A neighbourhood in stop motion

Culture Film Visual Arts
Emily Thiessen (graphic)
Emily Thiessen (graphic)

UPDATED: Nov. 28, 2014

The Fernwood Community Association (FCA), in the heart of Fernwood, is a space for creating community. Red brick frames the windows, allowing natural light to fill the entrance way. To my left sat an old wooden piano; to the right, a young blond woman behind a desk. She guided me towards the door between her and the piano where I found myself in a large, dimly lit room. Most people sat around a large table colouring, painting, and animating.

I met Lindsay Beal, an office administrator and studio facilitator working with the Pandora Arts Collective Society (PACS), a not-for-profit organization and charity that facilitates rounded living and provides a safe space where people can practice art in the FCA.

“It’s been a very positive place for people because art is recognized as a therapeutic tool. The studio is attractive to people who are using art therapeutically—of course not everybody is—but because we have some people who are using it therapeutically we want that environment to be safe for that purpose,” says Beal.

Scanning the room, I was received warmly by everyone, and the space felt full of intention and positivity. One gentleman showed me his claymation film, featuring his chihuahua, Bella, that PACS artist-in-residence Morgan Rhys Tams helped him make.

“To create these kinds of art pieces where a whole bunch of people can come together and be part of the art itself is really empowering for the community. I think it teaches people that art can exist in other ways,” says Tams, a filmmaker and educator working with PACS to teach basic animation skills to community members. He is creating two projects: a short documentary about the Pandora Arts Collective, and the Fernwood Animation Project.

The Fernwood Animation Project is a collaborative film using stop-motion and rotoscope animation. Tams filmed two minutes of footage around Fernwood and printed the frames on a photocopier, then packaged two seconds of footage (24 pieces of paper at 12 frames per second) into envelopes. Tams distributed the envelopes at the Vining Street Block Party on Sept. 7. Each community contributor is responsible for two seconds of footage in the two-minute animation film.

The project creates feelings of inclusion within the community of Fernwood, but also displays the use of film as a medium for educating people. Tams says that “more and more media is screen-based, and we are spending more and more time with screens, both in terms of smart phones and computer or TV screens. [Film] is a great way to get certain messages and lessons across that might otherwise be challenging.”

The Fernwood Animation Project is only a small component of what the Pandora Arts Collective does. Overall, it brings people together through the exploration of art in a safe community setting by stimulating their inner artist.