Interview by Jason Setnyk | Photo by Tracy Lynn Chisolm
Cornwall, Ontario – Meet Brett Desrosiers, a theatre artist, writer, director, and textile artist born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, who moved back to her hometown in 2013. She spent years directing productions for various theatre groups at the Ottawa Fringe Festival and had the opportunity to work with a performance arts studio in Gananoque for several years. After becoming a mother, Brett realized how much she enjoys youth theatre.
Brett has worked for non-profit groups, like Dreams in Motion, New Leaf, TAMIR, The Not So Amateur, Amateurs in Kingston, The Native North American Travelling College (ran a drama program), Cornwall Art Walk (Family Zone creator and coordinator), and Beyond 21. Through her non-profit work, Brett has always incorporated her art expertise with her work.
Advocacy for disabilities is a huge part of Brett’s everyday life. Brett, who founded Miss D’s Creations/Workshop, shares that she was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in her youth. She uses the ability to read lips and hearing aids to understand. Also, Theatre training helped her with a severe speech impediment.
Five Questions with The Seeker
1 – What is your artistic education and background? Are you self-taught, did you do an apprenticeship, or go to art school?
“I knew I always wanted to go into theatre, so I ended up doing a two-year course at Algonquin College and had the opportunity to work with great theatre professionals from across Ontario and Quebec; including the awesome Scott Florence, who was my biggest influence in physical comedy and one that pushed me to work with Eddie May Murder Mysteries. Upon graduation, I received the Founder’s Cup award and was told to pursue my Undergrad degree by a wonderful professor, Donnie Laflamme. I did this while also losing my Mother to Stage 4 Breast Cancer (my hardest year ever). My Mother was my advocate and a massive supporter of the arts.
I went to the University of Ottawa and ended up graduating with a Specialization B.A. with Honours in Theatre Arts and a secondary in Religious Studies. I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful professors during my time there, and I still keep in touch with many. It was an interesting time, and I ended up graduating with my second baby on the way (I was 8 months pregnant). In the Fall, I am hoping to finish my MFA.”
2 – If you went to art school, what was that experience like? Would you recommend that to others?
“I would recommend theatre school to those that truly want to have a life in this field, whether it is pursuing theatre as an occupation or if you are interested in teaching in the field. It is both a self-confidence-boosting field and feeling demoralized at times because your performance style may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m a short hearing impaired woman here with charisma, so yeah.”
3 – Do people commission artwork from you, and if yes, how does that process work?
“I have always done Textile art for years, especially in my youth, when I was creating hemp jewelry out of stones and other materials. I do a lot of custom/commission pieces for people, which had made me really busy during the beginning of the pandemic, which I couldn’t run plays or teach in-person classes. It helped me and my business survive. I can be reached through my website www.missd.ca or through email at [email protected].”
4 – Do you participate in events or art shows or exhibits? Tell us about that.
“Over the years, I used to participate in the Williamstown Fair and Cornwall Food Fest. Over the last 6 years, I have had a booth of my art and class information at events such as W3G Trunk Sale, Apples and Arts, Cornwall Art Walk, and CAPE (4 times prior to the pandemic). I also would be at events in Ottawa and Kingston.
Apples and Arts is a wonderful studio tour, and now I am part of a wonderful group at 125 Pitt Street in Cornwall, and it is great to have a space with some fellow amazing artists.”
5 – What are the challenges that you face as an artist?
“As a performance artist, my challenges are in the field of my hearing loss. I am not a singer because I cannot hear the notes, and, in the past, I used to direct musicals in Gananoque. I had the opportunity to work with great music directors like David Carr, Justin Coutu, and Anna Russell, and this helped.
Regarding my Textile art, I find there was a growth in Textile artists during the pandemic, and it became overloading, so I try to stay true to myself and be my own person. I prefer creating smaller pieces over large ones, but I still see beauty in both. I had the opportunity to create a collection for the Cline House Gallery Conservatory Space this past summer. “It was Brett, in the Conservatory, with a Wall Hanging.” A month before this, I made a separate art collection for Tilly’s Eatery & Delicatessen, and this was amazing to see my pieces up while people were enjoying delicious meals and, of course, coffees!”
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