Raina the Mermaid splashes her way to success

How a “fish out of water” became a mermaid entertainer, educator and entrepreneur.

Raina the Mermaid’s exquisite custom-made orange mermaid tail hangs over the edge of her underwater stage at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Children in the front row huddle around it in awe.

“Look mommy, a real live mermaid,” shouts a nine-year-old girl.

Raina starts off an afternoon of educational entertainment with some underwater music from her friend’s “shell phone” and a flap of her tail.

A photo posted by Raina Mermaid (@hfxmermaid) on

The real live mermaid

A lot of work goes into making appearances on land and in water when you work full time in the mermaid industry.

It takes 30 minutes from start to finish to wiggle into the tail, gather the appropriate amount of seaweed for your hair, apply rare sea jewels and give yourself that underwater glow.

Stephanie Brown, the entrepreneur behind Raina the Mermaid, has it down to a science.

“How many people get to wake up every day and go ‘this is my life, it’s so cool’?” said Brown. “I’m a mermaid. This is my real job.”

Raina’s tail comes all the way from California. Its state of the art draining technology, fiberglass fins and custom painted orange silicone cost the pretty price of around $4,000.

When she’s not performing underwater for birthday parties, music videos, or educating children on land, she’s managing her businesses: Halifax Mermaids, Atlantic Mermaids and Canadian Mermaids.

Brown turned her background in teaching and love of mermaids into something quite unique. She has managed to find a way to do what she loves, and “not in the traditional sense.”

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The rabbit hole of mermaid culture

In the midst of the pressures of getting her degree in teaching, dealing with chronic pain, and being diagnosed with a learning disability, in 2007 Brown found herself “falling down the rabbit hole of mermaid culture.”

“At that time I didn’t think it would be a business,” said Brown. “I just thought it would be an amazing experience that I just wanted to take part in.”

Her first tail was plain and impractical, and her first time in the water “wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped it would be,” said Brown. “I had never taken into consideration that I was a terrible swimmer.”

By 2009 Brown had a new tail and was performing at birthday parties and doing some photography.

Brown says her professors had warned her about the difficulty of getting a teaching job upon graduating, but she always thought it would work out.

“It was very hard to give up the idea of being a classroom teacher,” she said.

Things started moving quickly after Brown made the decision to commit herself to the mermaid business.

“What started off with a garbage bag and a tail and a girl who couldn’t swim,” said Brown, has now “hit us like a wave.”

Mermaids: the new craze

“We like to joke that mermaids are the new vampires in the mer-world,” said Brown. “Ten years ago you couldn’t even find a book about us other than The Little Mermaid.”

Brown has published two books about how to be a mermaid and her own journey.

When Brown is not performing she’s teaching mermaid hopefuls or handling the business aspect of being a professional mermaid. Her mermaid business is growing so quickly she’s applied to the ADP small business grant contest for $10,000 this month in hopes of being able to keep up with demand.

“We’re hoping to buy a portable tank,” said Brown. “It would make our on-land gigs that much better.”

Information, imagination and inspiration have been part of Brown’s vision for Halifax Mermaids from the beginning.

The fusion of education and entertainment enables Brown to teach children about myths and legends surrounding mermaids from around the world, as well as the importance of protecting our oceans from plastic waste.

“Children learn best through play experience,” said Brown. “The imaginative world of mermaids can teach children information in a new and exciting way.”

In her case, the inspiration comes in the form of a tail.

“Even the world’s worst swimmer can put on a mermaid tail and feel like they are becoming this imaginative creature,” said Brown. “You get to slip into this other world which is so empowering.”

Tales and tails

Appearances like the one this week at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic are all part of Brown’s busy mermaid life.

Hundreds of children have been lining up to meet Raina after every session at the museum. They smile for a photo and wait for a personalized postcard from a real live mermaid.

Jenny Nodelman, marketing and events officer at the museum, says Raina’s presence ties in to their efforts to educate museum patrons about the sea, including legends and myths. She says many parents are happy to see their children so enthusiastic.

“Children are coming dressed up as mermaids and pirates,” said Nodelman.

Austin Wright poses with his postcard from Raina. (Photo: Caora McKenna)
Austin Wright poses with his postcard from Raina. (Photo: Caora McKenna)

Austin Wright was excited to see Raina the Mermaid. “I’ve never seen one before,” he said. “I like mermaids because they like to swim and I like to swim.”

Austin’s older sister, Kayla, says she likes mermaids because they “are very rare, and have tails and fins.”

Nodelman is happy that thanks to Raina, children and families are having fun at the museum.

“Hopefully it changes the mindset of young ones and families to see that the museum is a community space for families as well as a place of history and heritage,” said Nodelman.

For Brown, the fact that there are so many children excited about the mermaid world makes it all worth it.

From the forest to the farmers’ market

Local artist Theresa Lee Capell, creator of Miss Foxine jewelry, crafts wearable art that has been recognized internationally.

They are jewels fit for a fairy — delicate beads, sparkly chains, tree bark and even butterfly wings. The Miss Foxine jewelry stand at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market will make you feel like you are in a fantasy world.

Theresa Lee Capell, the creator of Miss Foxine, stands smiling as shoppers pass by and admire her gorgeous handmade jewelry.

The 25-year-old NSCAD University graduate is inspired by the beauty of nature. As a child Capell would often venture into the woods at her home in Aylesford, N.S., collecting sticks and leaves to create jewelry herself.

“I used to go off into the woods and come back with pine cones and leaves and make them into crowns or jewelry or this little miniature dress form where I would pin the leaves and flowers to it and kind of daydream as a kid thinking ‘oh maybe fairies would wear this.’”

Capell has taken her daydreams and turned them into a reality. She makes her jewelry at her studio in her apartment in Lacewood.

Fairy tales and children’s stories also inspire Capell’s pieces. Her favourite one is Peter Pan.

“I love the idea of flying away into a different land where you can create your own world. That’s kind of the theme I try to put into my work to give it a Neverland kind of feel where the wearer can buy something and create their own story with it.”

Capell’s nature-inspired pieces, such as birch bark earrings, are made from materials she finds in the woods at her family home. She also digs through antique stores finding many unique baubles to turn into the centre point for a piece.

Capell also incorporates shells, pine cones, lavender, sea glass and butterfly wings into her work. Though fear not, Capell is not tearing the wings off of butterflies she finds.

“I have a friend who works at a conservatory and when the butterflies shed their wings naturally she will collect those and send them to me and I will send 20 per cent of the money made from those pieces back to the conservatory.”

Each piece is handmade by Capell. Depending on the complexity of the jewelry Capell will spend up to three hours on one piece, though her cheaper necklaces and earrings will take her under an hour.

Capell showcases her jewelry in antique picture frames and hangs delicate necklaces from tiny trees at her stand at the market every weekend.

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When Capell is not at the market she is working at her part-time job at Banana Republic at the Halifax Shopping Centre. She hopes that her jewelry business will one day be her full-time job.

Since starting at the market four years ago, Capell has gotten a lot closer to reaching that goal. Due to her strong presence on various social media outlets, an agent who works backstage at award shows invited her to fly to Hollywood and showcase her work at last year’s Golden Globes Awards.

“At first I couldn’t believe it,” says Capell, “I thought it was a scam but I got my brother to look at the email and research it and we found out it was legitimate so I messaged her back.”

She set up a booth, similar to her stand at the market, backstage at the Golden Globes where various celebrities would walk by and admire her work.

“The event was very high strung. Whenever a celebrity would come in you would feel very excited and a little shy.”

Capell says it was nerve wracking because if the celebrities wore her jewelry and told their friends about her work then she would be prompted on a much larger scale.

“They are pretty important people and they can tell people about my work through word of mouth and that was a really big thing for me,” says Capell. “Mary J. Blige was really nice, she especially loved my pieces with the butterfly wings. She loved the idea of it being so natural and just presenting the beauty that was already there.”

Since the event, sales have gone up quite a bit. Capell has a few designs in boutiques throughout Halifax and her sales on Etsy have gone up.

Capell wants to have a boutique of her own in Halifax and some day open a second one in Los Angeles. She recently began designing gowns and hopes to incorporate them into the Miss Foxine line.

“I’m just trying to figure out where to invest my money at the moment,” explains Capell. She has been offered to go back to L.A for more backstage events. Capell hopes to design more dresses before returning to Hollywood.

“I’m just taking it day by day right now,” says Capell.

Perhaps one day we will see her dresses walking down the red carpet capturing the same elegant and whimsical style that is in her jewelry.

Student hopes wave of waste will send ripples through Halifax

Environmental sustainability student Anika Riopel hopes to spread awareness of marine waste through a community project recreating a Halifax waterfront icon.

The iconic wave statue that sits along the Halifax waterfront is expected to be replicated this summer, except the new version would be constructed out of garbage.

Anika Riopel, a first year Dalhousie University student in the environmental sustainability program, is very excited to see the pieces of her vision beginning to fall into place.

“We’re going to build it directly beside [the wave],” said Riopel, “and make an exact replica of the wave, which is exciting because it’s a Halifax icon and it’s big. We’re going to try to make a frame and then fill it with marine waste.”

The art project, known as the wave of waste, is designed to raise awareness about ocean waste and inspire people to make positive contributions to their community.

There is still a lot of planning that needs to be done, including obtaining a permit of permission from the city. However, Riopel is confident that it can be accomplished.

The public enjoys the iconic wave at the Halifax boardwalk. (Photo: Katlyn Pettipas)
The public enjoys the iconic wave at the Halifax boardwalk. (Photo: Katlyn Pettipas)

“We just need a permit,” said Riopel, “which is totally achievable.”

While Riopel has a love for oceans, she is also passionate about educating students. She is very excited to be able to include high school students in this project.

The students, as well as the high schools that will be participating in the project, are yet to be chosen.

Riopel said participating students will become project leaders and will make decisions throughout the entire process. She will be there as a guide to help them.

“What we’re going to try and do is walk a very kind of fine line in facilitating the workshops but giving the high school students the opportunity to actually take over the project themselves,” she said.

Riopel is hoping to connect a younger generation to nature and motivate them to create positive change within the community.

TJ Maguire, the urban designer at Waterfront Development, likes the idea.

“However, there is a lot of planning that needs to happen in order to reassure that the waste is safe for the children,” Maguire said.

Riopel is planning to obtain the waste for the project through beach cleanups. She is also hoping to collect waste from the waterfront with help from divers.

Riopel plans to build the wave of waste on June 6. It is unclear how long the wave would be maintained after construction is completed.

The public will be encouraged to participate in the project and help build the wave.

“A small group of people can put together something really cool and actually have an impact on the community,” Riopel said.

Books hold more secrets than just stories

The Halifax Public Library finds notes and other treasures hidden between book pages.

You make your way to the local library to get your hands on the newest literary sensation. As you near the checkout desk, you peel your eyes away from the page and notice a stray piece of paper poking out the top.

Tugging on the corner reveals it’s in fact a long-lost postcard.

This is one of the many examples of the hidden gems that library staff find in books, says Christina Covert, Halifax Central Library’s circulation supervisor.

“The normal Kleenex, grocery receipts, bills, bank statements — those we see all the time,” says Covert.

A quick walk around the library’s third floor results in a new bookmark, a postcard and tiny sugar-packet-sized drawing being added to the collection of forgotten items.

Bookmark, drawing and postcard found during a quick search at the library. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)
Bookmark, drawing and postcard found during a quick search of books at the library. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)

Covert says she’s seen everything from toilet paper and condom wrappers to government cheques stuck between pages.

For important items, such as debit and credit cards, the library tries to track down the owner. If their efforts turn up empty, the library typically holds on to items for about a month before throwing them out.

Then there are little notes purposefully stuck in a book’s spine.

“I especially like the ones where people recommend a particular book,” says Covert, “Like, ‘If you like this then you might also like that,’ type of thing.”

Although the library doesn’t condone leaving things in books, sometimes it’s hard to prevent.

“If it’s on a small piece of scrap paper, we won’t notice unless it falls out,” says Covert. “Books can go for month and months without us knowing someone’s put something inside it.”

Kasia Morrison, a spokeswoman for the library, says last fall she saw a book and there was a note in it stating the book had come all the way from Iceland.

Flipping through the pages reveals it’s the property of the Library and Archives Canada, and was last checked out in 1987. Morrison is unsure how – or why – it ended up at the central location.

“Someone wanted to clear their library conscience and return it,” she says with a laugh.

Safe to say, the note was anonymous.

Covert’s favourite note actually came from a children’s book. “It was a list of someone’s goals. ‘When I’m 30, I will have done this’,” she says.

“It was in big letters, some were even backwards,” she says with a smile.

Unfortunately, not all notes are as heartwarming.

“I’ve seen books with notes discouraging people from picking up certain authors,” says Covert.

And that’s if they haven’t defaced the book completely.

“Use your imagination for what you could possibly find in a book. If you can think of it, someone is going to do it, and you can find it if you look hard enough,” says Covert.

March Break Video Academy gives youths learning opportunity

The Centre for Art Tapes is holding a video workshop over March Break that is centered around giving youths an introduction into filmmaking.

Six youths between the ages of 12 and 17 are spending their March Break getting acquainted with the art of filmmaking – in a program that is the first of its kind in Halifax.

The March Break Video Academy runs from Monday to Friday this week. These teens will spend this time in a small room discussing big ideas and learning fundamental filmmaking skills from two industry professionals.

So far, they have viewed and discussed videos ranging from modern music videos to short films, dissecting every artistic detail to understand them better.

It is the first program of its kind to be held by the Centre for Art Tapes (CFAT). Spearheading the program are Luckas Cardona-Morisset, freelance filmmaker, and Leslie Menagh, arts promoter.

A discussion taking place at the March Break Video Academy. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

“There’s a visual language that we assume everybody knows but it’s actually been very carefully constructed over time, it’s been built up,” said Menagh. “So we were kind of working to deconstruct it, take it apart, look at the parts so that we can make those choices on purpose when we make our own film, and look at how deliberate each of those decisions are.”

The next four days will involve workshops on storytelling, prop building, video editing and then a screening on the last day.

“Young people are exposed to media all around them so this is an opportunity for them to learn how it works, how it functions, from the real grassroots to creating their own media,” said Keith McPhail, director of CFAT.

Keith McPhail in the main office of the Centre for Art Tapes. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

Not a moment of silence ever loomed over the discussions; the teens gave the facilitators their undivided attention.

“What you end up getting are kids that already are predisposed to thinking about these things. They’re quite thoughtful,” said Cardona-Morisset. “As long as they feel like they’re in a safe space to be creative, once you create that, then it can all come out and they can express themselves.”

Like the Atlantic Film Co-op, CFAT focuses on supporting media artists. The March Break Video Academy, however, focuses specifically on youths. As McPhail describes, it is “an opportunity for us to perhaps make [youth programming] a little more long-term.”

Participants of the March Break Video Academy watching a short film. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

“My experience in working with the arts is that it’s an opportunity that when youth – or anybody for that matter – of any age gets the opportunity to express themselves and learn something, it’s a real eye-opening experience,” said McPhail. “And it’s one that is usually a long-lasting impact.”

Video games showcased on a major scale by Symphony Nova Scotia

For the first time in Halifax, Symphony Nova Scotia performed Video Games Live, a concert featuring songs from popular video games, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

The conductor raises her baton, signalling to the musicians seated in front of her to ready their instruments. With a flick of the conductor’s wrist, the symphony and choir begin to play an upbeat and lively song from the popular video game Tetris. With bright lights illuminating the stage, images of colourful geometric shapes are projected onto three screens behind the orchestra to amplify the performance.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday people flocked to the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium at the Dalhousie Arts Centre to witness Video Games Live.

Performed by Symphony Nova Scotia, Video Games Live showcases segments of songs from popular video games such as Kingdom Hearts, Tetris, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid.

Colourful lighting, special effects and interactive elements, such as a Guitar Hero competition, are also incorporated into the shows.

Alongside vocalist, Jillian Aversa, and conductor, Eimear Noone, Symphony Nova Scotia performs “Tetris Opera” from Video Games Live. (Video by Jessica Hirtle)

“I kind of like to describe it as having all the power and emotion of an orchestra combined with the energy of a rock concert,” said Tommy Tallarico, co-creator, executive producer and host of Video Games Live.

Sold out for almost every show, Heidi MacPhee, director of communications and marketing at Symphony Nova Scotia, said Video Games Live has received rave reviews from spectators.

“It’s been amazing. People love it. They are just so happy,” said MacPhee.

MacPhee said that Symphony Nova Scotia has wanted to collaborate with Video Games Live for years. This is the first time Video Games Live has performed in Nova Scotia.

“We get requests for it all the time,” said MacPhee. “They’ve performed all over the world and it’s just really exciting to have this calibre of show here in Halifax.”

Tallarico and Jack Wall created Video Games Live more than 13 years ago. Touring since 2005, the concert series has performed around the globe in over 35 countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, France and Portugal.

A video game composer, Tallarico has contributed to approximately 300 video games in his career. He said he created Video Games Live to demonstrate the artistry of video games, while promoting the arts among young people.

Not only can video game lovers appreciate the show, but Tallarico said non-gamers equally benefit from watching Video Games Live.

“When parents come and bring their kids or grandparents bring their grandkids, they are the ones that are most blown away,” said Tallarico. “They are like, ‘I never knew video games were this incredible. I never knew the music was so powerful and emotional.’”

Local author digs deep into mystery on Oak Island

Author and retired miner John O’Brien connects Nova Scotia’s Oak Island to the ancient Aztecs.

For more than 200 years, Oak Island off the coast of Mahone Bay has been at the centre of a mystery that has attracted international attention, all because of what is supposedly buried along its shores. Following the discovery of the Money Pit (a massive, man-made pit thought to be the location of buried treasure) in 1795, the mystery of Oak Island has fascinated the world.

On Wednesday evening, the second floor theatre of the Discovery Centre on Barrington Street was full as local author and retired miner John OBrien described his attempt to understand whats buried on Oak Island and how it got there. His new book, Oak Island Unearthed, explains his theories and claims to offer evidence to back them up.

“The evidence that they have, the carbon-dating and what not, has totally, almost been ignored. It’s so hard to put the puzzle together,” said O’Brien, who has been interested in the mystery of Oak Island since he was a child.

The Money Pit has been central to the treasure hunt since it was first discovered. An intricate system of rock and lumber, OBrien explained its composition using a glass of water and a plastic straw. He said that the unearthing of the pit is what allowed the ocean water that had been kept out since its construction to finally flood inside. He also said that this was done to deter any treasure hunters, and that the pit is a distraction from where the treasure is really hidden.

“There was tons of coconut fibres found on both surface and underground…this is the only indication of where these people came from,” said O’Brien. “Coconut fibre don’t come from the Vikings. It don’t come from Europe. It comes from the south.”

OBriens theory on the mystery dates all the way back to the time of the Aztecs, when he says the ancient kingdom was looking for a place to hide precious artifacts from incoming Spanish invaders. He believes that hiding place was Oak Island. O’Brien suggests that the Aztecs had previously discovered the island while searching for a type of blue clay that they highly valued and was easily accessible from the shore. 

“There’s no way they’re going to hide it close by… so they picked a place in its history. They had a pigment called Mayan blue. They used it to paint their pyramids, their temples. Anyway, I’m down on Oak Island, being a mining man, and I’m watching the drilling that’s going on there… they kept hitting this blue clay.”

Toward the end of the presentation, an audience member asked why OBrien was so eager to share the location that he believed to be the site of the treasure.

“Nobody’s ever solved the mystery of Oak Island,” answered O’Brien. “I don’t have the money to get a company to go down there and do that. I just wanted to… put my idea out. I’m not hiding anything. It’s there, that’s where I say it is. Someday if they do some work and it’s there, they’ll say, ‘Hey, that guy was right.’ That’s probably all I’ll get out of it.”

Nowadays, the island is privately owned, and OBrien says that legal and financial restrictions could restrict any treasure on the island from ever being discovered, if there is even one to find. But he seems confident that there is something worth looking for on the island.

Nobody would do that much work,OBrien said, to hide marbles.

Womb Boom’s drums beat on International Women’s Day

Womb Boom, a group of female hip-hop drummers, performed at the Bus Stop Theatre to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Driven by the steady beat of a drum, women of all ages and backgrounds danced, tapped, sang and jammed at the Bus Stop Theatre on Sunday to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Womb Boom, a group of female hip-hop drummers, showed off what they had learned in the past months as they led the jam.

The group is a pilot project of the Music Liberatory School which is “aimed at dramatically increasing the number of female instrumentalists by providing free music education, with emphasis on developing and maintaining the cultural leadership of women of colour,” according to the online Kijiji ad for the drumming group.

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Tamar Dina, founder of the school, began the afternoon leading a kitchen table discussion about women and their experiences in music.

Shari Clarke played the violin and flute during Womb Boom’s jam session.

“It’s about the focus on women and creativity,” said Clarke. “It’s a fabulous gathering place for us to meet and share our creativity and celebrate who we are.”

Dina talked about her inspiration for the project and the school, and why women’s presence in music is so important.

“When I was thinking about what could change the world,” said Dina, “I settled on the idea that I want to do the thing now that I wish will still be happening in a transformed society.

“That’s true about music.”

Dina’s vision

Dina’s experience working in crisis centres dealing with issues of violence against women shaped her vision for the Music Liberatory School.

“A lot of women don’t have a means to deal with violence immediately,” said Dina. “So the way they usually deal with it is self destruction.”

The steady beat of the drum, and the easy, accessible way to be a part of that sound, became the foundation of the pilot project.

They began with percussion and drums “because that’s your fundamentals in music,” said Dina.

“When women are first coming together on the drum, we’re not using words yet,” she said. “We’re just expressing our experiences through rhythm.

“Then, as we get more comfortable and we’re willing to trust each other more … Then those stories can start turning into songs.”

The core group of five to eight people, with more than 20 women loosely connected, meet weekly at the George Dixon Centre.

Childcare provided on-site

Childcare is provided, which enables women, especially single mothers, who would have usually stayed home to come out and drum. This is one thing that separates them from other music programs, along with Womb Boom’s emphasis on a high standard of music.

“With a lot of music programs the emphasis is on progress,” said Dina.

“This is a feminist art project,” she said. “We are constantly trying to improve our music intellectually and musically so that it can be effective.”

The International Women’s Day event at The Bus Stop Theatre showed off that high standard of music, while the simple beat of the drum kept the music accessible to all women in the room.

Alexis Smith is a talented bass player and musician. She brought that fusion of quality and effectiveness with passion and meaning to Womb Boom’s jam.

“For me, it’s all creative for the mind,” said Smith. “And it’s just good for the spirit.”

New photography exhibit asks: what is it to be Nova Scotian?

MFA thesis exhibition of NSCAD student Evan Rensch, “By your pleasure, I did see,” opened on March 9 and features a range of photographs exploring perceived and authentic representations of Nova Scotian life.

The crowd filters into the gallery and one by one comes face to face with a large unfinished looking wall complete with an exposed wooden frame and utility cords running down the side; not something you might expect to see when coming into a photography exhibit. The first thing NSCAD masters of fine arts student Evan Rensch wants his audience to consider is what happens behind the scenes.


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His thesis photography exhibit By your pleasure, I did see opened at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on Monday.

Rensch’s new exhibit features a collection of photographs that explore the contrast between the image of Nova Scotia presented in the province’s tourism marketing campaigns and the real lives of Nova Scotia’s residents.

The photos in the exhibit range from the interior of an overgrown rustic cottage, to the kilted security guards of the Delta Halifax, to the cluttered workspace of a local call centre worker.

Exploring the cultural and historical perspectives of the Maritimes has been an interest of Rensch since he began photography.

“I grew up in New Brunswick and I wanted to come back to the maritime region after being away for five years,” said Rensch. “I wanted to come back specifically to photograph here. To a certain extent I developed, more than an interest, sort of a commitment to a lot of the culture and issues in the region.”

MFA Thesis project of Evan Rensch. - Photo by Mitchell Mullen.
MFA Thesis project of Evan Rensch. – Photo by Mitchell Mullen.

For Rensch, the way Nova Scotia presents itself as a province often comes at the expense of depicting the province’s modern life.

“This work is about labour and it’s about the on the surface labour that a visitor or new comer to the province sees and also the backstage, the call centre worker, the people whose labour we maybe don’t acknowledge in official narratives of the province.”

Amanda Shore, a NSCAD student attending the gallery opening, said the way Rensch set up the space added an engaging dimension to the exhibit.

MFA thesis of Evan Rensch "By your pleasure, I did see" - Photo by Mitchell Mullen.
MFA thesis of Evan Rensch “By your pleasure, I did see” – Photo by Mitchell Mullen.

“When you walk in you see the back of a wall and you see the power cords, the studs and the nails and you’re kind of allowed to turn around and have the work reveal itself to you and that’s really lovely,” said Shore.

Rensch says the representation of the province especially extends to Halifax’s urban growth.

“It is an increasingly urban society in Halifax. There’s huge migrations of people from rural communities into the city and it’s grown tremendously,” said Rensch.

“I’m interested in the official pastoral image [of Nova Scotia] juxtaposed with what we know as our daily existence here in Halifax.”

The exhibit is open to the public and runs from March 9 until the 21.

Bacon makes everything better, even urban planning

Baconfest, a film festival focused on urban planning, which features Ed Bacon’s ‘Understanding Cities’ series, opened Monday evening at the Halifax Central Library.

Monday evening saw the opening of Baconfest at the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall.

The festival focuses on Ed Bacon, famed city planner from Philadelphia and his Understanding Cities film series from the 1980s.

“It’s about educating and engaging the community … to get involved in what [the city] is doing,” said Rollin Stanley, the festival’s creator. “I thought the best way I could do that would be to have something fun like a film festival.”

Stanley, who is also Calgary’s general manager of planning, development and assessment, ran Baconfest for the first time in Calgary last year and is a guest speaker for Halifax’s edition.

“It’s a celebration of urban planning, recognizing it and I thought it would be a great fit for the new library,” said Hilary Skov-Nielsen, the library’s adult programs manager.

Despite the festival not being in honour of the salty pork strips, there were still bacon cupcakes and slices of prosciutto for audience members to enjoy on Monday.

“In Halifax, there’s a strong desire to learn about what’s being built,” said Natalie Irwin of Fusion Halifax, the festival’s host organization. “Since it’s such a small city … people see the developments that are going up. It’s not something that is going up city blocks away from you, it’s next door.”

Monday evening, Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Central Library held Baconfest. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)

“[The event] is also a testament to Halifax’s own commitment to urban and city planning,” said Skov-Nielsen.

Three of Bacon’s films – which focused on Rome, Paris and London’s architectural revolutions – were presented on Monday to an audience of approximately 100 people.

After the films, Stanley prompted the audience to yell out Halifax’s highlights. The Halifax Public Gardens, Citadel Hill, the ferry stop on the waterfront, and a few others were noted. “This building, I think, is the best example,” said Stanley, referring to the new library.

“When you start to think about your city’s icons and how you connect those spaces, what do they mean?” he said.

“All we want is people to go away and start thinking differently about their city,” said Stanley.

The festival continues Tuesday evening with Radiant City by Gary Burns and Wednesday with City of the Future by Ed Bacon, as well as Contested Streets by Stefan Schaefer.

Panel at Dalhousie aims to start conversation on racism and misogyny

A panel at Dalhousie University discussed racism and sexism on Thursday in response to International Women’s Day and the Dalhousie dentistry scandal.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, a panel called Forum on Racism and Sexism was presented Thursday by the Dalhousie University Gender and Women’s Studies Program, South House and the Dalhousie Student Union.

A classroom at Dalhousie was packed with students from around Halifax; some people had to stand to hear the panel.

The panel focused on the problems faced by marginalized racial and gender communities, and how they relate to each other. The speakers discussed their personal experiences of racism, sexism and the problems faced in society by being a person of colour, a woman or non-binary. Non-binary means someone is nether male or female, or is a combination of both.

Panel speakers included Dorota Glowacka, a contemporary studies professor at University of King’s College; Halifax Regional Municipality Poet Laureate, El Jones; Greyson Jones, PhD student at Dalhousie University researching transgender issues; and Tino Chiome, QBIPOC community organizer.

Leandré Govindsamy faces racism in class at Dalhousie and thinks the panel was a good way to start the discussion about misogyny and racism.

“I am brown, I’m Indian, so I’m not a typical white student,” said Govindsamy. “Coming to class and being the only brown person does affect you. It makes you be not as confident which is kind of sad, because you should be confident no matter what.”

Govindsamy says that she also encounters sexism in class.

“In class profs will speak to the male students more than they will speak to the female students.”

Tino Chiome, one of the speakers, says he too faces racial problems in his daily life.

“People may not be overtly racist, but they subconsciously have these feeling and notions about people that they put into practice,” said Chiome.

“You walk into a store and you see security guards following you around, or you walk in a convenience store and the guy at the counter suddenly has to fix something in the back just to watch you,” said Chiome. “So it’s little things like that, where you realize this doesn’t happen to anyone else, only when you go in.”

This panel was created in response to a forum on misogyny in January that discussed the Dalhousie dentistry scandal.

In December 2014, 14 male Dalhousie dentistry students were found to have been involved in misogynist activities towards female classmates in the Class of DSS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook page.

While discussing the dentistry scandal, the January panel found racism to be a recurring topic in misogyny.

The panel was also organized as an International Women’s Day event. International Women’s Day was on Sunday.

Margaret Denike, associate professor at Dalhousie University co-organized and moderated the panel. She hopes people learn compassion and understanding from this panel.

“I want them to take whatever best helps them become more compassionate and more understanding and more accepting of others, and I think we have a really tall order in doing that,” said Denike.

Rock Your Campus winner to play in Halifax

Busty and the Bass, winner of Rock Your Campus, will be playing two shows in Halifax for the first time.

After winning TD’s Rock Your Campus competition, Busty and the Bass has been playing all over North America, and for the first time they are headed to Halifax.

“We are most looking forward to playing for new people in a different city,” said Milo Johnson, bassist for Busty and the Bass. “Whenever we play for people and it is their first time at a Busty show, the energy in the room is so amazing. This is one of our favourite things about touring.”

Busty and the Bass will be performing at The Seahorse Tavern this Thursday alongside Robert Loveless & The Loveland Band. None of the members of Busty and the Bass have been to Halifax, but Johnson said they are “super excited about playing” here.

Because Busty and the Bass are travelling all the way to the East Coast, a member of the Halifax band Dub Kartel — friend of Busty and the Bass — organized for both bands to play together at Dalhousie’s Open Mic at the Grawood Campus Pub on Friday.

East West Melody, Halifax-centered music blog and organizer of both shows, said on its website, “Trust us — after seeing them on Friday you won’t be able to get enough and will most certainly want to hit up the Grawood to get your daily dose of funk.”

The electrofunk band from McGill University is made up of nine members ranging in age from 21 to 24, from various parts of North America. Last October, Busty and the Bass was crowned the winner of CBC’s and TD’s Rock Your Campus competition. They were one of hundreds of Canadian bands to enter.

Almost all members are set to graduate in May from McGill with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance, with the exception of one who already has a music degree.

After meeting during frosh week, playing at house parties, and now being the winner of Rock Your Campus, they are now in the position to be considering different labels.

“As of right now we are just taking our time to really hone our sound, and our live performance,” said Johnson.