The arts community of Oshawa bands together

Jessica Stoiku Cora Reid singing along with guests to Bob Marley's Three Little Birds.

Through open mic performances, members of Oshawa’s arts community were able to experience “a love and a connection that is overwhelming.”

That’s the opinion of Cora Reid, host of the open mic event and founder of EPEC (Experience Pure Energy Connections), who says she made those connections with artists, including members of Spoken Weird, at The LivingRoom Community Art Studio last month.

The small studio in downtown Oshawa was filled with a couple dozen poets, musicians, storytellers and members of the community.

Throughout the evening performers shared their personal stories and struggles through song and poetry to a room of complete strangers. Despite the different walks of life stepping through the door, the room held a sense of unity and belonging.

Jessica Stoiku Guest to The LivingRoom paints live as fellow community members perform.
Jessica Stoiku
Guest to The LivingRoom paints live as fellow community members perform.

Sid MacIsaac, founder of the spoken word poetry group Spoken Weird in Oshawa, became addicted to the adrenaline of performing their poetry.

“It’s like dancing with just your chest and just your heart. I feel so anxious when I’m up there. I hate that I love to do this,” they say. Through Spoken Weird, MacIsaac hopes to provide an outlet for those to express their hardships.

“A lot of the stories I just came in for really…connected with me,” says Heather Ballantyne, guest to The LivingRoom. “I have been a nomad my whole life. I have never come across this space where there is so much acceptance and love and understanding and [a] genuine feeling of community,” she says.

Kathleen Finely shared The Goose Story by Dr. Harry Clarke Noyes. Finely connected the story of teamwork and belonging to the dynamics of The LivingRoom.

“This says so much to me about what this space is, about the community that it offers all of us,” she says. “I always wanted to fly with the flock. I was always falling to earth. [I] wanted to be found…to be guided. All I ever wanted was to be in the group. So I’m here in this space, and maybe I will find it.”

Reid believes the world would not thrive without artists.

“We’re world changers, we’re the ones that…are able to express what people are afraid to say, afraid to feel and afraid to think,” she says. “When you embrace that, you realize how special and unique you really are.”

Witnessing the raw performances brought tears to Reid’s eyes.

“I didn’t intend to be emotional. Every person’s story has touched me on a level…I just thought I was the only one,” says Reid, her voice cracking.

Reid used to go through life thinking she was the only one to have ever felt abused, mistreated and marginalized. The connection she felt to each performer was unreal.

“Here’s a group of artists, beautiful people, that have all been through the same thing. I’m feeling you on such a level that it’s overwhelming, and I’m feeling a love and a connection that is overwhelming,” says Reid.

Reid hopes to see the art community having a greater impact in Durham Region. Reid wants to show “the politicians…the police officers… the teachers that this is what it’s all about. It’s about being inclusive; it’s about accepting people. There’s a lot our community can learn from this,” says Reid.