Joan Carne & Louise Towell: 2009 AHN Awardee

“We have always believed that imagination would save the world.  Art is imagination made tangible, and when artistic works are created through a process with intent to heal, magic happens.” ~ Joan Carne & Louise Towell

The Arts & Healing Network is delighted to present one of the 2009 AHN Awards to Joan Carne & Louise Towell, co-founders of Stream of Dreams – a non-profit that educates communities about the life and function of their watersheds, rivers and streams, while dazzling them with the charm of community art. Stream of Dreams participants learn about their local eco-system and then create art about it – such as murals made by weaving handmade “Dreamfish” into chain link fences. They have done a wonderful job connecting with schools and young children. Founded in 2000, Stream of Dreams has educated and delighted thousands of people in communities throughout the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada.

The Arts & Healing Network is deeply impressed by the way this project weaves together civic engagement and art making. Its origin story is a wonderful model of how two citizens took creative action to combat pollution that was killing local fish and damaging waterways. They have spread their message so effectively that this year Stream of Dreams plans to complete the 100,000th Dreamfish, representing 100,000 people who have learned about their connection to the rivers and oceans through making art.

Below is an e-mail interview by Arts & Healing Network Director, Mary Daniel Hobson with Joan Carne & Louise Towell from August 2009:

Mary Daniel: Do you believe art can be a catalyst for healing and transformation?

Joan & Louise: Yes. We have always believed that imagination would save the world.  Art is imagination made tangible, and when artistic works are created through a process with intent to heal, magic happens. Our art process leads to understanding the need for healing. With understanding there can be action. We all have it in our power to heal our streams, rivers and ocean if we know what to do. In our work, art is the hook - the catalyst - that brings the Stream of Dreams transformative message to communities. We combine creating fence art murals with learning watershed science; facts are woven into storytelling with the use of artistic props and maps; all participants paint their own Dreamfish to speak to the larger community.
Mary Daniel: The theme uniting all the Arts & Healing Network Awardees this year is WATER. Please talk a bit about how your work is inspired by healing the waters of our world. 

Joan & Louise: The Stream of Dreams project was inspired by the need to heal our neighborhood creek, Byrne Creek, also Louise’s childhood stream. The creek had been poisoned through the storm drain system. Everything, including 5,000 fish died. We needed to bring awareness of Byrne Creek to the community to help people understand how changes in their behavior could improve – heal – the creek. 

As people in other watersheds wanted to learn about their local streams the project reached into more and more communities. We realized that all the local streams we were talking about with children lead to our one ocean, and that healing individual creeks will in time lead to healing of the ocean. It is a powerful message that we are privileged to share with children. "Healing water" begins in our yards, streets, sinks, and toilets. It begins with carefully choosing what to buy, what and when to drive, what to put down drains. It begins with realizing that we all can make a difference.

Mary Daniel: What advice do you have for other artists wishing to create positive change in the world? 

Joan & Louise: Never give up or think you’re not doing enough! Small changes make a difference. Small shifts have a ripple effect. Engage people in issues and solutions through your art.

Mary Daniel: So many artists write to us at the Arts & Healing Network looking for funding and support. Do you have any advice you might offer them?

Joan & Louise: Since our organization is geared toward eco-education, our work is largely supported by the environmental grants side. Seek funding sources related to the issues you care about.

Mary Daniel: Please share one book, person, or resource that has deeply inspired you in your creative work. 

Joan & Louise: Salmon

Mary Daniel: Is there anything else you would like to say or share? 

Joan & Louise: Let your passion for an issue or need for healing be your guide.

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