Why We Need Art More Now Than Ever

Musician Sandy May with her partner, Ian Cornelissen. Photo by Ian Vardy.

Musician Sandy May with her partner, Ian Cornelissen. Photo by Ian Vardy.

By Candice Walsh

On March 11, the St. John's International Women's Film Festival will be co-sponsoring a night of music and prose at the Rocket Room, Rocket Bakery. Local writers and musicians will get together to share uplifting and provocative songs, poems, and stories. 

The world feels a little divided these days, and uniting through art is more important than ever. That's why local musician Sandy May is organizing Songs of Freedom of Resistance -- an event  to bring people together, and to draw comfort from our little arts community here in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador.

Sandy May is a musician and freelance writer, with a background in gender studies. She feels that in our current political climate, it's important to come together. 

"The idea was pretty spontaneous. I was at the Leonard Cohen tribute at The Ship a couple of weeks ago, and there was a phenomenal mix of people," says Sandy. "It was also the day that the U.S. announced the travel ban, and I didn’t even want to go, because it was just so upsetting."

The experience at The Ship was uplifting for Sandy, and she felt inspired to pull off something similar. She took the idea to the St. John’s Women in Music (SWIM) Facebook group, and it took off from there.

"The event started with SWIM, but then I started reaching out to other musicians in the community because I liked the idea of it being a collective show," Sandy says. "Right now, a lot of people are feeling like we just need a community of people with an affinity for creativity and kindness around them."

Author Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the host, and will be leading the evening with a few readings from her and other authors. De Mariaffi was also one of the lead organizers behind the Women's March in St. John's -- an event that ended up being held online due to stormy weather. 

"The Women's March did a tremendous job taking it online, but I know people were also looking forward to seeing one another face to face. I wanted to do an off-shoot of that, and I wanted Elisabeth to be a part of it because she’s fantastic and she did so much work," says Sandy.

In addition to host Elisabeth de Mariaffi, the event will welcome writers Megan Coles and Andreae Callanan and a powerhouse array of musicians across many genres to share uplifting and provocative songs, poems, and stories, followed by a FAF (Feminist as F**k) dance party with DJ Slaylist (who you also may know from SJIWFF Closing Night parties!) . Musicians include Katie Baggs, Kelly McMichael, Jenina MacGillivray, Bryan Power, Steve Maloney, Mathew Hornell, Joanna Barker, Maggie Burton & Chris McGee, Megan Marshall, Ruth Lawrence and many more.

"I was thinking, we gotta go home feeling better," laughs Sandy. "We need some joy."

Such artistic events are meant to bring people together -- to draw power and kindness from one another. Defeat can’t be the new normal. Sandy feels like art is the answer.

"I think art is more important now than ever because there is this urge to withdraw into one’s self when things are so disheartening," says Sandy May. "Art draws you out. I think people feel like they don’t have much power."

It seems like there is an attempt going on right now to just exhaust people — to exhaust people of their activism when we know things are just not right.
— Sandy May
Artwork for the event created by Lucy Hunter, Australia.

Artwork for the event created by Lucy Hunter, Australia.

Then there's the long, drawn out St. John's winter to slog through. Sometimes getting out and enjoying some live music is just the cure.        

Sandy is originally from Halifax, but has lived in St. John's for a decade. Like others, she values the supportive arts community around town.

Everybody is instinctively creative, and it’s necessary to not alienate yourself from that. To be a part of it, whether you create it or if you support it by participating in it. It’s a democratizing force.
— Sandy May

All proceeds from the event will go to the local Planned Parenthood - Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre

Interested in a ticket? Check out our Event Page for more info!

Candice Walshmusic, art, events