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Cover Story: Wild for the Wilderness: Brittany Crossman Photography, by Morgan Leet
Design by Lindsay Vautour
Featured in the issue below are:
* Indigenous Artist Tara Francis by Jennifer Wood
* Boy with A Problem Book Review by James Mullinger
* Bee Me Kidz by Morgan Leet
*Wolf Castle by Morgan Leet
*Sirens Choir by Morgan Leet
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An eight-year-old Brittany Crossman got her hands on a disposable camera and was instantly hooked on the art of photography. She was single-minded in her passion, majoring in photography at Mount Allison University and now working as professional photographer out of New Brunswick. Unsurprisingly, due to the lush nature surrounding her in her home province, she specializes in animal photography. Bears, birds, cats, and foxes are all beautifully captured by Brittany’s lens. Her favourite though is the red fox. Her images incapsulate the gentle nature of an often-feared animal, working to deconstruct stereotypes of wildlife. Her work as a whole encourages a connection to nature and the animals that live within.
[EDIT]ION: What drew you to wildlife and nature specifically?
Brittnany Crossman: I’ve always had a love for nature and wildlife; that’s the interest that came first. I’ve always been eager to go out in the woods and look for animals, even as a child. Photography came secondary, and as a means to document what I saw, and how I see it.
[EDIT]ION: Your photos really tell a story. What do you hope audiences gain from seeing them?
Brittany Crossman: With my photography I hope to help spread awareness of certain issues, foster a connection to nature and educate the public on coexisting with wildlife. If I can make a single person respect a species, or feel the need to do more, make changes, or to donate to a cause, then it is well worth the effort.
[EDIT]ION: You have gained an incredible amount of success. How does it feel to have your work featured in major publications, and on National Geographic’s social media?
Brittany Crossman: It still feels very surreal. When National Geographic emailed me asking if I was interested in being a regular photo contributor for their ‘Your Shot’ account, I had to re-read the email a few times because I didn’t quite believe it. Having my work recognized is definitely an unexplainable feeling, I’m very proud, and honored.
[EDIT]ION: Where is your favorite spot to go to work?
Brittany Crossman: I enjoy travelling throughout the Maritimes for photography. All the provinces have something special to offer. What I hope to photograph dictates where I go and that all depends on the time that I have available. I really do enjoy going out through my local ATV and snowmobile trails to look for wildlife.
[EDIT]ION: Your red fox photography is amazing. What draws you to foxes?
[EDIT]ION: What do you love about living in New Brunswick?
Brittany Crossman: Red foxes have been a prominent focus of my portfolio for the last decade. I have invested years into capturing intimate moments and getting to know these exceptional animals. One of the reasons that initiated this passion for the red fox is their resiliency. They thrive in an array of environments: urban, woodlands, meadows, grasslands, the list goes on, despite many obstacles. Any animal that can live alongside of humans deserves to have their story told, for it is a remarkable feat.
Brittany Crossman: The space. I am lucky to have a forest as my backyard, which results in some unique neighbours. I’ve had black bear, moose, white-tailed deer, owls, foxes, coyotes, weasels, raccoons, skunks, all show up in my backyard or near where I live. New Brunswick is a beautiful province with a lot of areas to explore.
Monarch, photo by Robert Blanchard
Indigenous Artist Tara Francis
The Importance of Human Transformation
by Jennifer Wood
Artist Tara Francis is a member of the Elsipogtog First Nation. She attended New Brunswick’s College of Craft and Design in their (then called) Native Arts Studies program, which was run by the late Elder Gwen Bear. Bear’s focus was on Indigenous Spirituality, Education and Research, complemented by a series of visiting Indigenous Artists. She later enrolled in the Surface Design Program, where she learned repeat pattern design, fabric embellishment, and the delicate art of silk painting before returning for a final year of advance study. She received an ArtsNB grant to create a series of large silk paintings inspired by the Mi’kmaq Petroglyphs found at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia. These images continue to inspire her work as she incorporates them into her highly sought-after silk scarves, which are considered Prayer cloth, with each one holding a blessing for its wearer.
“Silk symbolizes protection, as silk comes from a cocoon, and we are on a journey of transformation to elevate our spirits, they offer strength and healing,” Tara tells [EDIT]ION. “In Indigenous culture we are taught that all things have a spirit. I learned from Elder Carlos Gomaz who taught us to make hand drums, that we wrap our drums in silk, because silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm, wrapping it in protection as it transforms into a moth. We can perceive our own personal spiritual journeys as one of transformation, and our goal is to become a higher version of ourselves. Silk symbolically offers us this protection, giving us the mindset to reach our highest potential. It has become more evident to me over the years, through the stories of the owners of my silk scarves, just how much regard is held for them.”
Francis takes great pride foraging for her materials that make up a large body of her work – materials that, in most part, would otherwise be forgotten, or composted back to the earth. She collects the quills from porcupines that have been hit by road traffic, and gathers birch bark from wood piles, or carefully pulls birch from standing trees in a way that brings them no harm. She gathers sweetgrass in the fall, where it grows near where saltwater meets fresh water.
You can often find Tara honing her craft at her downtown Fredericton art studio. She is planning on moving to Shediac (a traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq) this summer, where she will be opening a second studio in an area where the indigenous population is underrepresented. She hopes to have a storefront, and offer residencies and other Indigenous Artists the opportunity to share her space for a few weeks at time to help promote their work to the public.
Francis’ work will be on exhibit at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbour Maine, as part of a porcupine quillwork exhibition which will be opening in June and be on display until Summer 2023. She has been accepted into the 2021 Cross Cultural Residency Program, hosted by Artslink, AAAAPNB and Mawi’art. This is her second time participating in the residency, the first being in 2019 where she created Grandmother Moon Turtle. Both this piece and Monarch have gone on to be purchased by CollectionARTnb as part of their acquisition program. As part of Tara’s rebrand, look for her new studio name IndigenEAST Art Studios.
Facebook: Tara Francis
TARA FRANCIS Robin The Poor
Boy With A Problem by Chris Benjamin
A book review by James Mullinger
Nova Scotia-based author Chris Benjamin has crafted a collection of short stories so deliciously written, profoundly disturbing and entertainingly addictive that I have read it twice in the space of a month. Benjamin’s pedigree is undeniably impressive. Indeed, his previous book, Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, won the Dave Greber Social Justice Book Award and has brought about very real change.
Boy With A Problem is his masterpiece, a genuine contemporary marvel; many of these stories could not feel more relevant right now dealing with as they do with love, loss, failure, and acceptance and hope. They concern:
The daughter of an alcoholic desperate to be loved.
A father reliving a failed dream though his teenaged son.
A struggling immigrant surprised to discover that money does not buy happiness.
A creative boy struggling to please his dead father.
An eco-warrior defying her entire town for what she believes is right.
A father unable to reconcile the assault of his daughter with the world he raised her to believe in.
A gay pastor in self-imposed exile from church and family.
A stranger in a Santa suit dispensing fatherly advice.
A granddaughter who must end the life of the woman who raised her.
A survivor of a small-town drug addict determined to save her cousin from terrifying dreams.
An anxiety sufferer who finds refuge in sadomasochism.
A university student looking for love in all the wrong animal liberation schemes.
He completed the collection while a writer in residence at the Lunenburg Public Library. It features a lot of local underdogs and people struggling to find their place in the world, mostly set in Halifax.
Benjamin’s most paramount skill is the force of his prose, which will touch your soul. We are calling it now. Chris Benjamin’s Boy With A Problem is the book of your summer. Buy two copies right away. Trust me when I say, this is one you will want to keep and one to gift.
Here at [EDIT]ION, we can’t wait to see what he does next.
ABOUT CHRIS BENJAMIN
Chris Benjamin is a journalist, editor, and fiction writer, as well as managing editor for Atlantic Books Today. He is the author of three previous books: Indian School Road, which was named a Nova Scotia Book of Influence by the province's librarians and publishers; Eco-Innovators, which won the Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and was a finalist for the Richardson Non-Fiction Prize; and Drive-by Saviours, a novel that made the Canada Reads Top Essential Books List.
Boy With A Problem by Chris Benjamin is published by Pottersfield Press and can be ordered by clicking here.
Teaching himself piano at the tender age of 11, Tristan Grant from Pabineau First Nation, New Brunswick, knew that music was his passion. The Mi'kmaq rapper, producer and singer is now 24-years-old and has defied the odds and achieved huge success and a loyal fanbase playing festivals across Canada. He quickly secured nominations at the East Coast Music Awards for Indigenous Artist of the Year and for Recording of the Year. This year he is nominated for two more East Coast Music Awards and is also part of the 2021 ECMA Festival & Conference, from 5th to 9th in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
It wasn't an easy rise to where he is now, as he tells [EDIT]ION "I spent a lot of my time, until I was about 20-years-old, kind of rejecting my traditional roots even though I lived on the reserve and was very involved in the culture and my community. I rejected it even to the point of identifying myself as this suburban, middle-class white kid even when that's not true." He has since though used his connection to his culture and family to inspire his music. When recalling the ignorance and racism he faced throughout his life, he tells [EDIT]ION how it further motivated him "to try and rise above that and show them that whatever I'm going to, I'm going to show them that I can do it and I'm going to be really successful at it. And it's not out of spite, it's just to be say like 'you are wrong about this and you probably heard this ignorant stuff from your parents, but what we're going to do now is move forward as a culture.' You know, we're going to get smarter."
He has shown them all that and more with his meaningful lyrics and unique pop-rap style with old school influences. With each new project you are able to hear the development of Wolf Castle as an artist and person, his newest EP Gold Rush a perfect example of this. His recent release of the single Gunna, featuring his uncle Raphael de la Rez who first introduced him to rap music in the early 2000s, is also an ode to his connection to his family and roots.
There is still much to come for the determined artist and we can't wait to see what's next.
Click here to find Wolf Castle on social media, and listen to his music!
For more information on the 2021 EMCAs, please visit ecma.com
Bee Me Kidz: Making Change
by Morgan Leet
The inspiration to start a non-profit came to Missy Bewick when she was for a program that pairs volunteers with at-risk children to read with them weekly to help improve their literacy. While paired with a young girl, she asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. After asking her again and again, the little girl still said “nothing.” Missy tells [EDIT]ION that she “told her she could be anything, that she was smart and should dream big. When I asked her for the third time what she wanted to be she said ‘I ain’t ever going to be anything because my mom says I am stupid.’ That was the day that I started imagining a non-profit like Bee Me Kidz. I realized if a child in grade two doesn’t believe in themselves or dream that they can be something, then the cycle of poverty will continue to repeat itself. From that day forward, I was determined to help give children the skills and confidence in themselves so that they could be or do anything. I also realized the problem was much bigger than working with the child in isolation. For us to do this, and make a lasting change, we not only needed to work with this little girl, but also for her parent.”
From there she created Bee Me Kidz, a program dedicated to taking a long-term approach in breaking the cycle. They work with children ages five to 11 and provide various services at schools and on the weekends. “We kick off each Saturday with an amazing family brunch to get families in the door and help prevent weekend food insecurity. After brunch, parents and children learn parallel social and emotional lessons. Since our parents are learning the same skills as their children, our program continues to be taught at home, making a lasting change. The outcome is that not only do we help the children, but we help the parents as well. This makes Bee Me Kidz a totally unique program.” Says Missy.
They ensure that the education is the best that it can be, through paying all of their educators. The difference this makes is clear, demonstrated in a study done by UNB in which showed that 89% of parents who attended BMK had improved mental health, 98% had hope for the future and 80% had a better relationship with their child. Also, half of the children had improved academic performance and almost 80% of had improvement in social and emotional skills and self-esteem.
Missy’s story has come full circle, telling [EDIT]ION “that little girl I mentioned earlier - her family has been coming to BMK for the last five years. This mom isn’t the same mom who walked in the doors of our program five years ago, and I couldn’t be prouder. The little girl has three younger siblings, and they all have dreams. One wants to be a firefighter, another a hairdresser and most importantly to me, one said a Bee Me Kidz teacher. I can’t wait to see what this family accomplishes because of the program. And I can’t wait to see the impact BMK can continue to make on many other families in the future.”
Currently Bee Me Kidz has two locations in Saint John, New Brunswick and has the goal to expand further into rural communities within the province.
Prince Edward Island’s award-winning Siren’s Choir released their first full-length album this year, Boundless, and have already been nominated for four Music PEI awards. Recorded in December 2019 at the Church of St. Bonaventure in Tracadie Cross in PEI, the message behind the album is more applicable than ever; one of resiliency and the human spirit.
[EDIT]ION met with the Artistic Director, Kelsea McLean, of the all-women’s choral ensemble to learn more about Boundless.
[EDIT]ION: Can you tell me about the inspiration behind Boundless?
Kelsea McLean: Boundless is a collection of songs that hold a common thread of overcoming challenges and conquering obstacles. These songs speak to human’s resiliency in the face of adversity. This idea is coupled with the need for community in order to rise above some of the difficult times we may encounter. Our title track, Boundless by Katerina Gimon, was the conduit for this album’s theme when I was initially searching for music to program. Boundless is a unique piece and I believe it encapsulates the theme perfectly; the beginning is mysterious and without parameters. Then the song builds to a confident, joyful, and playful ending. There is a moving from the unknown to a place of safety and freedom. With this sentiment in mind, I built the rest of the album around this distinct piece of music.
[EDIT]ION: How does it feel to be nominated for four Music PEI awards?
Kelsea McLean: It feels like the culmination of this recording project. All of our singers and our administrative team worked tirelessly and passionately to create this album. To be acknowledged is such a tremendous feeling; it provides some validation that our efforts paid off. Others are potentially seeing the love and artistry that were poured into Boundless, which feels really rewarding. These nominations also recognize the commitment and brilliance of our collaborators, such as Alana Reddin (visual artist) and Mille Clarkes (videographer).
[EDIT]ION: The album was recorded before the pandemic, but carries themes that apply more than ever. What do you hope listeners take away from it or experience while listening?
Kelsea McLean: This album feels like it had some sort of fateful completion date and intuitive theme. I don’t think that any of our singers could have foreseen how special this recording project would become in our lives. This theme of resilience and leaning on our community for strength really resonated once the pandemic began. Once we were finally able to release our album, I think it also meant that the songs really struck a chord with our listeners, too. It has been a tough road for choral musicians, because our way of expressing ourselves has been deemed as risky. To have this music recorded has meant that we were also able to release an album during a time when a lot of other choral and classical musicians have not been able to record together in the same room. We feel extremely lucky to have been in a position where this was possible just before the world was turned upside down. I hope that listeners will feel a sense of camaraderie and calm; we are in this together, and we hope our music can provide some joy and solace during these difficult times. They certainly have been those things for us.
[EDIT]ION: Do you draw inspiration from each other, as a women's choral ensemble?
Kelsea McLean: Sirens has been really fortunate to maintain a consistent roster of singers; we do not have a large turnover of singers from season to season. This means that we have all really come to know each other very well. Strong friendships and bonds have formed through our shared love of singing in community. This directly impacts the musical choices we make and the quality of our cooperative music-making. These women all have a unique voice and all offer something special to our group and they are absolutely inspiring on a weekly basis. As Artistic Director, I think it is imperative for the success of our ensemble that I draw from the expertise and the knowledge already in the room. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t have to make all the choices. There is a lot of power in listening to each other’s ideas and drawing on that shared knowledge as an ensemble; it makes us stronger. I truly feel like this group of women are limitless, as they are all such accomplished musicians in their own right.
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