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What Do You Wish To Do With Your Art? An interview with the minds behind Trent University Alternative Arts Collective

Written by
Alix Lonsdale
and
and
November 28, 2023
What Do You Wish To Do With Your Art? An interview with the minds behind Trent University Alternative Arts Collective
Graphic by Evan Robins with photos from Parker Brown and graphics by Ziggy Allin.

When I walked into my first Trent University Alternative Arts Collective (TUAAC) meeting, I was instantly surrounded by buzzing energy. The group of twenty people gathered in the lecture hall of the Sadleir House were full of energy, excitement, and creative plans for their group’s future. 

TUAAC is a newly recognized student group founded by Ziggy Allin (they/them), with the help of their band The Pajama Bottoms, and Ainsley Berry (they/she), their secretary. TUAAC is a place for creative people to connect with each other and create non-mainstream events no matter their preferred medium. Ziggy and Ainsley come from very different creative backgrounds, Ziggy is a musician, singer, and visual artist whereas Ainsley is a chainmail artist, which demonstrates the range of people who can join the collective. 

After their meeting, I had the privilege to sit with Ziggy and Ainsley to discover more about their collective. 

A.L: What inspired you to Start TUAAC?

Ziggy:  My main inspiration was the lack of similar clubs. Talking to creative friends who were constantly expressing this barrier that they felt between them and an arts community. I wanted to create a group that was very accessible. It's open to everybody and there's no pressure or precedent.

Ainsley: It's kind of like a more organized version of a smaller music scene. We're actually able to facilitate events rather than just being a group of people that don't have a foundation, we can actually bring people together. 

Ziggy: I want to use a point of organizing to contribute to the greater good, so our ability to organize could help us make an impact on local charities by creating larger donations than just one person collecting on their own.

A.L: Why do you think Trent will benefit from a group like TUAAC?

Ainsley: Culture, and being introduced to different forms of art that aren't necessarily mainstream. Like different types of music, different types of fashion, different types of visual art, and things like facilitating shows that are like half improv, half music like that's not a very common thing. It's bringing different art forms together. It's bringing culture together. It's bringing people together too that normally wouldn't see each other. For example, a rock band’s fans and an improv group’s fans necessarily wouldn't hang out on a day-to-day basis, but at the show they did. 

Ziggy: I think we can benefit by having this extreme melting pot sort of idea. Used to accustoming people to things that they don't necessarily see. There's a lot of association between art and like marginalized communities, and that has to do specifically with queer people usually, which is like the main demographic of our group.

Ainsley: It's showing people different types of art that aren't the normal, the heteronormative types of art that they're used to. It's putting the non mainstream art into mainstream spaces. One of my favorite quotes is “art disturbs the comforted and comforts the disturbed.”  I love that. It just shows that it's putting out art that is for the people who have kind of felt pushed out, felt othered. We're creating a space that you can just join because you love alternative art or any art. 

Ziggy: When you go to university the main goal is to finish with your degree. But the things that you actually remember are the experiences you have. So, the better we do at creating unique experiences, the more memorable they will be and will bring better experiences to being in university.

A.L: Why would someone want to get involved with TUAAC?

Ziggy: Because they're looking for people to collaborate with; because they're looking for somewhere to express themselves.

Ainsley: It's a good place to make friends with like minded people.

Ziggy: Yeah, literally. You don't even have to make art. If you are creative but feeling uninspired. If you are stressed about school and need an outlet. If you love being part of organizing and administrative roles, you can still help us out with that. If you love being part of something, you don’t even have to be super artsy. 

Ainsley: If you read about TUAAC and it piques your interest, it's for you.

Ziggy: If you want to know what TUAAC is about, you show up to the meeting and you become what it's about because it's all about your ideas. It's about everyone.

Ainsley: And you can come for one meeting and then never show up to another meeting again. Like if it's not for you, it's not for you. It's not a place where we're going to judge you for not showing up to a meeting. We're not going to judge you for showing up and not being able to create. 

A.L: In your opinions, why does a group like TUAAC enhance student life? 

Ziggy: To be fully raw with you, because doing art is way more fun than doing school and most people would come to a show instead of studying for their exam. And that's literally why.

Ainsley:  For me, it was really hard to make friends and I think that friends are very important when you're in school, you need a support system. You need people to rely on. Having a group where you are all like-minded people, you are able to have a group to rely on, have a support system, meet people, and have friends. Friends help student life so much more. 

A.L: Who can get involved with TUAAC?

Ainsley: Artists. Student artists.

Ziggy: We want individuals. We want lost souls to find their lost boys.

Ainsley: It always reminds me of like the kid in high school who would just, like, sit with their drawing pad in the hallway, like me, and hang out with nobody at lunch, this is who that group is for. It's for the people who don't think that they have a place, but you do in art.

Ziggy: Or you don't even have to feel like an outsider. Like I joined with my band. So, you can join as a group and use it sort of as your platform for connection and furthering that experience. Ainsley: Even if you just like to listen to alternative music or you like to see alternative art, you can join and just be a general member and be on our mailing list to be in the loop for when events happen. It's just a place for you to come to experience art.

A.L: Who are some examples of people currently involved with TUAAC?

Ainsley: We have people who do poetry, we have people who do graphic art, we have somebody who does visual art, we have people who make clothes, we have people who make jewelry, we have a lot of people who just make different things. It's not just specific to one type of art.

Ziggy: And definitely not just performance art. We want performance art to serve as the literal music to your ears while you like, look at the painting. We want to give the full experience of the serotonin overload of art, you know? 

A.L: What are some projects/events you’re currently working on hosting?

Ainsley: We're working on unique events that push the boundaries of mainstream events. So, we're wanting to do things like a fashion show concert. Like we have a band playing while we're showing fashion. Or a concert that's completely based on charity and like fundraising stuff for a specific food bank. Or having a potluck show where you can bring whatever you want. Or having open mic nights that are open to literally everything and anyone. 

Ziggy: As a group that's alternative to the mainstream, we really want to express like the relationship that the so-called mainstream has with oppression and barriers in the community surrounding arts. So, we want to do our best as people coming together to help other people. So, most of our events will hopefully involve some sort of giving back. Whether it's to a local charity, or other students. Right now, we are planning to have an open mic potluck, just to have something to get the club going that's pretty low key. We also have a show on January 12th for sure, with The Pajama Bottoms, Zoftig, and you can just say TBA opening acts, even though we already know who they are. So yeah, there's going to be a show at the Sadleir house on January 12th because we love Sadleir house. 

Ainsley: We are planning on doing a monthly Zine with a smaller group inside of our collective that just again showcases the art within our community.

Ziggy: It will be a free zine that we're hoping to publish both digitally and physically. If you want to submit to it, tell us. We want to use the zine to express in any abstract form the experiences of being a student and the experiences of being a bit of an outcast, but like the more special experience of being an outcast within a group of outcasts. 

TUAAC members gather in the Sadleir House Lecture Hall at a recent meeting. Photo: Parker Brown.

A.L: What do you have in place for artists to get in contact with each other? 

Ziggy: Our Pool of Magic!

Ainsley: It's a public list of all the artists that are involved with TUAAC, including their talent or medium(s), what art they do, their contact info, and any affiliation that they have with any club, or with any organization. 

A.L: Why do you think it's important for artists to have a means to find each other?

Ziggy: I think that art and community are simultaneous. You can't have art without community because you're going to be making it about your experiences in the world, which in some way involves other people. As soon as you release your project into anyone else's eyes, you're kind of freeing it from your control and you're putting it out there like for other people's judgment and feedback. The greater the space you have to do that, the greater potential your art has.

A.L: What has been your favourite part about starting an arts club so far?

Ainsley: Meeting new people, because there's a few people in this club that I haven't met, like I didn't know about the band Pulsar, so now I do. Now I'm able to experience new art, and I'm able to tell my other friends about their new art, and I'm able to express my art.  It's just very nice to be in a group and feel like a part of something that you actually care about, and I hope it's like that for other people too. 

Ziggy: My favorite part of it so far has been being able to see the change that people can make. Just for myself, like it's been so enjoyable to see people get excited when I tell them about the group. It’s very rewarding when people say that “this is the community that they were looking for’ even though we've barely done anything yet. Like just seeing that people are interested and they're creating ideas that I didn't ever think were possible. I'm so grateful to have been the seed of a place for people to make this beautiful collective flower. It's been so rewarding to see this sort of web start to form where it doesn't just center on the people that I know. There are people that I know who know people that I don't know, and they're making connections and then bringing them back to me, it happens much quicker in a larger group.

A.L: Tell me about what you envision for TUAAC in the future?

Ziggy: I want the Alternative Arts Collective to be a name recognized around Trent. I want people to think of events and music that they enjoyed when they hear about the collective. For it to sort of have a culture of its own, where after I graduate, I feel I can pass it down to someone because it's become its own sort of life form. I want that. Also, it’s important to note, I founded this club by myself. I recognized that I needed to do some initial decision making just to get the ball rolling, but as it continues, I want it to become less and less hierarchical, so much so to the point where ‘President’ is really just a like placeholder. A collective of people to share ideas. Emphasis on the word collective

A.L: Is there anything else you want readers to know about TUAAC?

Ziggy: I want people to know that TUAAC is a liquid, and it takes the shape of its container. What I mean by that is that I want people to be brutally honest in sharing their ideas, but also their feedback and criticism. Even if you're not part of the group yet, you can have an impact on it. Even if you're not in the group, your voice matters to us.

If reading about TUAAC piqued your interest, or you want to learn more about the collective (or submit to their zine) you can email them at trentualtartsco@gmail.com, or go to their Instagram: @tu.alternativeartscollective

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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