The following is the speech I prepared for my 5 min talk at a new event entitled Dreamers + Doers
I was asked to be here through my current fellowship with RADIUS. I’d like to thank Jenn McRae & Shawn Smith for connecting me with Sarah Shandl, the organizer of this great event.
I looked up. Lil Wayne’s tattooed body. His gold-filled grin. And amongst the screaming crowd and thumping bass, I asked myself, what the fuck am I doing here?!?
We’ll get back to that, but first,
let’s hop over the rockies, to good ol’ Alberta…
// ORIGINS / MORE THAN JUST 9-5.
I was born in Edmonton.
Although I came from a blue collared working class family, in which “working hard for your money” was drilled into me, it never fit. I was a quiet kid who spent pretty much all day either drawing or reading.
I was an artist, which was considered weird and useless.
I tried working as a helper in a welding fabrication shop during the summer. I worked on construction sites. But I just didn’t fit in.
It wasn’t just that I didn’t fit in with these stereotypically gruff n tough manly Albertan men.
I always thought there must be more than this.
Even though by my early 20s, I hadn’t been anywhere outside Alberta (other than a trip to Disneyland when I was a kid),
I knew there must be more than this.
My imagination, confined to being able to draw cool creatures or writing fantastical stories, was at best, up to that point, been given a pat on the head.
But what I’ve learned since is that my imagination – my dreaming – has WAY more potential than anyone, myself included, could have imagined.
// SO WHO AM I & WHY AM I HERE?
My name is Ash Tanasiychuk
(tana – SAY – chuck)
I’m a visual artist and the founder of VANDOCUMENT.
You might have seen photos of mine over the years. Since 2010, I’ve shot bands playing throughout the city, which gets us back to Lil Wayne.
How DID I find myself in a photo pit shooting Lil Wayne?
I found myself there because I took a chance.
// SHOOTING BANDS.
In July 2010, I answered a local online publication’s call for gig photographers.
At that point, I had NEVER shot ANYTHING for ANYONE other than myself.
I didn’t even have an SLR.
But it was an unpaid gig, I thought what the hell why not.
I shot the show and I instantly fell in love with live music photography. From that day, I was hooked. I loved what I was doing, and in the photos, it showed.
- Although I shot tons of bands, including Leonard Cohen at one point – I realized my talent wasn’t really contributing to anything, other than some sweets shots on the sites & publications I was shooting for.
- That fateful gig in Rogers Arena, shooting Lil Wayne, helped me realize there must be more than this.
- I realized that my talent to capture a few key moments in time could be shifted to my city’s local artists.
This is where the DOING started to come in.
// STARTING VANDOC.
Once Lil Wayne helped me realize that he didn’t need my photo talent, that my local community did, everything exploded.
I started shooting events featuring local artists. I cycled around, brought my camera everywhere, shot pics of gallery openings, artist talks, bands and performers, posted the pics, and shared them with the artists.
Everyone FREAKED OUT.
So I did it more. This energy fed me.
I shot more and more until I literally couldn’t do anymore. I realized this needed to be a bigger thing.
I brainstormed a name (VANDOCUMENT, obvious, right?) bought the url, found a theme, populated it with my own work, and launched on May 10 2013.
From there, I spoke to people. In person, online. I invited people to join. And it took no time to gather a small but amazing crew.
This is where my dreams moved from personal to communal.
It’s a buzz word, I admit.
But I choose it for a genuine reason: community building buzzes me. Electrifies me.
This is a new discovery.
As a quiet kid, I didn’t make an effort to build community.
As an artist, I just made things. I didn’t think I needed community.
But now that my dreaming had moved from simply being an artist to documenting and supporting artists, I was opening myself up to others. I began to expose myself and my beliefs to people.
// WHY THIS MATTERS.
In one of VANDOC’s first posts, entitled “On Why Art Matters”
I introduce the concept and intentions of VANDOCUMENT. Then I ask:
“But WHY? Why does our local talent deserve this attention?”
A couple of the points in particular stick out:
- Art has the capability to save me from confusion, depression, anger, and other not-so-awesome states because it reminds me that I am not alone. Music, performance, film, etc – shows me a world larger than my own and by so doing, it grounds me, calms me or invigorates me
- This grounding, calming, invigorating power of art is inherently community-building. It gives us a sense of being HERE. Whether we know the people around us or not, whether we are in a tiny village or a massive metropolis, we are not alone.
I sign off on this post with
“Support art. Love yourself. Connect with the people around you.”
I bore my soul here. By writing this, I was distilling the core essence of my dreaming into a 500 word article.
By baring my soul, I was sharing my dream. I began DOING my dream.
So what did this teach me?
Purpose that extends into & connects with other people’s lives.
In my case, paying tribute to what people do.
If people are going to put themselves on the line, if they’re going to create anything, we should at least give them a nod.
You needn’t love it. You needn’t like it. You needn’t even “get” it. But you definitely need to give that nod. Because each of these creators, even if only for that one time in their lives, have taken a dream and done it.
What we should be asking is what is their story.
What is your story? What matters to you? No, what REALLY matters? If you could realize your dream, what would that look like?
Cuz see, I’m discovering that by putting MY dream out there, by DOING my dream, I’m enabling other people to DO theirs.
I’m inviting people in to share their stories, and their dreams with me.
So, before I leave, I’d like to share:
// WHAT HAVE I LEARNED ABOUT HOW TO DO, IN ADDITION TO DREAM?
- Surround yourself with believers, supporters, and participants in your dream.
- Thank those who help you, give back to those who give to you, and create opportunities for them. Build and respect your community.
- Take chances. Lots of them. As often as possible.