Meet the Artists: DDM Connective

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AbridgedDDM Connective is a
 new collaboration between three talented, experienced Calgary-based artists: Melissa McKinnon, Dave MacLeod and Dawn VandeSchoot. This union of accomplished artists brings together skills in fine arts, social practice, design, community engagement, and public art project management.
DDM Connective seeks to create contemporary, site-specific public art experiences that utilize collaborative and socially engaged experiences between artists and communities as inspiration and integration into the design of the final artwork. DDM creates work that explores a community’s connection to a site through experimental material representations of imagery into public art experiences,both permanent and temporary in nature, that create a lasting sense of place and connection to the artwork.

DDM Connective’s proposal for the Art Park public art installation is called Abridged and is a large-scale permanent artwork that represents the history of the site and the building through a tree form with etchings upon its rings. The rings are conceptually inverted, coming together into a Poplar tree shape that provides a memory of the past while proudly marking the site for its future. Made from marine grade plywood and stainless steel, this is a durable exterior artwork that will add dimension and interest to the gathering space created throughout the west side of the site.

We caught up with DDM Connective with a few questions to help us get to know the trio a bit better.

Q: Besides your art practice, are you involved in any other kind of work?

A: All three DDM artists have independent art careers.  Melissa is busy with commissions from all over the world, Dave works independently through Red Chair Creative and has installations ongoing, and Dawn is an arts consultant, performer and writer.

Q:What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?

A: We are very versatile in the materials we can work with, but the thing that grounds our practice is the community interaction that affects the work.  In a Community-based practice, we begin by assessing what we want to say, and then look at the best medium for how we want to say it.  Together we are interested in work that addresses need and affects lasting social change, no mater which medium we work within.

Q: What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?

A: Well, Melissa just got back from a residency in Italy, so mostly we’re all just reading her Facebook posts!  Because we all come from such varied and disparate practices, each time we meet and share our own findings and thoughts, we tend to inspire each other!

Q: What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?

A: Our biggest challenge right now is that we are new.  Despite our backgrounds as individuals, bidding for large public art contract with no body of work as a collective makes it hard to get started.  We are beginning at the beginning, making work on the cheap so we can start to build a portfolio and grow from there!

Q: What would you say was biggest achievement or milestone to date?

A: Getting short listed for the cSpace project!  It’s been a great learning experience and motivator on this new path together.

Q: Pretend you’re pitching your cSPACE King Edward public art proposal in an ‘elevator pitch’: How would you describe the concept in just a few sentences?

A: We were inspired by all of the stories that have come forward from the community members who have been a part of the journey of the King Edward school.  Thinking of the field of poplar trees that was removed at the site in order to build, we wanted to reflect those stories on the rings of the tree that have witnessed its history.  So, we inverted a tree so that the rings become it’s structure and, through community engaged workshops, would write a new story from the abridged stories of the past 105 years of the building’s existence and etch it on the tree rings.  Hence the title, “Abridged.”

Q: What inspired you to submit a proposal? Where did you draw your conceptual inspiration from?  

A: The cSpace initiative is so important to the arts community in Calgary, and it’s such a community imbedded space.  We were excited at the possibility of being a part of it in some way.  Our concept was created to be reflective of that community while providing a large-scale artwork to mark the site for the future.

Q: What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?

A: Public art is site specific.  An artwork that is well designed can only exist in that one place and time or it loses its meaning.  Each space is unique and its what creates the inspiration for each project.  Space is everything to what we do.

Q: What advice has influenced you?

A: “You don’t know if you don’t ask.”  We never would have gotten together as a collective if we hadn’t said to each other, “Hey, do you want to do this with me?”

Q: What do you think cSPACE King Edward will mean for the Calgary community?

A: The arts community is so often divided, it is so exciting to see so many of our prolific arts agencies coming together in one place where they will share knowledge, space and community.   We think it will create a bond and new an inspired projects will result.  Besides that, it’s an amazing and inspired space with a great history, what a great coup for Calgary!



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