A Matter of Perspective.

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by Ingrid Kadoke 

I remember the thrill of discovering the various perspective drawing techniques ‘way back when, as I was churning towards my Design Degree at Ryerson University… the one point tunnel effect perspective, the 2 point stretch perspective and fabulous detail of the 3 point perspective.

Not that any of my technical drawings or renderings met with much academic acclaim. In fact during a group review in second year, the well-known Canadian designer Phil Moodie described my technical drawings as sensationally flaccid. After that year I left Design studies to immerse myself in the bohemian life at the then Ontario College of Art, a fabulous experience where I learned to see life, academics and my work from yet another perspective. Eventually I returned to Ryerson, obtained my degree and set forth into the world.

In preparation for this article I pulled an old text book off my shelf. “Focus on Designing”. I had forgotten about this little gem. It was given to me by one of the co-authors, Velo Hubel, upon completion of a Design Build project at Ontario Place he and I had worked on together.

Like everything born of passion, the wonder of this text book lies in its simplicity of design, clarity of purpose and richness of content.

Divided into 6 Units, the messages can be applied to a wide variety of everyday life:

  • Looking at Things and Ideas
  • Putting Things Together
  • Using the Right Building Blocks
  • Making Things look Right
  • Getting Into Action
  • Scanning the Horizon

This brings me to the theme of this article. I would like to offer some perspectives for reflection on the Cultural Community in Mississippi Mills.

Looking at things and ideas. When I first moved to Mississippi Mills (at the time Ramsay) my perspective was quite narrow, strangely so, given I had spent most of my life in Toronto. I loved our secluded, forested property and unique house. I was enchanted by the architecture of the village (Almonte) I was thrilled every time I recognized someone on the main street. There was also that rush when meeting “Real Artists”, being invited over for great conversations, visiting studios, dropping names. Things and ideas all collecting over the years and forming a broader perspective of life in a small town. Now instead of my wide eye naivety, I am deeply proud and humbled by the many things, ideas and individuals our community celebrates and embraces.

 

Putting things together. Always a challenge, be it a dinner party, an evening fund raiser, or a grant application. In order to put things together, you need to understand what you have (see previous paragraph). Over the years I’ve seen and, at times, been part of enthusiastic groups putting forth ideas that have missed essential community elements. Usually these elements involved another group, or individual who offered a diverging perspective and, dare I say it, might have posed a threat to our seemingly perfect idea. We have all been in those situations. Often it has to do with information, who has it, who needs it and (as we know from the ’80’s business model) information is power. In truth, sharing information gives everyone perspective and in the end empowers the community towards success.

 

Using the right Building Blocks. Seems like the simplest of principles. It speaks to knowledge, understanding and content. In other words choosing and using the right building blocks requires knowing what is needed, understanding of how to create a comprehensive plan and making sure the results and the plan address real needs. Examples abound, much energy, time and money is spent to create or re-create icons of community only at times to find them unused or misused. Hindsight, being 20/20, kindly gives us perspective for choosing our next set of building blocks more wisely. Let’s not lose the gifts we have created.

 

Making things look right. This principle sounds a bit shallow, but it talks about looking right, not good. Looking right is what our parents meant when we went to visit those distant, aging, somewhat musty relatives every other Sunday. Looking right speaks respect for ourselves, one another and pride of place. So often I hear how wonderful Mississippi Mills is, and I agree. But wonderful is subjective. Let’s be honest, most of us, especially those in the cultural community, are driven by an inner aesthetic. Collectively these aesthetics can blend to create a wonderful community atmosphere. I challenge everyone to reflect honestly and put your kind of “wonderful” in perspective. How wonderful is the cacophony of mismatched signage throughout the community? How wonderful are the empty malls and storefronts? How wonderful are the industrial and development wastelands as we come round the roundabout?

 

Getting into Action. The perspective I would like to explore here is the subtlety between “getting into” and “action”. Take followers and leaders, for example. Elections are excellent case studies for this. How often have we, individually or collectively, listened keenly to a candidate, given them our support then suffered surprising disappointment at their inability to take action once elected? Unfortunately some cultural groups also fall prey to this type of atrophy. Most times this is as a result of not being able to look at a larger perspective because the minute tasks at hand seem overwhelming. Recently I heard a complaint that the Town was spending much money on a “fancy” contractor to develop a cultural assets inventory and the draft of a cultural plan, rather than providing display boards for an artists’ organization. Aside from the lack of information regarding the economics of the contract in question, this type of rhetoric is damaging to all in the cultural community. We need to go back to using the right building blocks. Building a Municipal Cultural Plan and Providing Proper Display Boards are not interchangeable discussions. But proper display boards can be a community benefit from building an informed and reflective Cultural Plan – the result of Action.

 

Scanning the Horizon. There is always a horizon in perspective drawing. To quote Velo’s book “The horizon line is always horizontal. The position of the horizon line changes when you change your position.” And so it is with perspectives within and of our cultural community. At times we see only unpleasant details, quarrels, and power plays other times we are overwhelmed at the abundance of beauty, generosity and talent. Our goal as a cultural community should be to meet at a common ground, where our perspectives are complementary and our call to action collaborative.

 

Velo Hubel died in 1996; he is remembered as a respected designer, teacher and artist. I know he would have thought Mississippi Mills to be wonderful!