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193: Meet the Artists & Designers

Updated: May 14



What is a story? Who tells stories? Why do we tell stories? When are stories best told? Where are stories told? How are stories told? 


These are the questions that my guests in this series will help us better understand.


There are 1001 different ways that I could assemble the dozens of stories shared over the next eight episodes. (And please believe me when I say I thought about 1000 of them before landing on this format.)


I’ve been thinking about creating a series like this for a while now and while the episodes I create are typically centered around a single conversation with one or two individuals, I wanted to push myself creatively and in a more experimental narrative direction for this series by telling a story with story about stories through stories. What this looks like is forming each of the episodes around a central question to which I’ve asked each of the nine creatives collaborating on this project. So I’m entering into it with brave energy, more uncertain and with more trepidation than I normally enter into a project like this and I think it stems from wanting to do the topic justice. Storytelling is a profound and timeless connector of people and of ideas that’s existed long before written communication of any kind.


In fact, I think it helps to start by reading you a story, which helps set the stage for the evolution of storytelling.



I am a story. 

I was told around a campfire, then painted on cave walls.

I was carved into clay tablets and told in pictures.

I was written on papyrus and printed with ink and woodblocks, then woven into tapestries and copied into big books to illuminate minds.

I was printed and bound then acted out on stage. 

I was read in vast private libraries, then in public libraries open to everyone and in places you’d never imagine.

I made people frightened, excited, sad, and happy.

I was censored, banned and burned but did not die.

I’ve inspired millions and I can go with you everywhere and will live forever.

I am a story.


What is a story? 


I believe we all intuitively know what a story is when we see or hear it. (If I asked my 5 year old to tell me a story, I’m confident that she’d know what to do.) But how might the essence of a story be summarized?


I logged into my handy Google-machine and began the hunt for the best definition of the word ‘story’ I could find. The winner was found at Vocabulary.com and here’s what surfaced: “A narrative about people and events, usually including an interesting plot, is a story. A story can be fictional or true, and it can be written, read aloud, or made up on the spot. Journalists write stories for newspapers, and gossips spread stories that may or may not be true. A story can be historical; the root of story, the Latin word historia, means both "history" and "story.”” 


Furthermore, co-creating the definition of a ‘story’ is a collaborative exercise that I engage in with my graduate-level students. We come up with a class definition, starting with students thinking on their own, determining how they believe a story is best defined. They then pair up with another individual to combine, refine and define. This meeting-of-the-minds continues in sequence, as pairs find another pair to join, and then a pair of pairs finds another and so on, until the class is one large group with one complete definition, co-created by all in the room. We then work to discuss and clarify parts of the definition that don’t feel quite right. It’s an arduous process, but also a highly satisfying method of discovery, resulting in a deeper understanding at the end of 45 minutes. Here is the definition from the most recent cohort I worked alongside: “A story is a sequence of events anchored around a conflict, communicated as a narrative (fiction or nonfiction) that connects experiences and ideas between individuals by moving beyond stating facts into bringing a situation to life using emotion to express and engage.” 


While I’m not sure any succinct definition can be truly all-encompassing, I appreciate that the former definition includes the various mediums, formalities and verifiability that stories can exist within. Further, while history contains an infinite number of stories (if one considers the telling through multiple perspectives, multiple formats and in multiple modalities), it’s neat to think that ‘history’ and ‘story’ come from the same root. I appreciate that the latter definition uses the word connection to describe what stories can do and how this is accomplished through expression of emotion. Both definitions allude to the fact that stories are more than simply a sequence of facts, and in this way stories are intentional in the ways that they are told.


Now, where do we start this story intentionally? 


In her book “The Perfect Story: How to Tell Stories That Inform, Influence, and Inspire”, author Karen Eber explains that “the secret of storytelling is that it doesn’t start with the story; it starts with the audience.” This allows the audience to remain at the centre of the story, the storyteller weaving meaningful details throughout, relevant to the specific audience. Stories that don’t work, fall flat or seem pointless centre the storyteller instead, and neglect to include these meaningful details. Eber shares this helpful comparison: “Just like an image changes when twisting a kaleidoscope, one story could be told in many ways to focus on different perspectives and connections.”  


So, dear audience, here we are. YOU are the centre of this story and I will do my very best to construct the story in a way that connects and keeps you at the centre. My hope is that connection is precisely what you’ll experience when listening to this series. Although you may practice a creative discipline different than those featured here, I hope that you may find resonance within this audio, having your own story reflected through one or more voices. 


For this connection to begin, the best place to start is with the humans behind the stories. In this first episode, I’m excited to introduce you to each of the nine creative voices whose stories you’ll hear over the coming series. From a brand designer to performance artists to fine artists, a songwriter and beyond, each individual in this series communicates with the world through their art and their design. 


To begin, I asked each creative this simple and complex, easy yet difficult question: What is your story?



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First let’s meet Nansy Khanano who is a video game artist, creating stories through the building of authentic worlds. Nansy is a 3D environment artist who crafts immersive digital worlds, drawing inspiration from her background in art history. With notable contributions to projects like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the live action series: Avatar the Last Airbender and Apex Legends, Nansy’s career is rich with diverse gaming experiences. 





Nansy teaches in creative circles, as does our next guest. By day, Guy Anabella is a fierce Creativity Professor in Ontario. She empowers her students to be their true selves and to use creativity to change the world for the better. At night, she transforms into Guy Anabella, a drag artist drawing inspiration from her Guyanese heritage. Her mission in drag is to dismantle traditional gender binaries, celebrate her Caribbean culture, and empower individuals through creativity. 





Bella began down a business-focused path but creative practice became her career, as did our next guest Dusty Folwarczny. Dusty uses her people skills, big picture mindset and entrepreneurial spirit to connect the dots at Ink Factory, a visual note-taking company. Dusty has an uncanny ability to see a small needle in a large haystack. She’s always generating ideas and loves to foster new partnerships. In her other life, Dusty is a professional sculptor complete with a welding studio.


Dusty uses colour and imagery to tell stories, as does our next creative, brand identity designer, Carla Palette. People-pleasing is boring, passive and inauthentic. Carla creates influential and provocative brand experiences by challenging people to make bold and unconventional statements that acknowledge current social tension, cultivating meaningful connections between progressive brands and socially conscious audiences with high expectations. 



Carla works with fashion, lifestyle and music brands, creating memorable identities. Our next creative, Barbra Lica, is a JUNO-nominated singer-songwriter-producer and a seasoned act on the North American club and festival circuits. She has headlined at festivals around the world and her first-ever self produced album, Imposter Syndrome, garnered her two 2024 Canadian Folk Music Awards nominations in the categories of Single of the Year (In 40 Years) and Solo Artist of the Year. The album single, The Ghost of Me, took home the 2023 Ontario Folk Music Awards CMRRA Song of the Year prize.




Barbra dabbled in the world of sciences but ultimately an artistic path became her focus, which is a similar experience to our next creative Brit Chida. Brit is a visual artist and writer whose work explores trauma & healing, queerness, and connection. 





Brit started their artistic journey ‘late’ by traditional standards, whereas our next guest started professionally from a very young age. Christian Danielson is a tattoo artist who found inspiration and excitement through the design and creation of traditional subjects in a Neo-asian style. He works on large pieces with an emphasis on subjects from myth and flowing backgrounds, created with movement and layers of depth. Christian is the co-owner of Duskwood Ink Tattoos in Markham, Ontario. 





While Christian admits to not spending a lot of time in the classroom during his school years, our next creative, Bonny, spends lots of time in the classroom. Bonny Spence Dieterich is an educator, consultant, and author whose passion for teaching and learning drives her work. With over 25 years of experience in elementary and special education, Bonny coaches teachers and collaborates with teams to develop solutions for all ranges of learning. As the author of Recess Magic, she relates her own encounters as a person with multiple disabilities to elevate disability awareness in schools and organizations.


Bonny took a leap of faith in taking her story out of the trash folder and our next creative, Ariel’s, practice is composed of many continuous leaps of faith. Ariel Benavidez is a certified Breathwork Facilitator and Writer who focuses on helping others navigate their internal space of emotions and thought. His Work is to create experiential opportunities for people to explore their inner reality with the intention of rebuilding and strengthening their relationship with their intuition.


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My purpose in this series is to tell a story about stories; the existence of multiple truths, the magic of making, and how we are not so different from one another in what motivates us to tell stories, our experiences sharing them with others and the ways that we reflect on the entire experience.


I aim to showcase the individuals you’ve just met; each with a myriad of lived experiences, ideas and beliefs that weave a rich tapestry and paint a larger picture than any individual narrative ever could. There’s nothing quite like a story to make us feel human and connected to ourselves and to the world around us.


In the next episode, I pose the question: How do you integrate storytelling into your creative practice, and what role does it play in shaping your vision?


To be continued…


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Sound & Music Credits



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