, and thank you, babies. You are gifts to us all.


Community Fusion – Los Angeles Events: Canoga Park

Canoga Park Arts Centre, Community Fusion Project, Los Angeles

A Dad creates work with children at Canoga Park Arts Centre Community Fusion

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be invited to Los Angeles to present several Community Fusion Project events. As a guest of the San Fernando/Santa Clarita Child Abuse Prevention Council, my son Jake (a talented guitarist in his own right) and I led three sessions in the communities of Canoga Park and Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. Over 120 participants and families from the communities took part in The Community Fusion Project in three sessions over two days, and boy – was it amazing and exhausting all at the same time!

Canoga Park Youth Arts Centre acted as the venue for the first two sessions in Canoga Park. This wonderful arts centre serves children and youth from ages 0-17 and is funded by the City of Los Angeles. The centre also partners with Taxco, Mexico in cross-cultural international exchanges. Led by Director Stuart Vaughan, the Canoga Park Youth Arts Centre is a little bit of art heaven as far as I am concerned. The facilities are bright, airy and offer an outdoor area, gallery, workshop, administration offices and Mac computer lab all under one roof. Stuart partners with area artists to offer workshops and opportunities for children and youth to learn, experiment and take part in arts activities throughout the year. While cutbacks have affected this small facility and Los Angeles has not escaped the recession, this cultural flower is still flourishing in it’s multi-cultural community.

Talking with the drum together

Talking with the drum together

It was our pleasure to work with Stuart, (also a practicing artist) to bring about a stellar experience for the families of Canoga Park. Anything we needed, Stuart worked quickly and efficiently to provide, and took part in the sessions himself. No mean feat, considering there was an exhibition on in the gallery space which we occupied during the event.

With a strong and willing slate of volunteers, the space was transformed into a giant studio for the day where community, staff, children and adults all gathered to “play” and take a chance to move outside their own comfort zones in an effort to form relationships and build community, using art-forms to dialogue with each other.

Preparing with everyone at Canoga Park in the garden area

Circle Time in the courtyard at Canoga Park Art Centre

The centre has a lovely outside courtyard annexed to the building. There, we gathered before and after our sessions to connect with each other in the outdoor environment.

One of the most touching moments in a Community Fusion session is after we have created the work together. The sharing circle allows participants to talk about their experience together and discuss their individual insights into the process and their engagement with each other. As a facilitator in these sessions, I am always incredibly moved by how deeply the sessions touch the participants and how willing they are to share these individual moments of connection with each other.

Exhibiting this level of vulnerability with family and community is one of the ways we develop empathic relationships with each other, and learn to rely upon the individual leadership strengths in our community.

Sharing a moment with the children

A grandmother shares a moment drawing on the floor with children.

Community Fusion is an intergenerational experience, and the participation of elders and grandparents in the community is integral to the sessions. There is a special connection between generations when we participate in artful play together. The photo at the right shows a grandmother seated on the floor, co-creating a drawing with several young children. It truly “takes a village” when engaging in this work together, and the value of wisdom at any age is exhibited. This lovely lady in particular let me know how surprised she was that she took so quickly to trying out new things with the paint and instruments available in the project.

Fernando paints at The Community Fusion Project

Fernando was totally engaged in this community painting - bigger than he was!

Getting into the “zone” is a common experience that participants share. The young boy in the photo above certainly found his method of communication and was absorbed and thoughtful in his community communication using paint. At the beginning of a session, this 40×72 inch white canvas can be a very daunting player in the room, but Fernando knew intrinsically that this is where he wanted to “talk” with others.

Works created in the Community Fusion sessions are created together – no one “owns” a space, a painting, a musical instrument or sculpture. Everyone shares in the creation of the works, making a mark or contribution where they feel it is respectful and needed. It is phenomenal to see the volume and variety of the works created in a single session when everyone works together.

Group drawing

Group drawing

Painting on the floor

Painting on the floor

Group painting

Group Painting

Beautiful little girls playing the keyboard together

Duet with each other - providing the soundscape for creating.

Many thanks to all the participants, volunteers and especially to the Santa Clarita/San Fernando Valley Child Abuse Council for inviting us into their hearts and lives. Together, we’ve created more new family!


Drumming as a creative voice in the community

For more photos of the project, visit photographer Mik Milman’s site.


Community Fusion Travels to Los Angeles

Janice Tanton Logo (large)

We are pleased to announce that Canmore, Alberta artist Janice Tanton and musician/songwriter Jacob Posacki will be travelling to Los Angeles, California to lead sessions  of The Community Fusion Project.

Sponsored by the San Fernando-Santa Clarita Valley Child Abuse Prevention Council, Tanton and Posacki will lead sessions at the Canoga Park Arts Centre on April 9th and at the Pacoima Community Centre on April 10th, 2011. In addition to the interactive sessions, they will hold artist talks and consultations with local educators and artists to create a base for future development of Community Fusion in Los Angeles.

Tanton and Posacki have previously led sessions at The Banff Centre, Town of Canmore, Banff and Melbourne, Australia for the Indigenous Deep Listening Project. The work has also been presented in Monterrey, Mexico as part of an academic paper at the 2009 APROS conference.

In 2008, Tanton received an award from the Canada Council for The Arts that supported The Community Fusion Project. The project resulted in the creation of  an exhibition, Community Fusion film and audio narrative that successfully engaged hundreds in a process that created new relationships between diverse community members by communication only through the language of the arts. Community Fusion continues to grow, touching the lives of many people, from aboriginal negotiators to local community members, children and elders in Canada and Australia.

In March 2011, Tanton was awarded a second Canada Council for the Arts grant to embark on “CAMP”, a one year visual-arts project examining identity and contemporary nomadism through the eyes of indigenous, non-indigenous and new Canadians.

“We are very excited to be travelling to Los Angeles to share this process with such multiculturally diverse communities. We look forward to assisting the groups in developing new ways to deeply listen and communicate with each other through the language of the arts.”

For further information, please contact the studio or stay subscribed to this blog. Please visit the Community Fusion website.


The Community Fusion Project – Janice Tanton

This is the preview of the film made for The Community Fusion Project. Check out the full website and online movie at the Community Fusion Website or drop me a line and I’ll send you your own DVD copy for a nominal fee + postage.

This project could only have happened through the generous grant I received from the Canada Council. Thanks again, Canada Council! The support really has changed a lot of folks lives, including mine!

In 2011, we will be hosting sessions in several communities across Canada and the United States. If you are interested in hosting a workshop in your community, please give me a shout!