Leah Casey is 26 years old and lives in Alberta, Canada. Describing herself as being a very lucky stay at home Mom of two amazing human beings, and is married to, in her words, her biggest supporter who always has the best listening ears and who isn’t afraid to tell her the truth. Leah has a background in Social Work, which tends to trickle into a lot of her work. According to Leah any and all of her writing has been for her own enjoyment, to express her feelings, and really has just been an outlet to get all the things that bounce around in her head, free.
We at ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL absolutely loved her work and so asked her a few questions:
What motivated you to deal with the subject of Education in your art?
“Honestly? My kids. Every belief I’ve ever held has been a part of my soul. Something that isn’t easily altered, and when I had my children it became so much more than a belief. It became a reality. Something that I couldn’t just fling around or hold onto like a talisman, I have to live it. Or else I’m not really being true to myself.”
Tell us why you chose this submission?
“I created this particular submission because I feel like there is so much more to education and learning than what any institution or piece of paper can give you. There are a lot of basic skills that are being lost now with the amount of technology we use. The learning that is available in any given situation is astounding, yet many people overlook that. Practical, real life skills, along with an open mind and a thirst for knowledge is the basis. Somehow we’ve forgotten that, when all we do is stare at a screen or sit in a classroom listening to someone else’s experiences instead of creating our own. I’m not saying classroom settings are a negative way to learn, but not everyone can learn that way, and even when you can you need to be able to question what you are being taught and see it from all angles.”
“This piece is about the real education I want for my child. Sometimes we place too much value on the accomplishments that come in writing, and give very little notice to those accomplishments felt in ones heart. My daughter will always know that I want her to succeed and strive for excellence. However, my idea of what constitutes success and excellence aren’t always mainstream. She’s four years old, and she has enough confidence in herself and with me as her mother to walk into a room and make her own introductions, politely. She is strong enough to climb into a dentist chair and have more work done than an adult and still smile and give a ‘thumbs up.’ She has enough respect for herself to tell me when I have hurt her feelings, how, and what I could have done differently. To me that is success. That is her excelling. She asks questions and digs deeper when I tell her, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” “No it’s not Mom, there’s a reason,” she’ll say. As frustrating as it can be, it is also wonderful. I know, that if I can keep her curious mind working, that she will always be able to question what is being said. She will learn that sometimes it is the truth, and sometimes it is not. A lot of times there is more to it. I want her to dig for those truths. Be engaged, be curious, be the one person who will stop the conversation and ask, “but why.” That is the education I want her to find. In every possible moment, learn.”
Our Intrinsic Education
By Leah Casey
There are moments when I look at my daughter and think, “How will I ever be able to let you grow in this world? How will I be able to teach, encourage and nurture all that you will need? How will you become the courageously empathetic soul that I long you to be?” My answer lies hidden in her eyes. She is my future. She is this world’s future. And she already has all the answers to all the questions I am terrified of asking. I simply hold the key to help her unlock them.
I often forget that I am raising this small girl to be a young woman who can reflect, persevere, envision, communicate and guide. Life skills. These are the life skills that will create her reality. An education that is priceless. Learning all that she will need, to become the person that she is meant to be. The best part of that is how easily it can be altered and rearranged.
I want her to seek her own truth, and question her every education. Push the boundaries and all the limits she places on herself, and those that society confines her to as well. I am that base, that cornerstone. The guiding force that will give her all the tools she will need to go out into this world and draw in her own enlightenment. To find a teaching in every situation, every moment. Her own hearts education will always be the most important and the most worthwhile. Knowing yourself, understanding your past, and realizing why you are the way that you are is the most humbling of lessons. From there your capacity for knowledge is limitless.
I never want her to have a moment where she will feel like she has to “come out” of any closet. For as her mother I would feel like a failure, if I ever gave her a reason to be there in the first place. But others won’t be so kind. There is a fallacy we hide behind, that education can strip all labels. The truth is, education in and of itself is a label. And a soul crushing one for many, at that.
Education in our young women is crucial. However, formal education is the slippery stone we often cast out, measuring the greatness of the person based on how large or how many ripples it creates. As mothers it is time to say, “Go out into the world! Discover your own education! Build your own insight and truths and knowledge.” For as important as it might be that we educate, uplift and inspire these young women. The truth is, there will come a day when they will need to do it on their own. They will need to find all of the answers that their hearts long for, on their own. No piece of paper, title, political affiliation, religion, or relationship can find it for them. It lies in their hearts, and all we can do is help them to understand that true education comes from within themselves.
Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?
“That’s an interesting way to look at it. I’m not sure I chose writing, really. If I could be good at other things perhaps I could choose between them. But for now, writing is the only medium that has been given to me, that allows me to express everything I feel. Words are just my thing.”
What is your process when creating?
“I talk, a lot. I think, a lot. Often I have conversations going on in my head about things I’d like to talk about with my children. Conversations that I see coming up in the future, and I try to think out all the different ways I would like to handle those situations. However, if I’m sitting down to write on a particular subject, I just start writing and it flows out. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not. “
Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?
“I’m just influenced by people, and my feelings. Everything I write comes from a place of intense emotions; passion, love, pride, anger, hurt. In general, I can’t say I’ve ever been inspired by anyone or anything, but each piece individually absolutely is.”
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
“To me, feminism is any movement that builds women up instead of tearing them down or belittling them. Do I want my son and daughter to be on the same playing field when it comes to employment, relationships, economics and the way society views them in general? Abso-freaking-lutely. Yes, I believe in that equality. Shouldn’t everyone?”
What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?
“I read the call for artists and thought, “Well, that’s cool. What a neat idea.” And I nearly skipped over it, but something drew me back. I had something I needed to say. I pondered it and then went on with my day, thinking that I’d probably end up forgetting all about it. I couldn’t. I came back and started reading ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL’s webpage. I couldn’t stop smiling. In ASLI’s mission I found a mirror, reflecting back my own beliefs, and I couldn’t just step away.”
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
“Absolutely not. I feel like in order to be taken seriously, you need to stand up and be yourself. Fitting into someone else’s pre-made brick box in order to be taken seriously is ridiculous. If you do that, you’re not taking yourself seriously. In any situation that I have felt pressure to do that, I have quickly turned and walked away, because it wasn’t somewhere or something I wanted to be a part of any-ways with ideas like that.”
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
“No. Every once in a while I will get glimpses of it, but it’s not concrete, yet. Even with gender stereotypes. It shows a lot about people’s way of thinking when they can’t even handle my son’s long hair and they feel they have the right to comment about it. It makes you wonder what they truly think about all the really important stuff that they don’t bring up.”
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
“This question hurts my heart a little. It feels like for the last few years I’ve had blinders on, just trying to raise my children. It’s been a long time since I’ve set my Mom hat down and thrown on my activist one. Instead of just talking the talk, it’s time for me to walk the walk again and show my children how to do that. Where I am at in my life I am being drawn to issues like death with dignity, basic needs for children and young families, senior care, and as always general stereotypes.”
How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?
“Maybe the way I say something will resonate with somebody and give them the opportunity look at an issue in a new light. Perhaps someone will challenge what I say, and offer me that choice. If it creates dialogue, then it’s only a matter of time before it creates change. I do what I do because I enjoy it, if it creates change for the better then I am all for that.”
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
“Art is such an expression of who we are and how we feel. It doesn’t matter what medium is used it is always created by our hearts. To me it means being able to save yourself through your expression, or sometimes in very unbeknownst ways, being able to save someone else. Or even just touch them. Give them a spark to see, to guide, to glance at and let them know that someone else has been where they are. Writing “saves” me every single time. Too much gets trapped in this mind of mine, and I have to release it, or I tend to over-think, over-analyse and go a wee bit crazy. In a real cliché kind of way, it saves me from myself.”
What are your goals as with your art?
“I write because it makes me happy. If I ever do it because I have to I won’t enjoy it. My goals are to bring moments back to life for my children, capture the feeling in the room, create pieces that I can reflect back on and say, “Yes. That was my life.” And be transported back there. If I can make some really bold and powerful statements here and there as well, perhaps it will give me a little more credence in myself.”
What is your next project or piece that you are working on?
“Right now, I am in the process of starting a website. My husband had mentioned to me countless times that I should start something. “People will read it!” he said. I’m not sure if I’m ready for any sort of following, and I don’t know if what I have to say is anything new or worthwhile. But I do want to preserve my kids’ childhoods. I do want somewhere to be me, and to release. So my next project is just that, little bits of me, preserved in time for my children.”