This is My City

Behind the Scenes at City of Dreams

Another beautiful look into the making of the TMC Festival from Fund Development lead, Sally Truss.

April 18, 2013

I drive across town, going against the last of the rush-hour traffic. It is still light outside, one of those surprising Calgary days that melt the last of the snow and bring out the bird songs. It feels good. I park around the corner from the Women’s Centre. I’ve been here before and the familiarity wraps around me with the calm of a Spring evening.

Once inside I am treated to a group of thoughtful, animated women who are analyzing selections of TED talks. They speak about tone and style, story and voice, timing and intention. Ellen leads the exploration and then Gemma takes them into relaxation and warm up exercises. In the back, Cat is setting up her camera and taking ‘head shots’ of the speakers. They straighten out their hair, their shirts and scarves – then pose amidst laughter and little dramas for the camera. This is FUN!

Then it is into the run-throughs of their individual talks. We travel far with these women. We visit the spirit world to greet a dead family member; we head to City Hall to tell some street-wise truth about the need for rent control; we journey to Mother Africa to the carnage of the fighting in Liberia and the delight of diamonds; and we are asked to put ourselves in the place of one person who is a victim of human trafficking.

The topics are tough and they are personal. These women are speaking from their hearts – and it is POWERFUL. I can’t wait to see what two more rehearsals will do for their presentation skills – and how the stories spin out with gathering strength.
This is the real life stuff that makes the City of Dreams!


Now You See It…

Walking around downtown Calgary last week, you probably felt the nip of the cold April wind. You probably bundled up before you went outside to face the elements. And maybe, when walking past Olympic plaza, you noticed some trees that appeared to have done the same, wrapped tightly in afghans.

Cozy, homemade, comforting… these associations come to mind when we see knitted or crocheted afghans. But what does it mean when we see afghans out of place, stitched to a city bench or wrapped around a tree in a downtown park? Well, it brings a bit of the warmth of home into the often cold, impersonal urban setting. And it reminds me that for some people, the city streets are home. The things many of us take for granted, such as a blanket, can be a huge comfort to someone in need.

This project, aptly named “Wrap” will being ongoing throughout the duration of the festival. Ordinary downtown Calgary objects will be wrapped in warm afghans that will likely be gone, removed, absorbed by the city within hours. It is the sincere hope of the TMC artists behind the project that wherever they end up, they will be appreciated.

Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks when in the downtown core for more cozy knitted bundles, and take a moment to think about the Calgarians that call those streets home.





And We’re Off!

The 2013 This is My City Art Festival kicks off tonight! In the spirit of what is shaping up to be a fun and dynamic month of art and performance, here is a behind the scenes look at the festival preparations from Fund Development Lead, Sally Truss. See you tonight!

Tuesday April 2, 2013 at Inn From the Cold
Behind the Scenes at This is My City Festival

Absolutely sweet and memorable. Put yourself in my shoes for a few moments. It is a Tuesday night, it is not my part of town, and I’m going into the unknown. Through the door I go, to be greeted by a big hug from Reg and Max, who are both past participants of This is My City programs. It feels good to be with friends! Under the direction of Onalea, the group is rehearsing a BIG number for the Festival opening Blue Revue on Thursday. I pick up my hand drum and join in. These guys are cooking! The music is fun and the mood is like all final rehearsals in the world. There is a mixture of “OK, do it again, sigh” and “Wow, that was awesome!” This is a happy place! I move into the back room and join Kirk’s spoken word group that is rehearsing for the Festival Finale on the 25th. I lean against the wall and hear stories and poetry that are stark, from the heart – and getting ready to be performed. I watch Kirk as he closes his eyes and listens to a poem that Shannon is performing for another writer. It is a tough story. How about singing some of it? How about adding some guitar here? How about a bit of a beat? Try that. How does that feel? And we are all entranced.This is a magical place, behind the scenes at This is My City Festival.

Out of The Blue Revue takes place tonight at 7pm at the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library. See you there!

Found Object Workshop with Yules Wai

On March 11th, artist mentors Yules Wai and Cat Schick held the first instalment of the TMC Found Object Assembly Workshop. The workshop sees participants create art with toys, fabric, stationary, and other found objects. 


Forming Voices Out of the Noise

There’s nothing quiet about the room where the writers are writing – quietly. The art studio at the Drop-In Centre is filled with artists’ bright creations and artists themselves. A man stands in the corner painting and we hear his brush strokes on the canvas. Another man plays an electronic piano at the other end of the small, cramped room. He wears headphones so the music is muted. Although we hear his fingers banging on the keyboard. Other men sift through papers and cardboard looking for a canvas. Some mutter to themselves about finding the perfect piece. Nursing students from the University of Calgary come in and out of the studio. They walk softly, as not to disturb anything.

When I first started my memoir writing workshops at the centre, one of the participants told me to always expect interruptions. Before the Drop-In my teaching spaces have been calm and absent of any intrusion. Writers have quiet and room to muse about their pasts, to wonder about their futures. The writers at the centre have to build walls to keep the sounds and delays from cutting into their memories and puncturing their tomorrows.

But no matter what they’re presented with they keep going. They keep writing. Other classes might have complained about the noise and the clatter and the chatter. These guys don’t and I’m in awe of the stories that break through the din to claim their own voice.



Story by Lea Storry, Family Lines

Artist Mentor

Write YOUR Story Workshop, Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre



An Illustration of Life

Write about the most interesting person you’ve ever known.

This was homework for the participants in the Write YOUR Story workshop at the Drop In Centre. When I mentioned the project to them at the end of class, a couple of them began to hoot. They knew a cast of intriguing individuals. Whom would they choose?

A week later I found out.

One man wrote about a woman he spent time with recently. He described her in vivid detail, even the way she sat on the bus. He evoked a sense of mystery and of the supernatural when detailing her hair, her voice and her face. No wonder she cast a spell over him.

Besides completing the character study, the author also drew her picture in coloured chalk. It compliments his story as well as the woman. It’s an illustration and a narrative of a life that might have been left hidden if he hadn’t written that story. 



Story by Lea Storry, Family Lines

Artist Mentor

Write YOUR Story Workshop, Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre

Artist Volunteer Opportunity for the New Year!

Are you an artist in the Calgary area looking to share your creative talents with the Calgary homeless community? TMC is in need of some new artist-mentors for ongoing programs!

We are looking for volunteers to give art workshops at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre and Alpha House: all mediums welcome, including music, theatre, comedy, writing and all visual arts.

Please send a letter of intent and 1-page CV to: by February 2nd. There will be an orientation on Sunday, Feb. 10th, 1 – 3 pm.

For information about our programming and our current artist mentors, check out

This Is Bill’s City: Linocut Workshop

During artist mentor Eveline’s linocut workshop at the DI in November, one of the participants, Bill, wrote about his experience. Check out Bill’s comments and photos below for a little peek into one of TMC’s successful fall workshops!


“Learned styrofoam prints and linocutting. Very informative and entertaining. Evelyn (sic) did and excellent job. This is definitely a skill I enjoyed learning and will continue to use in the future. Thank you to This Is My City for this opportunity. I look forward to future workshops”

– Bill



Quilting Dreams on Wintery Nights


Yesterday was my first time attending  a TMC artist mentor workshop – the second Monday of Cat and Linda’s collaborative Dream Quilt project at the Calgary Women’s Centre. The project, which is a part of Cat and Linda’s Calgary 2012 artist residency, spans over six Tuesdays throughout October and November, and gives women an opportunity to explore using a variety of textile techniques to express themselves through art. The project challenges women to learn about textile techniques for quilting, and use them to investigate the ideas of sleep and dreams. While some of us might look at a quilt and think about a good night’s sleep in a cozy bed, these notions are not necessarily true for everyone. By looking at these ideas through quilting mediums the artist mentors and participant are working to bring awareness to people who might not have the security of their own bed.

This week Cat and Linda helped us become acquainted with embroidery as a textile technique.



Cat and Linda guiding participants through the chain stitch

The 2 hour workshop flew by as all of us laughed and learned together, and created some beautiful things.

JC Embroidered Initials

                   One participant’s beautiful work

As a first-time TMC workshop participant, this was a perfect way to spend a snowy evening – creating art, meeting wonderful women, and exploring new ideas. If you are interested in contributing to the Dream Quilts project or learning some new textile skills the remaining dates are October 29th and November 5th, 19th and 26th at the Calgary Women’s Centre. There will be open studio space from 1-5pm for women to come and watch and share their ideas, with workshops following from 6-8pm for women to learn, create, and collaborate.


                                                      The beginnings of my own work of art

To view a great blog post about the first week of Dream Quilts and for more information about the project check out the Calgary Women’s Centre website and blog:

Calgary Women’s Centre

– Lacey


Updated Website

Linda Hawke, our President, is very happy to announce our updated web site. You will find updated information, photographs and links! Thanks go to Woody Forrieter and Sally Truss for their hard work on this!

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