This summer through my work experience, I was able to meet people from the most diverse backgrounds advancing various regional priorities and inspiring others with their passions for serving the Canadian community. I am super excited to share Jacqueline Salomé’s story. In particular, I enjoyed our chats as they provided a basis of extended reflection on issues that we are both invested in outside of and within our work. Issues of intersectionality, the power of arts in creating safe spaces of expression and liberation, and the life long process of acknowledging privilege and opportunities for continual growth. Here, we explore our combined passions for writing and expanding our world-views through conversations with others.
C: As a writer for SAD Magazine where you interview female identifying artists in the Vancouver region, I wanted to hear about your writing work. How did you get involved? What inspired you to pursue writing and what’s your approach to story-telling?
J: I’ve always been interested in writing. As a kid, I kept a journal where I would constantly be capturing my thoughts. Then in high school, I remember taking an amazing creative writing class where I was introduced to prose. At the time, I wanted to go into journalism but for various reasons changed course and decided that I wanted to investigate the larger forces at play. To take it a step further and to challenge myself to uncover the underlying issues of current events. I ended up choosing to pursue a Political Science degree but writing has always been a side project; whether through working for the school newspaper or starting the Council for Social Justice with some friends where we wrote newsletters on related social justice themes. I then wrote for The Source, a bilingual local newspaper known as a forum for diversity. Now, I write for SAD, which stands for Stories, Art, and Design, focusing on socially minded artists. This is also where, recently, I published a prose piece in the “Nostalgia” issue printed this summer. This was my first piece in print and it’s about the Salton Sea, written from the passenger seat of my van while road tripping California. Though, there’s no link to an online version, it’s available in print at local shops or can be ordered online!
I’ve always expressed an interest for writing socially invested pieces. My work through SAD highlights the work of female and non-binary artists including musicians, filmmakers, photographers and other cultural creators local to Vancouver. The stories often dive into how their identity drives their artistic direction and how their work pushes socio-normative or creative boundaries. I often explore the theme of art’s inseparability from identity where for these artists, art cannot be separated from their identity. These themes are interwoven; an artist’s identity drives their artistic direction.
Personally, I am interested in sharing these stories because I’m passionate about amplifying women’s empowerment. Volunteering with WISH, a drop in facility that supports women in the street based sex trade, has been an extension of that. Storytelling and volunteering have been a form of learning and an exercise of navigating my own privilege as a storyteller and as a white woman. In doing so, I think a lot about how I’m telling the story – who I’m writing for and who I’m writing about. As a writer, you have the privilege of framing the story but in my view, it’s important not to over-insert your voice and instead tell the story in a way that stays true to the artist’s words and the artist’s truth.
It’s important that I never be creative at expense of another person’s story, which means that I need to reflect on where it’s appropriate to insert my creative voice and where it’s not.
The exploration of privilege as it relates to storytelling and privilege in general is a forever journey, and I’m not always going to get it right but that’s okay because it’s about figuring things out and working continuously on improvement.
Privilege is something that is systemic. We are not individually responsible for systems of privilege but we do have a responsibility to acknowledge and recognize the ways in which our privilege benefits us.
C: The power of language within your work is monumental. Recognizing your educational and work background in policy, I think you’ve experienced and seen how important the outlet of writing been as a form of agency for you and other self-identifying women artists. You’re able to use writing as this tool to highlight underlying power dynamics and structures. Though, I have to ask since you touch on such heavy topics of race and gender with the aim to showcase often untold stories, what is the prominence of an intersectional approach within your work and what does it mean for you?
J: Intersectionality is a theory of power and oppression, which was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar and civic rights advocate. It brings to light the many identities that make up who we are are all interwoven. Often times, this can be confused with identity politics but it’s more than that. Intersectionality encompasses a much more holistic view of identity; where we are made more aware and critical of the structures and the underlying power dynamics and how they’re at play.
Intersectionality looks at the systems of power that show us how different social and economic factors work together to either advantage or disadvantage folks based on the layers of their identity. There’s this idea that comes from Audre Lorde’s Who Said It Was Simple poem that liberating one aspect of your identity does not liberate you entirely. When we pit identity factors against one another, we just keep oppressive systems in place.
Considering all these factors means looking at our own privilege and recognizing how we may be privileged in certain areas while not in others. For instance, someone may be an educated white male and also has diverse abilities. Privilege is something that is systemic. We are not individually responsible for systems of privilege but we do have a responsibility to acknowledge and recognize the ways in which our privilege benefits us. I work to try and jeopardize that privilege or to create space to amplify the voices of people who don’t have a seat at the table, a seat which I often take for granted.
Art is powerful in motivating people to create change and to feel represented as well as safe to express themselves. The arts as a collective has been a leader in pushing boundaries. It explores the most intimate connections to oneself requiring mindfulness and self-reflection; to sit with the good and bad parts of oneself. It’s an intimate realm but also subversive tying into the fabrics of society as a whole. Historically, it’s been revolutionary. Art has always been and is bold. It’s willing to question the status quo and challenge comfortability; to get people to be uncomfortable.
C: I think that privilege can be difficult to admit in the meritocratic society we live in. As you mention and so succinctly capture with the essence of intersectionality, it’s an important piece to nonetheless always be made aware of in our daily lives. The responsibility we have in being a bit more reflective within the privileged areas of our own life. As one of the lasting thoughts, I’m curious to hear your thoughts are on: art as a tool or form of liberation?
J: Art is a beautiful form for allowing the expression of our truth through various mediums. It has such a long history of being subversive and revolutionary. I saw this quite vividly when I was travelling in in Valparaíso, Chile back in March, which is the country’s street art capital. Murals everywhere. During the Pinochet dictatorship in the 70’s, art was a form of resistance as an anti-regime statement at a time where political art was banned and carried life-threating risk. The legacy of muralism and artistic expression still continues today. A prison that held political prisoners was recently converted into a cultural and community centre where artists can practice and display their work. .
There’s the acknowledgement and recognition of the agency in art to affect change, political change. Art is powerful in motivating people to create change and to feel represented as well as safe to express themselves. The arts as a collective has been a leader in pushing boundaries. It explores the most intimate connections to oneself requiring mindfulness and self-reflection; to sit with the good and bad parts of oneself. It’s an intimate realm but also subversive tying into the fabrics of society as a whole. Historically, it’s been revolutionary. Art has always been and is bold. It’s willing to question the status quo and challenge comfortability; to get people to be uncomfortable.
However, art can also be used inappropriately. It can misrepresent or even be an oppressive abuse of power. “At its core are profound questions about power and authority. Those who control art—its form, placement, availability, and definition—control a significant part of the cultural narrative that defines who we are and our relationship with the past*.” Examples such as the appropriation or misrepresentation of Indigenous art within Canada.
The beautiful path of life is an unending journey of exploration.
C: Any last pieces you’d like to share? Biggest call to action?
J: Be open to continued learning. Never stop seeking ways to explore. There is strength in being open to continued learning. Don’t see setbacks or mistakes as failures because the beautiful path of life is that it is an unending journey of exploration.
Engage in brave conversations. Make people feel safe when doing so. Having these conversations helps with a richer and more empathetic view of society and yourself.
Lastly, never stop creating, whatever that means for you. There are so many creative and rich communications out there that are pushing progress in wild ways that are challenging dominant pedagogies. Within the Vancouver region, there is an awesome cultural scene and many great ways to get involved.
—If you want to reach Jacqueline, send her an email!
*Source: Art History Basics by Khan Academy
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