Improvisation, Political Engagement, and Wellness

With Dr. Mario Blaser, Lori Clarke, and Josh Smee & the Happy City Improv Team

Arts and Culture Centre MMAP Gallery (2nd Floor, above MMAP offices)
Tuesday, April 5th from 7:30pm-9:30pm

Join us at 7:30pm in the MMAP Gallery for an evening of discussion the connections between improvisation, wellness, and our ability to avoid despair while pursuing positive change in the world. Our panelists for these evening each straddles the worlds of scholarship and community service and the discussion promises to inject hope and energy into the improvisation we all engage in every day as we strive to make the world a better place.

This event and the March and May sessions of Improvising Spaces will begin with our panel discussion (7:30-9pm) which will be followed by an open sound and movement jam hosted by Sara Pun. We encourage you to bring instruments or clothes you are comfortable moving in and to spend half an hour (9-9:30pm) sounding and moving with us after the discussion.

Dr. Mario Blaser:

Self-government for Aboriginal communities often involves a desire to improve their living conditions and achieve their own visions of a good life. From the perspective of the enveloping societies’ institutions and wider public this implies that Aboriginal communities seek to achieve ‘development.’ However, this concept often leads to misrecognizing the goals many Aboriginal communities seek with self-government, and this has dire consequences as the concept of development is often associated with value-laden notions such as technological progress, the accumulation of wealth, and the control of nature. These notions may not correlate or even be compatible with Aboriginal notions of improved living conditions and a good life.

Dr. Blaser’s research builds on a series of insights gained through research and collaboration with colleagues and Aboriginal leaders from North and South America. From this collaboration came the concept of ‘life projects’. The guiding hypothesis of his research is that ontological conflicts, or different ways of conceptualizing what constitutes reality, are central to the difficulties Aboriginal peoples face when trying to articulate and pursue their life projects.

In contrast to development, the concept of life projects refers to visions of a good life that are grounded in the particular experiences (historical, ecological and spiritual) of particular peoples in particular places, without assuming that they have universal validity. As Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies, Dr. Blaser will work with communities to explore Aboriginal’s life projects, as well as the obstacles that ontological differences pose to the pursuit of these goals.

Lori Clarke:

Lori is an artist and performer who has collaborated with dance and theatre artists and writers, integrating sound design and music into work for stage and screen for more than 25 years. Lori has an MA Somatic Psychology and is currently an Interdisciplinary PhD Candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland under the supervision of Dr. Brenda LeFrançois. As an artist-researcher she is interested in human responses to loss, particularly in relation to ecological changes. Through Lori's counselling practice she works with persons responding to challenging and traumatic experiences and suffering from all kinds of losses. Lori is currently entering her second year of training in Somatic Experiencing™ through the International Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute - a body-centred approach to trauma resolution.

Josh Smee:

Joshua Smee is a passionate community-builder in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he works to make the city (and the province) a greener, more connected, more compassionate place.

At the Community Sector Council NL, his professional life is all about giving nonprofits the tools they need to thrive. As a volunteer, Josh works with the NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre and chairs the boards of the thriving St. John’s Farmers’ Market Cooperative and of Happy City St. John’s, which has spent the past five years pushing for more creative approaches to urban development. He is also part of a great team building St. John’s first carsharing cooperative.

After dialing back his day job and hitting the books, Josh is now finishing an MA that had him hitting the streets to do Canada’s first study on the way urban design affects our civic and social engagement.

Sara Pun:

Sara Pun, MMT, MTA, ARCT, is a music therapist and music educator. Currently she is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University in Newfoundland. Her thesis project is about leading a community-engaged gamelan group to promote musical and intercultural dialogue. Her most recent publication is Song Resources for Music Therapists (Lee and Pun, 2015) and Composition and Improvisation Resources for Music Therapists (Lee, Pun, and Berends, 2015). Her passions are in sharing music with the community, applied ethnomusicology, and social justice. She has special interests in human rights, democracy, and the environment. Sara plays the piano, clarinet, guitar, Balinese and Sundanese gamelan, and Japanese taiko drums. She is currently an apprentice with Midnight Taiko Kai in Calgary and a performer in the Sundanese gamelan at Memorial University. Sara’s working philosophy is eclectic, music-centered, improvisational, collaborative, and psychotherapy based.


School of Music

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000