A new turn in artistic expression for well-known painter and printmaker Don Li-Leger is also a boon to Sources’ White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank.
Balancing Act, a 15-minute video created by Li-Leger, is a low-key, poetic, yet inevitably provocative piece in which stereotypical attitudes about food banks and their users are contrasted with the realities of Sources’ food bank, those who staff it and those who depend on it.
Not intended as a gritty, hard-hitting polemic, Balancing Act nonetheless suggests important questions by gently probing the social conscience of the community, while depicting clients and volunteers alike with simple dignity.
Without sensationalism, Li-Leger’s well-crafted and thoughtful video creates a convincing argument for the existence of food banks in general, and Sources’ food bank in particular, as a first, crucial step, not only in providing food, but in helping people get lives back on track.
“It’s a very good thing for us,” said Sources’ executive director David Young, who is one of those Li-Leger interviewed on-screen for the project.
“We shall be using it in our presentations to service clubs and to schools.”
Some 75 people packed the meeting room/exhibit space at White Rock Community Centre for the video’s premiere screening June 7, which was attended by White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Coun. Helen Fathers, and also featured a post-screening panel with Li-Leger, Young and Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Jagrup Brar.
The video will also be screened for all of White Rock council in July, at the request of Baldwin, Young said.
Just prior to the screening, Li-Leger took time to discuss his new artistic role and how the video came about.
“I see it really as an extension of my print-making and painting,” he said.
Originally noted for the environmental compassion of his highly-detailed nature paintings, Li-Leger has spent the last two decades exploring a poetic fusion of abstract elements with recognizable elements of geometry, calligraphy, botany and collage, in itself an outgrowth of his passionate interest in creating monoprints.
“I really like contemporary art videos,” said Li-Leger, who added that he started experimenting with video equipment as a means of expression four years ago. Balancing Act is his first completed video, he said, but others are in the works.
“It’s like painting,” he said of his approach to shooting and editing his footage.
“I don’t want to treat it in a formal way. I like to experiment and put things together from experiences that happen along the way – that’s what I find exciting.”
Balancing Act grew out of discussions with now-retired food bank manager Ruth Chitty, he said.
“I had painted all the windows for the food bank for Ruth and when I started talking about making a video, she gave me unparalleled access to clients and volunteers, the suppliers, donors and relatives.”
What he captured with his camera – including a haunting tune performed impromptu for volunteers on a handcrafted whistle by a longtime client – helped determine the form and feel of the piece, Li-Leger said.
“I really got involved in the whole sense of community; how committed it is and how compassionate it is.”
At the same time, Li-Leger said, he felt it was important to include negative views of food banks that are also prevalent in the world – including the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
“The Salvation Army recently conducted a study in which it found that around 47 per cent – almost 50 per cent – of people surveyed felt that those in poverty should pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” he said.
“People in this video voiced this feeling, and it clearly represents their viewpoint because they gave me full permission to include their comments,” he said.
“Personally, I find that 47 per cent astoundingly high. But the purpose of the video is not to teach people to be more compassionate. I want people to know what the issues are about those in need.”
To view a streaming version of Balancing Act, visit www.sourcesbc.ca