By Rick Garrick
Michipicoten’s John-Paul Chalykoff recently created music to interpret the life stories of methamphetamine addicts in recovery for a Lakehead University-Washington State University Women and Meth research project.
“Some of it is darker, moodier, sadder sounding, but I tried to throw in some uplifting kind of songs too,” Chalykoff says. “I tried capturing those different emotions and feelings with the music I made, from despair to redemption.”
Chalykoff says the project opened his eyes to the struggles of people who are dealing with addictions. “It helped me to be more understanding and having more empathy towards people who are dealing with those issues,” Chalykoff says. “That really helped me in that sense to be more open minded.”
Chalykoff created eight songs for the project: Intro, Bargaining Game, Reflections (Of Life and Death), Anonymous Hate, Anger and Sorrow, Fragility, Women and Meth (Reprise) and Redemption. The songs are available online at www.womenandmeth.com/chalykoff-response.html.
“Some are more elaborately arranged (and) some are more bare bones,” Chalykoff says. “They range quite a bit in styles — one is acoustic while another one might be borderline heavy metal.”
Chalykoff says the music is “quite a different approach” to the other artwork in the project. “I didn’t have very many other artists to look at for what they’ve done with music,” Chalykoff says. “So I got some directions from my supervisor and just went with it and wound up creating different music based on the words of the (addicts in recovery).”
Chalykoff created the work through the Lakehead University Masters of Education program, under the supervision of Pauline Sameshina, Canada Research Chair in Arts Integrated Studies. “It gave me a whole different perspective on how to use music and approach different educational aspects with music,” Chalykoff says. “One of the things I am doing with my thesis is exploring (the creation of) Ojibwe children songs. This project was an inspiration in helping me go in that direction.”
Victoria Bolduc, Lakehead University’s Aboriginal transitions advisor, created a series of watercolour paintings for the project, including one called DOGBITE.
“That came from a story that Jill (a pseudonym for one of the research participants) had told when she was very deep in her addiction,” Bolduc says. “She saw on the news one day that one of her former associates was (knocked) down and attacked by police dogs. That was very impactful for her and it wound up being one of the most intense pieces in the series.”
Bolduc says people with addictions are real people with families, feelings, thoughts and hopes and dreams.
“Nobody gets up in the morning and decides I want to ruin my life by having a serious addiction,” Bolduc says. “It is something we need to approach with a sense of understanding and empathy.”
Bolduc’s series of paintings, including Mother, DOGBITE, Fresh, Vaya Con Dios, Vermin, Decomposition and Of A Feather, are available online at www.womenandmeth.com/bolduc-response.html.
The research project was originally developed in 2007, when Sameshina and a group of artist-researchers at Washington State set out to stimulate a broader understanding of addiction and recovery in order to advance clinical, methodological and social changes. Sameshina joined Lakehead University in 2012.
“We are trying to answer the question of what is the experience of methamphetamine addiction and what is the experience of recovery,” Sameshina says, noting this was the first time that all nine different art collections from the project have been gathered together. “We’re hoping that as the different pieces are put together, people can experience them in layers and in different ways.”
The nine art collections feature the work of Chalykoff, Bolduc, Sameshina, Patricia Maarhuis and Stephen Chalmers. The art is on display from Sept. 4 to Oct. 22 at the Baggage Building, located at Marina Park in Thunder Bay.