The spirit of art

Profile: Norah Pendergast by Julie Bull

Norah Pendergast [photo: Buzz]
Norah Pendergast

Norah Pendergast grew up in rural PEI and comes from a family of critical thinkers and creative people. Though art was not seen as a viable career path, that didn’t stop Norah from weaving artistic practices and pursuits throughout her career. She is a high school teacher who is a fierce advocate for the arts, both inside and outside the classroom. Norah is passionate and knowledgeable about visual literacy and media literacy, and she is keen to share what she knows with others.

“Teaching helps keep me connected to how other people are creating and capturing the moment, especially those who have different backgrounds and perspectives from my own.”

With an interest in arts publishing, Norah was keen to attend the first Charlottetown Zine Fest in 2022. “Zines are such a fun and accessible means of art publishing. Most people can find access to a photocopy machine, allowing wider ranges of people to publish original material.” She has since incorporated zine making in the classroom, providing a creative space for students to explore their publishing interests.

Norah’s passion for and dedication to education transcends the classroom. One of her contributions is as a writer and content creator for the education division at the National Film Board (NFB). “I have the pleasure to engage with a wide range of films and I create teaching and learning packages for the classroom.”

Along with others, Norah was an organizer for the Meet us Halfway Conference, held in July of this year. With a focus on arts publishing, the group aspires to cultivate and create a critical arts journal on PEI. “We are in the research and development stage, and we are learning what the arts community in PEI would like to see regarding a critical arts journal.” Norah is interested in both the informational and archival components of arts writing, including critical and creative components. “Documenting the art and the artists of our time is an important endeavor in capturing the creative and collective essence of our community.”

Though culture shifts are slow to occur and can be a challenge for those of us who prefer to move at a faster pace, Norah understands the importance of collaboration and community-driven initiatives that include a wide range of voices. “Diverse communities and voices increase and improve the quality and content of whatever we are doing.

“I do what I can to break down the artificial and superficial boundaries that we have collectively built, and I hope to contribute to finding ways to move beyond the competitive aspects of art into a critical culture of decorum.”

Norah says her own art practice ebbs and flows while she is focused on the important role of raising three teenagers. “I do love to paint and sketch, and I often donate my art to local charities.”

Norah eloquently described her connection to painting as both an internal and external relationship, allowing her to connect to herself and the world around her. “Painting is like a little swatch of the world. It helps us notice things in how we see and walk through the world. Painting is also a non-verbal expression of our psyche.” Describing art as a spiritual component to being alive, Norah says that “inspiration comes from respiration…the breath of life.”

Along with the ebbs and flows of her art, Norah talked about the ebbs and flows of life’s experiences and the impact that those experiences have on our emotional and mental health. “Art is a safe haven for so many people, particularly those with divergent minds.” Moving from doom and gloom into a place of joy and possibility, Norah is learning how to feel the joy and love on the roller coaster of emotions and experiences that life offers. “As I grow and evolve as a human, so, too, does my art. I feel I am currently in this space of transition and I’m excited to see how that will be reflected in my art.”

Julie Bull, an Inuk (NunatuKavut) researcher and educator, has extensive experience in community-based participatory action research, emphasizing Indigenous perspectives. A champion of social justice, Julie envisions collaborative efforts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities worldwide. With a focus on research governance and ethics, her work with NunatuKavut has yielded notable publications and presentations.