Arts & Culture

Artist makes creative workshops accessible

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:07 PDT, Fri September 24, 2021

Last Updated: 4:39 PDT, Mon October 25, 2021

Richmond actor Jill Raymond is looking forward to bringing people together again through arts workshops.

Raymond, who also teaches as a contractor with the city, has been involved with the annual Culture Days celebration for the last several years. Raymond says she became more involved after moving into one of the city’s work-live units for artists.

“When I moved there, I took on the role of creating a hub for these artist units; I just set it up online and then people can add their events,” she says. “It makes it more user-friendly for people coming to that area, (there are) units there, open galleries and things people can pop into rather than just one event on its own.”

Through her Culture Days workshops—which include dancing, singing, and storytelling—Raymond is also able to offer classes to people who might otherwise have financial barriers preventing them from participating. 

“It is nice to do things for free to give to the community, and during this entire pandemic the arts have been so hit and they’ve also been so undervalued in all ways,” she says. “I just really want to be part of the reminder that arts are so vital and important and we should still be doing arts and allowing that kind of freedom of expression.”

Furthering her belief that “art is what makes us human,” Raymond is keen to bring people together to sing and dance outside in local parks. She adds that the surroundings of fresh air and nature are beneficial, as well as the locations enabling more people to stumble upon the workshops. She’s hopeful that restrictions will not tighten to the point that the workshops would have to move online.

Despite feeling that filmed theatre performances don’t translate, one of Raymond’s offerings was designed to be enjoyed virtually at any time. The Isolation Sessions is an ongoing online project that brings artists together to create music from wherever they are.

“It came from a real stopping of anything happening—everything dropped, all the projects that were kind of starting or in process just literally dropped, and I really felt terrified as an artist and as a performer that my life was ripped away from me,” says Raymond. “Creating The Isolation Sessions was kind of a way of me trying to lean into, ‘well if we don’t have to be together in the same room, then we can be together wherever we are, and we can be together in different countries’.”

She’s hopeful that this year’s Culture Days will bring more people out to workshops, after poor attendance last year.

“That was tough, but understandable also, with people still being very anxious about meeting in any kind of way,” she says. 

And despite the uncertainty, the promise of connection is exciting.

“I remember for me as a young person, sometimes the people that you interact with can really ignite something that you don’t expect or that you didn’t really know was there. The dream is just to cause some inspiration for someone who wasn’t expecting it, or help them in some other way.”

Raymond’s theatre company is currently developing a documentary about the process of making their first show, which premiered at the Vancouver Fringe Festival with great success. While she’s disappointed there won’t be an audience there for the filming of the show, she says the opportunity may lead to the story being turned into a film.

“We’re kind of plowing ahead in terms of ‘this is it now’—this is kind of the way that things are for at least the foreseeable future. The projects that we had coming up that were going to be live theatre performances, we are pivoting to something different,” she says. “There are some silver linings to all of this, and in terms of live performances I am in the process of writing our next show which is tricky because it is a lot about isolation and technology during isolation.”

That show, now twice-postponed, is set to premiere during the 2022 Fringe Festival.

Culture Days runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 24. Raymond’s workshops are taking place Sept. 26, Oct. 2 and Oct. 9, in addition to ongoing virtual sessions. To learn more, click here.

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