Collage Visual Way to Link Symbols and Important Themes

Featured imageearly collage process phase 1collage phase 1

Often at the outset of a new project I will begin with a large floor collage to help me visually identify common themes and issues or to draw links between images or cultural symbols that might reoccur.  In a previous ethnodramatic project about the lives of older persons in a residential home for people over 60, a collage became a creative activity I frequently returned to, a fluid and changing multi dimensional construction that grew over time with pictures, objects (spoons, bowls etc.) and information and current news around mental health and autonomy related issues of importance among them access to transportation services, food, family support in crisis,  diagnostic labeling, effects of past traumas, environmental triggering, elder abuse and relocations.  The collage in a narrative sense in terms of writing has been described by Dr.  Norman Denzin when he speaks of ethnoperformaces as postmodern building a narrative collage that critiques culture.  “Speakers can leap forward and backward in time from present to past presenting real news accounts against dramatic historic enactments of the past using poems, monologues, dialogues, voice-overs and interior streams of consciousness,.”  As I look back on that ethnodramatic project and my creative process I find it interesting how many of the ideas and symbols from the original floor collage eventually found themselves into  the final script and installation which was used in live performances.

A project begins, the team



Cheryl L. McLean is editor of the CAIP Research Series published by Brush Education and books Creative Arts in Humane Medicine, Creative Arts for Community and Cultural Change and Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice, Inquiries for Hope and Change she is also publisher of The International Journal of the Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice IJCAIP.  She was recently awarded a Harrison McCain Visiting Professorship at Acadia University, Nova Scotia.  Working with Assistant Professor and Researcher Catherine Morley in the School of Nutrition and Dietetics Cheryl will be using arts based research methods and is creating,developing and directing an original ethnodrama (play based on research) about aging and family issues around care and feeding.

Cheryl McLean has been active in the creative arts in interdisciplinary research and practice for over ten years and has special interests in the aging and health field.  She also has experience as a researcher and ethnodramatist  actor/playwright gathering research/data and writing scripts and performing  research based stories of lived experience for audiences across a wide range of disciplines.


Producer, Lead Researcher

Catherine Morley , Assistant Professor in the School of Nutrition and Dietetics at Acadia University, is a leader in Canada in the field of dietetics and nutrition who has written extensively about Meanings of Eating and Changes with Illness,..She is also an educator and researcher who  engages in research to raise awareness about the causes, prevention and management of malnutrition in aging Canadians and those living with dementia or changed health status.  In her work she hopes to reduce caregiver burden and the frequency and duration of hospitalization and institutionalization  of older persons.  Research for the ethnodrama  will draw on data from actual interviews conducted by Catherine with family members and caregivers as well as other personal stories of lived experience.

Paula Rockwell, Actor and Vocalist


Paula Rockwell has an affinity for contemporary music and has released a solo CD, which she co-produced, featuring 20th century Art Songs entitled Fleeting Melodies. The Halifax Herald said…“a repertoire such as this is both unusual and challenging and Rockwell with her beautiful, clear, ringing voice meets their technical demands with assurance and precision.” She also has been featured on several recordings, Scott MacMillan’s The Celtic Mass for the Sea, 1st Baptist Church Choir’s Sing Lullaby under the direction of the late David MacDonald and has had compositions written for her. One of England’s foremost composers, Jonathon Willcocks, wrote a piece for Paula that she debuted at the Green Lake Festival of Music in Wisconsin entitled Mayhem!!The misfortune of Miss Maisy Murgatroyd, which involved the Green Lake Children’s Choir.

Paula has taken on several operatic roles since graduating from University of Toronto working with the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto’s Opera in Concert, Vancouver Opera, Tidal Opera and with Orchestre Baroque de Montreal. Paula has been a regular soloist with Symphony Nova Scotia and the Chorus of Westerly in Rhode Island where she made her American debut singing Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody. She is heard every summer at the Sir David Willcocks Choral Symposium in Lyman, NH, giving master classes and concerts.


   Robert Seale, Actor

An Acting graduate of the National Theatre School in Montreal, Robert also holds a Master’s Degree summa cum laude in Performance from York University.   He has been an award-winning CAEA professional since 1974, appearing in over 150 leading roles in the major theatres across Canada, and in the U.S.

Besides professional acting and directing, Robert has done over 300 professional consultation, choreography and stunt contracts on stage and film through his company, Fights Unlimited  RGS – including work with such groups as the National Ballet, Shaw Festival, National Arts Centre, Canadian Opera Company, National Ballet, and both the Toronto and Atlantic Film Festivals.02ACADIA03-e1351626298501

Robert Seale, Directing at Acadia University

His company has worked extensively with the RCMP, training recruits in “Crisis Intervention” at Depot Division in Regina. With the Canadian Armed Forces, he recently trained, directed and choreographed a 36 member Naval Boarding Party simulation for the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in Halifax.

In 1992 Robert completed formulation of a national system of fight certification for Canada, and the next year legally incorporated and became founding President of Fight Directors, Canada.  He remained the elected President until 2000, when he withdrew to become Executive Director for the IOSP in Washington, D.C. – the international “Round Table” of professionals.  He has a TacCom Certification from the government of Ontario and holds an internationally recognized certification as a Fight Master.