Willow Cioppa still has art

The multi-disciplinary Montreal artist brings care in the form of poetry to the Khyber this week.

click to enlarge “I want people around me to feel like they’re safe,” says Cioppa. - SUBMITTED
“I want people around me to feel like they’re safe,” says Cioppa.

Willow Cioppa's KREAM residency
February 19-24
Khyber Centre for the Arts, 1880 Hollis St.
Poetry reading: Fri Feb 23, 6-8pm
Collective Care Among Marginalized Communities workshop:
Sat Feb 24, 2-4pm

Willow Cioppa understands care the way some of us might understand the ocean—elemental, necessary and deeply inspiring. Cioppa, a Montreal-based writer and poet, has just arrived to Halifax for a week-long residency at the Khyber Centre for the Arts, the last in this year's Khyber Residency: External Action Miracle [KREAM] series.

Cioppa says their residency will focus on working through and understanding the role care can play in marginalized communities—an interest that stems from both the identities they hold as a Black femme person and experiences in DIY arts and music communities.

During their residency, they will be reworking existing writings, facilitating a workshop on building collective care in marginalized communities, putting together a poetry comic book and presenting a poetry reading—a variety of practices that centre care as something that needs to be not only discussed, but also felt, experienced and shared with others.

"I want to make things for people who also think about care all the time, who don't really understand how to take care of themselves but know how to take care of other people," says Cioppa. "Taking care of people you share community with, sleep with or are romantically involved with, or even just sexually involved with—I think these are really important aspects of life that [can be] talked about in such an academic way but oftentimes aren't just felt."

Cioppa explains that their interest in care extends beyond artistic practice as well—they describe themself as someone "who feels best in movement" and has taken on the role of caring for others at shows and events. Cioppa's willingness to do care work for their community is central to their artistic practice, and their naming and understanding of the work that care does offers a necessary opportunity to build collective care among other communities, artistic or otherwise. It's a generous and poignant point of focus, one that feels increasingly resonant in Halifax's arts and music communities.

"It's like a cycle within my work—care comes out of my work but also seeps into it," says Cioppa. "I want people around me to feel like they're safe, they're taken care of, and that there's someone there to listen to them. I want my art to do that for other people, but my art also does that for me. If I don't have someone around or listening, I have art. If I don't know what's wrong, I still have art."

Cioppa says that, outside of their workshop and reading, they don't have much pre-planned for their KREAM residency—instead, they hope that the work they produce will be fully shaped by their experiences in residence at the Khyber. "I'm excited to be somewhere new, to be with people I know, meet new people, think about care in that way. This week, for me, is an opportunity to make the space to investigate these things that I've been thinking about in a really creative way." 

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