The Landscapes and Myths of our Lives

November 2018

“The arts have the power to break down boundaries and bring us to the places of humanity and connection,” says Thunder Bay’s Eleanor Albanese. “If I had a mantra, it would be that.”

Albanese grew up in a bustling, active and diverse neighbourhood on the city’s north side, and she credits this early experience for shaping her cultural identity.

“I came from a big family,” says Albanese, “In an amazing, immigrant neighbourhood. I grew up connected with children from different nationalities and heard so many different languages that it was just part of the landscape of my life. My mother had an open door philosophy and inclusivity was the law. I brought so much from my childhood into my path as an artist – it really was amazing fodder for the imagination.”

As a child, Albanese was always drawn to the arts, and she considers herself a multi-disciplinary artist. She has sculpted with fabric and wood. She has performed with puppet and dance. She has told story in written word and feature film. There is a shining quality to her work that seems to transcend its form and, while her work is grounded in Northwestern Ontario, it quickly began to set her feet upon a wider stage. From the Alberta Cultural Playwriting Award for ‘Crane Dance’ in 1985, to the Ottawa Little Theatre’s National Competition Sybil Cook Award for ‘Night Wings’ in 2014, her works have been performed in communities as far away as Iqaluit, Ireland and Croatia, resonating with audiences all around the world. The combination of creativity and community are themes that flow through all of her art.

“We’re always in our heads,” says Albanese. “We judge. We create fences. But when we engage through creativity, our language becomes metaphor, imagery, story. In my experience this creates bridges, and creativity opens us up to a deeper, fuller, very different part of self.”

Albanese is convinced that people don’t need ‘talent’ to be creative, and in fact, that most people are already leading creative lives without knowing it.

“I always hear people say that they can’t draw a stick figure,” she says with a grin. “If you’re a cook, if you fix things that are broken, if you tell stories, you are creating. You may not have chosen the life path of being an artist which of course does involve years of dedication, but creativity exists for everyone, regardless of ‘experience’”.
Albanese is an effective arts educator, and over the last few years, she has brought her vision to community-engaged arts workshops, aimed at exploring the link between wellness, creativity and community.

“Creativity is conducive to wellness,” she says. “Connecting with our own history removes barriers, and opens doors within community, and within ourselves. It’s particularly effective for those living with mental health issues and dementia – having sensory prompts like taste and touch can take you into a journey of self. It becomes another language for people to express themselves if/when that gets hard.”

‘Life getting hard’ seems to be another theme that runs much of Albanese’s work. Her upcoming novel, ‘If Tenderness Be Gold’ is inspired by three generations dealing with a difficult birth in rural Northwestern Ontario. ‘The Cradle of Fiorella’ is a play that explores loss and grief in an intimate setting, and two of Albanese’s workshops are entitled “Places of Departure Through Personal Story” and “Homecoming & Departure.”

I wonder how the recurring theme of grief, loss and departure figure into the profoundly relatable nature of her art.

“I think struggle is key for me,” she says. “Death is taboo. We don’t like to talk about it. We concentrate on the event of a funeral and hope that it will disappear, but grief takes years and years and never really disappears. It becomes part of the myths of our lives and we journey with loss our whole lives. A profession in the arts helped me through some very difficult time and as an artist, I’m looking for those places where people connect with their own stories. I want to share that journey with others.”

But Albanese is an optimist, and in her work, you find joy, breakthrough and light. She weaves a subtle and beautiful balance through all the stages, and faces, of life.

Still creating, still pulling community together, Eleanor Albanese has a full slate of upcoming works. Her visual art is on display at In Common Restaurant until the new year, and her novel, ‘If Tenderness Be Gold,’ will be released in 2019, by Latitude 46 Publishing. Other published works include ‘The Queen of Peter Street’, published by Canadian Woman Studies: les cahiers de la femme, ‘A Season of Cloudberries’ published by Arctic Journal, ‘The Runaway Train’, published by Walleye Arts Magazine and ‘A Thread to My Mother’s Kitchen’ published by Burning Books Press. Albanese is also published in three anthologies with Playwrights Canada Press.

She welcomes the chance to connect, but be warned: she may unleash more than a little creativity into your life.

Find Eleanor on Facebook and on her website at

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

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