Compiling community art

Artist Irina Skvortsova collects her interactions with local artists in an inspiring book

Irina Skvortsova's Dreamscape Interviews was officially released on Thursday Jan. 28.
Irina Skvortsova's Dreamscape Interviews was officially released on Thursday Jan. 28.
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In her two years working for the Kingston Arts Council as the Cultural Animator, Irina Skvortsova has met many artists working in Kingston. 

The author’s interactions inspired her to compile the accounts of artists into a book titled Dreamscape Interviews. The book features interviews with 18 local artists along with discussions of their work.

The book, published by the Ontario Arts Council, was developed by Skvortsova as a reflection of her time as the Cultural Animator. Only 23 copies will be printed. 

The Journal sat down with Skvortsova to get insights into the Dreamscape Interviews from the author herself, as it’s meant to be more of a gift to the artists featured in the book, Skvortsova said.

What types of artists are these?

Skvortsova: I was working with local artists who wanted to work collaboratively with the community and I was helping them apply for funding through the Ontario Arts Council. 

It was through this job that I got to talk to artists and I had these amazing conversations. I interviewed 17 people. I am the 18th person. 

I interviewed people about their community art practice. Community art is a certain artistic discipline were the artist works with other artists or a group of non-artists to create a collective work. The content of the work is informed by voices of participants. It’s quite different from work done by artists who work mainly independently in studio.

What kind of impact do you want this book to have on the community?

Skvortsova: So there’s two levels. 

On the first level, it’s for the artists to feel that they’ve been listened to and appreciated and their stories recorded and archived. It’s also to inspire artists to read other artists’ stories and want to collaborate. 

One of the questions was “If we had an ideal society what would be your ideal role in that ideal society?” Another question was “Why do you make art?” And another — “What does community art mean to you?” 

The book is called Dreamscape Interviews because I wanted the artists to dream with me. I think that we often sacrifice our dreams. In this project I wanted to talk to artists about … “What is it really that you want?” “What do you dream of doing and making?”

The focus really is on community activation and connection. I hope that the book will be inspiring and encouraging for artists. 

On the second level, it’s for the other members of the community. It could act as an introduction to community arts in Kingston. We are lucky in Kingston to have so many artists. But not everyone works in community arts or knows about community art.

In your journey collecting stories, was there any particular one that stood out?

Skvortsova: I want to say no. I spent a good amount of time talking with these artists. Some interviews lasted one-and-a-half hours, some four or five hours. Every person was able to say something really thought-provoking and interesting in their own way. 

It was really intellectually stimulating for me. I like listening to people. There’s a multiplicity to the answers to all of these questions that is very rich. 

There were some people that spoke almost like poetry. 

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