Helene Bolduc – Emerging Artist in Community-engaged Arts

Helene Bolduc was honoured at the 2011 Mayor’s Arts Awards as being the nominee selected by Naomi Singer for a $2500 award as an emerging artist in the field of community-engaged arts.

Mayor’s Arts Award: Helene Bolduc

By Megan Sheldon, Narrative Communications

Helene Bolduc has never needed much fanfare when it comes to her theatre and performance art. She is happy to receive quiet moments of acknowledgement from the people she works with. For Helene, a simple Thank You goes a long way.

I first met Helene at a quaint little café on 10th and Alma called Simply French. Being from Quebec, Helene quickly found herself at ease with the owner of the café, conversing in French with a teasing tone. We sat down with our café au lait and started to share our stories.

Megan: What do the Community Arts mean to you?

Helene: I am still trying to figure out just exactly what that term means! I’ve always done work that is connected to my immediate community, yet I have never defined it as community arts. I guess I see community art as something that starts from the community, from the people. I like to bring people together who may not have access or interest in a certain form of art. Often people lack exposure so I bring the art to them.

Megan: Why are people not exposed to the different styles of art you work with?

Helene: There seems to be an idea out there that you get what you pay for. So if you don’t pay a lot of money for something, many people don’t see the value in it. There is a disconnect here – we need to value artistic expression in each other and in ourselves.

Megan: Do you think the mindset surrounding community art is shifting?

Helene: In some ways, yes. I encourage people to incorporate art into their everyday; it does not need to be something separate that you do in your spare time. Some people flow into art easily, others may never have seen themselves as artists. It is wonderful to have both types working together in a group to offer different levels of inspiration.

Megan: How do the arts feed us?

Helene: People get so much joy from the arts, yet it offers even more than that. Studies have shown that the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we produce something beautiful or engage with our community actually has a positive impact on our biology. Art has a healthy impact on our lifestyles.

Megan: What has influenced you over the years?

Helene: When I first moved to Vancouver in 1992, I attended Public Dreams’ Illuminares at Trout Lake. This was a pivotal moment when I thought Wow, people actually put money, time and energy into things like this! I loved seeing the amazing energy that was created and built from so many different people – for me, it was magic.

Megan: How did you find yourself in the creative arts?

Helene: I came to Vancouver from Quebec to study languages and translations at SFU. I had pushed aside the idea of going into theatre professionally to pursue what I thought to be a ‘real’ profession. One of my teachers encouraged me to audition for the Theatre program, and that was the nudge I needed. I immediately connected with Non Text-Based theatre, including areas like clowning, stilting, fire performing and circus arts. I began working with organizations like Public Dreams and later the Secret Lantern Society and it all started to come together.

Megan: What other forms of artistic expression do you love?

Helene: I work as an art model, posing for visual artists. I love the focus and respect this art form takes; it is beautiful, invigorating and a true collaboration. I always put out an energy with my poses and when I walk around after class I notice that some of the students picked up on it. They connected with what I was feeling or imagining. Someone once told me modeling for life drawing is like dancing…very, very slow dancing!

Megan: What did you think when you heard you were going to be awarded the Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Artist?

Helene: At first, I shook my head when Naomi Singer told me she was nominating me for this award. First of all, it is under the category Studio Arts, which for me implies visual arts, and I never saw myself as a visual artist. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I started to identify with the visual arts. I do create something visual, from my costume to my performances. Second, I think of an Emerging Artist as someone in their early 20’s! I have been working in the arts for over 20 years, so I like to think of this award as a recognition of all of my past experiences and contributions. I was honoured to be the recipient of this award and to be recognized by a room full of people who have done so much for our community.

Megan: What are you focused on now?

Helene: In 2007, I had an injury that left me without the use of my hands for over a year. I started to rethink the physicality of theatre performances and was introduced to Therapeutic Recreation. I had never heard of this before, and after gathering more information I enrolled in the program at Douglas College. Therapeutic Recreation includes visual and expressive arts, as well areas like sports, music, nature and spiritual based therapy. I graduated this past summer and am now working at a long term care facility with older adults. At first, I didn’t see the connection with my journey in community-based arts, but now I see that I am still doing the same thing, only my community has shifted. For me, community arts should be about respect, value, openness and diversity. People should not have to fight so hard to justify their talents and desires.

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