2018 CPAWS-OV Soirée – How it went down
“We’re not only connected to each other, we’re connected to every living thing on earth – to the blackfly, to the lake, to the land… it’s really important we come together as one.”
– Chuck Commanda
Appreciation, unity and reconciliation were the key themes of the 3rd annual CPAWS Soiree, held Wednesday night in the brand-new Ottawa Art Gallery’s Alma Duncan Salon. The event, one of the CPAWS Ottawa Valley chapter’s largest of the year, saw a huge turnout of friends and supporters, coming together for a night of art, conservation, and reflection on the past year’s accomplishments.
Chuck Commanda and James Raffan’s joint keynote address was heavily centred around one of the key symbols of Canadian iconography: the canoe. In a physical sense, a canoe is a combined artistic, cultural, and functional marvel; Chuck’s handmade Algonquin-style birch bark canoes, one of which was displayed at the front of the Salon, evoke each of these characteristics near-instantaneously upon viewing. Beyond this, the canoe’s status as a Canadian cultural mainstay is solidified by its seemingly boundless symbolism. Connected by Canoe, a joint venture between Raffan, Commanda and the Canadian Canoe Museum, highlights how the canoe reinforces the value of pulling together and the importance of shared experience in the building of trust, community, and true reconciliation. By fostering this sense of connectedness between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, between communities, and between all Canadians and our environment, we build the framework for a unified, sustainable future.
As explained early on the night by John McDonnell, Executive Director of the Ottawa Valley chapter, connecting Canadians to nature is one of the primary goals of CPAWS – a goal that is realized through initiatives like the Dumoine River Art for Wilderness Retreat. The resulting works of 21 different artists were displayed throughout the evening of the Soirée, showcasing the beauty of this lesser-known piece of Canadian wilderness via the art it has inspired. Spanning a variety of mediums and styles, each piece was available for sale by a silent auction that took place throughout the evening. In the face of repeatedly grim environmental headlines throughout 2018, CPAWS-OV’s work connecting people to places like the Dumoine River is absolutely vital in the process of securing continued protection for future generations.
In an endearing finale, the night was capped off by a performance of several original songs by James Raffan, each of which bore a direct connection to his life and experiences in the Southern Canadian wilderness. As with the DRAW Retreat artwork, the feelings and inspiration drawn from the outdoors far surpass anything mere words can reliably reproduce. Throughout the evening of the Soirée, it became increasingly clear that like the canoe, the sharing of art in all its forms provides a vehicle through which we can connect with both nature and those around us – and it is through these connections that true reconciliation with ourselves, with each other, and with our responsibility as stewards to the environment can begin.