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Throwing Beams, Creating Art, Building Community

Bishop's University community is taking part in Rivières de Lumières 2020 Light Up Quebec event

An article by Sheila Quinn

This article is part of a series of carefully curated writings commissioned especially for Rivières de Lumières 2020

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.’ – Martin Luther King Jr. (A Testament of Hope – The Essential Writings and Speeches)

For a third (unconsecutive) year Bishop’s University students will be participating in Sherbrooke’s Théâtre des Petites Lanternes' Rivers of Light (Rivières de Lumières in French), creating lanterns that will be featured in ‘Light Up BU’ a pop-up lantern exhibition on campus during the last weekend of September, 2020.

‘Light Up BU’ is a collaboration between the Foreman Art Gallery’s Community Art Lab and the Bishop’s University Fine Arts Department, involving two lantern-making workshops, September 16th and 23rd at the Art Lab (located under the Foreman Art Gallery/Centennial Theatre).

Given the current regulations regarding folks gathering together, Théâtre des Petites Lanternes has worked on two alternative events for Rivers of Light, a theatrical promenade called the Fisherman and his Lanterns of Happiness and Light up Quebec. For the latter, the organization invites citizens to create a lantern and place it outside of their home, or in their window, on September 25th, 26th and 27th, joining the lantern-making movement.

The parallel between light and education is likely as old as metaphor itself. Being ‘able to see’, as light is shed on the material we learn, whether our educational ancestors burning through candle after candle poring over documents, manuscripts, and books, in a dark we no longer know, or being ‘able to see’ thanks to the light shed by educators through transmission of knowledge are one and the same.

There’s no denying that the more we can see, or that we are exposed to, the more potential we have to expand our knowledge. In this light, the pairing between Rivers of Light and the BU community is a powerful one. As students make their way through the first month of school in what is certainly one of the most unusual in the university’s history, Bishop’s faculty, staff and students, and those in every level of education strain in search of beacons and leadership that will contribute to their resiliency.

Brenna Filion was recently hired as the new Fine Arts Technician at Bishop’s University. A graduate of BU, Brenna is currently completing her M.A. in Art Education at Concordia University. Noémie Fortin is currently completing her M.A. in Art History at Concordia University and has a background as an independent curator and art critic. She recently took on the role of Curator of Education at the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University, where she is in charge of the Community Art Lab, among other hats she sports in the art world. ‘My research and professional interests are located at the intersection of art, education and environmental issues, with a focus on rural institutions embedded in their community.’

Both Brenna and Noémie have collaborated in the Théâtre des Petites Lanternes in previous years via the ArtLab, Noémie’s involvement dating back to the first edition of Rivière de Lumières in 2015, when she was an undergraduate student at Bishop’s, and the Cultural Mediation Intern at the Foreman Art Gallery. At the time, first year students illuminated the paths between artistic activities on campus with little paper bags containing tealights and stamped with the ArtLab logo. ‘This was such a great experience that we decided to repeat it, and offered quite a few lantern-making workshops over the years.’

When asked what moved them about being involved in this project, Brenna offered, ‘The idea of providing fine arts students the opportunity to share their work with the public, bridging gaps between Anglophone and Francophone artists in the Townships, and sharing with the general public what fibre art can look like, and the new ways raw materials can be transformed.’

Noémie expands, ‘The idea of lighting up our streets, neighbourhoods, campuses, etc. with lanterns on the same weekend is not only a way to represent a ray of hope in these uncertain times, it is also a pretext for community members to come together and have a feeling of belonging. It’s a sort of reminder that we are not alone!’

TPL had something special in mind for BU’s Fine Arts students – showcasing some lanterns in Sherbrooke’s La Maison du Cinéma’s front windows. Noémie explains, ‘We’re having students who took Fiber Arts classes last year create beautiful lanterns from willow branches and covered with their handmade paper and the natural fabric they had dyed with plants, rust, etc. They are taking on this project as a pop-up exhibition, trying to have an overall cohesion in the visual presentation of their work.’

Brenna adds, ‘The fibre arts course at Bishop’s teaches us one very important thing: you do not need expensive art materials to make something beautiful.’

The Community Art Lab’s position at the crossroads and interaction of art, education and community development, lends itself well to its own resiliency as the art world learns to adapt and evolve.

‘How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good dead in a weary world.’ - William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.

There are still some spots available for the workshop on September 23rd – please contact the ArtLab at for more information.

Théâtre des Petites Lanternes has joined forces with Destination Sherbrooke, extending the usual local invitation to the towns, cities, MRCs and cultural organizations across the province to join with them with during the first weekend of the Journées de la Culture (from September 25th – 27th) to Light Up Quebec!

Wherever folks find themselves across Quebec, Rivers of Light encourages one and all to decorate a lantern and hang it near a window. For more ideas, please visit the website at Share your lantern on social media (set the post to public) and use the hashtag #illuminonslequebec

Rivières de Lumières is a theatre and lantern festival produced by the Théâtre des Petites Lanternes. This year, the new edition will take place between September 25th and 27th, 2020.

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