Sunday, September 5, 2010

Who is this Renee chick?

I've lived in PEI for about 5 years now and I've come to realize that few people know who I am. I guess I've always flown under the radar. But my life has changed drastically over the last couple years so I've decided spread my wings and follow my passion for creative expression. I understand that to do this successfully, people need to know who I am. So here goes!

I'm originally from Southern Ontario. I went to UofT and got a BFA in Art and Art History, specializing in painting. Then I went to OCAD for New Media. I am, by trade, an editor for animation and have been for 12 years. I've worked in many studios in Toronto and Ottawa and 5 years ago my then husband, Brian Sharp, and I moved our family here for jobs at Trapeze Animation. Trapeze has since shut down but Brian and I are still business partners in our own production company, Mugisha Enterprises Inc. . We develop and produce story based digital media including an animated pilot for Teletoon called Angora Napkin, created by Island Graphic Novelist, Troy Little. We also are in development with a children's media property called the Amazing Travelling Friendship Fair which we have received significant funding for a demo website ( and for which I and Island writer, Patti Larsen, have written a picture book called "Humphrey the Helper" . Brian and I are both very active in the film, television and digital media community on PEI as members of the Island Film Factory.

The most incredible thing that has happened to me and the thing that really showed me that I can manifest whatever I want if I want it bad enough was meeting and working with one of my heroes, Peter Gabriel. Though it didn't result in a final product the experience was life changing and opened the world up to me. Nothing seemed out of reach.

Anyway back to PEI! After 4 years, my cushy job with Trapeze ended and I found myself on my own and jobless for the first time in 20 years. I had the desire to stay in PEI but no possibilities for a job in my field. And though we'd had some success at Mugisha, it had never been our main source of income. This was when that nagging voice in my head and heart started to scream louder and louder that I needed to do something in the arts.

Since my last year of high school I wanted to have a shared space where artists could work and show. When I finished University I realized there was an enormous gap between artists and the general public. I felt very alienated because I wanted people to see my art but I didn't fit into the art scene at all. It became my mission to bring art to the general public to bridge that gap somehow. I truly believe that all people need to be exposed to art to become comfortable with it and understand that it's important not only to value it in our society but to explore and value their own forms of self expression. I also believe that artists themselves need to be exposed to the general public because the art world really has become so insulated and self absorbed. When artists only make work that only other artists and people in the art industry can understand then art has really lost its power. Both sides feel alienated - artists feel misunderstood and dismissed by the general public while the general public feels intimidated and even sometimes mocked by a language they don't understand.

Over the years I've tried to bring art to the people in many ways. I co-coordinated a gallery in Toronto called Access Art Now that was located in the Toronto Eaton Centre. It was as public as you can get. We had some highly conceptual shows there and were able to present art to people who would never have stepped into a gallery on purpose. It was a very interesting experiment and I came to understand that it was going to take a lot of work and a lot of teaching to achieve my goal. From there I ran several student galleries and put on many group shows in public spaces. In fact my first year in PEI, Brian, Tara Costello, Patrick Ledwell and I put on the APE (artistic presence is essential) show in the ATC atrium. It featured over 30 artists, artisans and various creatives including a fantastic spread by the Culinary. The idea was to show that creativity is the core of a healthy community.

From there I started a group called the Lovely Witches Club with my friend Patti Larsen. We are a creativity club and currently have over 186 members world wide. The idea was to invite people to explore and express themselves creatively in an online forum. It's been extremely inspiring and many people who would never consider themselves artists have gone on to try many forms of self expression. LWC is about process over product, where self expression is viewed as vital for personal growth and healthy living. LWC also hosts socials and workshops but our main function is the Witches Ball, a SINsational extravaganza of performance and art, held annually around Halloween. We strive to present creative expression in a social forum to expose as many people as we can to art.

Click to see the Witches Ball.

That brings me to today and to MUSEartspace, the love of my life.

I wanted to create a space that would give emerging artists a proper gallery to show in, and at the same time give the general public a space in which to explore and express their most creative selves. It's a space in which to learn and be inspired, for all ages. I encourage and facilitate creative expression through all kinds of activities and courses for children, teens and adults.

I've never been one to toot my own horn but I think it's important that people should know why they should try the programming at MUSE - either for their children or themselves.

1. I'm a mother to beautiful 9 year old Ruby Sharp and I know what is missing in our schools and what I would like her to learn. I want to offer programming that gives our kids tools to express themselves, give their fears, their ideas, their experiences a voice so that they can move through them and grow up to be healthy expressive adults.
2. I've taught and created lesson plans for childrens arts classes before and this summer I taught side by side with a phenomenal teacher. He helped me to develop curriculum and gave me even more insight in what it takes to facilitate creative expression for various age groups.
3. I've spent the last 4 years learning and developing tools for personal energy management and holistic living. I had a very rough childhood and carried that into my adult life but I've healed so much and want so much to share the tools that got me to where I am today.
4. I believe that self expression is a way toward healing emotionally and physically and that teaching children and adults how to express themselves without regard to the product of that expression is a way to facilitate health in individuals.
5. I believe that facilitating creative expression in general and at the grassroots level will bring back society's regard for the arts and in turn make our community healthier.
6. I know that MUSEartspace (and other such places) can help turn around an ailing neighbourhood just by its very presence. I've seen it happen first hand in just the short time MUSE has been open.
7. I understand the need to express and the fear of doing it because you don't think it's good enough. I spent so long pushing down my feelings and ideas but I found my way out. And now I want to help others do the same.
8. I also understand the fear that comes with being a practicing artist. Laying your soul out for people to see. And needing a safe place to start your journey. I want to support emerging artists in their careers. And I want to support those more established artists who are trying something new. It never gets easy.

So that's me -- I've done a lot and learned a lot and now it's time for me to share that with the world. I hope that this introduction has cleared up some questions you may have had about me. The thing is -- I absolutely LOVE MUSEartspace!! It's an amazing place to work in and to create in. But it needs community support. So spread the word to everyone you know about the workshops and functions that happen at MUSE everyday - in fact try taking one yourself.

I have an after school creative enrichment program ready to go for 5 lucky students ages 8 to 11. There are 8 week courses for all ages from Tween, Teen, and Adult. There are drop in hours for pre-schoolers and kids. There's open studio time and evening events like singer/songwriter circles, socials, life drawing, etc! And please feel free to suggest ideas for courses or functions to me - I'm always open to what people are interested in. MUSE can also be rented for workshops and meetings. And all you artists -- I take work on consignment so bring in your stuff and let me sell it for you!

This place is for you.

It was always meant to evolve to suit the needs of those it was intended for - the community. I know I've been much more creative and expressive since being there. And everyone that walks through the doors says the same.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about me. I'm excited to see what the future holds for MUSEartspace. Hope to see you all very soon!!!

happy expressing


  1. Renee, thanks for this. i've become peripherally aware of Muse & LWC through Facebook and meeting Patti in the summer, but the backstory is both context and inspiration. i think what you're doing is fabulous, and think it will make an impact and difference in Charlottetown. cool.

  2. I can't wait for our family to be able to enjoy MUSE more and more as the kids get bigger. So happy to have it in the 'hood. Thanks for telling your own story! - Jane L.