Introducing self checkout and Anna’s mentorship with Julie!

Hello, dear Foolish Operations community!

Anna Lamontagne here! You may already know me as the communications associate for FO, but today I’m speaking from a different position! I’m writing on behalf of my personal art practice, with the goal of sharing with you my process and vision for the first iteration of my most recent project : self checkout.

Last September, Julie Lebel emailed me to recommend I take a look at ArtStarts’  Creative Sparks Grants for Emerging Artist program. She wrote: “maybe for one of your projects, like the one with Qmunity? Just a thought!” Qmunity, if you don’t already know, is an amazing non-profit organization based in Vancouver, working with and for the queer, trans and Two-Spirit communities. I joined their volunteer team in the past year, and more specifically the team helping the Youth Program (ages 14-25). Together with danielle Mackenzie Long, we offered a creative movement workshop at one of the weekly Youth Group Drop-In in the Spring of 2022. The workshop was well received and I kept in the back of my mind the intention of further developing this avenue.

So, here we are! In September, Julie pointed me towards the ArtStarts call for projects. I brainstormed (with my mom, the very first advisor for this project!) and developed the outline of what would become a few months later self checkout, a performing arts project offered to youth between 14 and 18 years old who identify as members or allies of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Vancouver. I received very valuable support from Qmunity and Foolish Operations, without which my efforts to obtain resources would not have been possible. Thank you!

As of today, the majority of the project’s activities are still to come. However, I wish to share with you the sum of my preliminary thoughts, as an offering to open the conversation : 

self checkout : what is it?

self checkout is a project that combines performing art forms with expressions of queer identity to give 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and their allies (ages 14-18) the tools to foster their own creative ideas. The workshops allow imaginative minds to brainstorm together and generate ideas through dance, theater , writing prompts and more! The project allows a small group to take this process further by engaging in an intensive creative process during Spring Break 2023 (link to registration form here!)! The intensive focuses on the collaborative creation and planning of a culminating project. The outcome is determined by the ideas and interests of the youth, and supported by myself and my collaborator Jaime Hewat. A presentation for family and friends will take place!

The core values of the project are care, community, celebration of queer narratives and visibility for young emerging queer artists in the performing arts community. 

Expectations are malleable and will be determined through ongoing dialogue with project participants. As an emerging artist, I am learning to cultivate my own ambitions while modulating my expectations of the outcome. In this way, I am not risk-averse, but rather inclined to constantly try new things. 

My personal desires for this project are to challenge my skills as a creative leader and to strengthen my ties to my community and the values we share. To participants, I wish first and foremost fun! And perhaps a creative spark (or two!).

The interests that led me to develop such a project are sustainability in art,  collaborative art practices with a marginalized community to which I identify, the legitimization of alternative creative methods on the periphery of existing institutions, and, of course, performing arts and the contribution of the queer imaginary to the field. 

The overarching question that has emerged from this project to date is: what are the responsibilities and methods of those working to ensure a safer space for queer youth?

Julie Lebel has been a very valuable mentor in the development of the project, notably in the planning, promotion, administrative work and revision of documents. I also recognize that my position in communications support for Foolish Operations and my close relationship with Julie provided me with the necessary tools to develop this project! Thank you Julie!

To this day, I still don’t know the future of the project and I spare myself the speculation! I let the project work me as much as I work it. I will write a second blogpost to update you in the next few weeks! If reading this made you want to discuss with me about self checkout and development possibilities, feel free to write to me! Let’s go for a coffee! If you can think of anyone you know who might be interested in the project or who might want to register, please spread the word!

I encourage you to visit my personal instagram page, @lamont_anna_gne, to learn about upcoming activities for self checkout. Registration is now open until March 8th for the Spring Break intensive! Here is the link to the registration form!

Many thanks to the organizations that supported the project: ArtStarts in Schools, City of Vancouver, Collingwood Neighbourhood House, QMUNITY, Foolish Operations, Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre and What Lab.

And finally, a special thank you to some of my fellow supporters during the implementation of the project: Ry Forsythe, Julie Lebel, Jaime Hewat, Audrey Sides, Alyssa Favero, Sam Jin Coates, Maxx Sadler, Sarah Cavanaugh, Han Hugussen.