A Letter from Lisa

Studio Facilitator Lisa Obirek wrote this letter to introduce herself to the Artbeat community in July 2021. Read on to find out more about our Studio Facilitator’s background and philosophies!

Hello Artbeat Community, 

As I write this letter I am picturing the artists-in-residence, alumni, volunteers, and staff I have met during my first two weeks at Artbeat as the Studio Facilitator. If you find yourself reading this letter and think, “hmmm, that’s not me…”, well hello to you too.  

My art feels like a far more honest description of who I am than anything I am capable of writing here right now. However, a comparable and perhaps even more truthful description of me might come from my five-year-old who, when I asked him to describe me, said: “She likes her kid. She likes playing with her kid. And she likes camping with her kid. And she likes art, purple art.”

Art and caregiving are the two words that, I think, most appropriately describe me right now. I have been the recipient of many incredible care providers; sitting with me on the days when I can’t get out of bed, feeding me when I was too frantic to care for myself, and provided trusting childcare so I could see doctors and therapists to better take care of myself and others. I am an artist who loves the world deeply, is inspired by kindness and truthfulness, and knows that my life is only possible in community. 

Professionally, I’ve made art alongside artists with and without disabilities with l’Arche Hamilton where I spent most of my time in their open art studio or in their homes; I also facilitated individual and group art therapy under the umbrella of the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. In Winnipeg I facilitated the Art to Inspire program at Winnipeg Art Gallery where I organized art workshops with people who live with dementia or Alzheimers and their care partners. I also facilitated art workshops or group art therapy with the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre and various rural and urban art camps.  I also taught art and English in Madagascar for a year, and facilitated a six-year craft partnership and social enterprise with Zambian artist Lameck Mumba. The artistic skills I have learned from friends around the world strengthens my commitment to grow the artistic community.

Personally, my main mode of communication is art and I have been making art for as long as I can remember. Oil painting is my first love but linoleum printmaking is a close second. Few things inspire me like connecting to a person who has to make and I resonate deeply when the statement that art saves lives because it is a lifeline for me. I have facilitated countless art sessions with cousins, friends, family members and various community groups often for the sole purpose of getting to share what I love so deeply. I love the various narratives that a single art piece can hold together. 

To journey alongside someone who is in the process of trusting themselves as an artist is an honour; to witness the development of their artistic voice AND as they deepen their belief that their artistry is a gift to the world gives me so much joy. I have watched this process move someone out of violent relationships and into healthy ones, I have watched this process move somebody outside of a routine they relied on every single day for over a decade and try something new, I have watched this process move people out of poverty, and I have watched this process transform loneliness into friendship.  

If you know that art saves lives then please come and have a coffee with me and we can make some art together. If you think it sounds weird but maybe kinda cool, then please come have coffee with me and we can make some art together.  

Thank you for welcoming me into your lives. I so look forward to what our art will do. 

– Lisa