by Alan Li
Malgosia Halliop is a writer and educator who has - over the years - worked in university publishing and student services, and studied literature, adult education, wildlife tracking, and plant knowledge. She has homeschooled her two sons for the past eight years while contributing to nature and community organizations in and out of the city. She is happy, after a gap of some years, to identify as an artist again.
Did you grow up in a household where creativity was encouraged?
Creativity wasn’t an emphasis, but it was appreciated. Both of my parents are scientists, and my two sisters went into the sciences, but we still had plenty of exposure to literature and music, as well as trips to art galleries and museums. I’ve also realized lately that all of my family are makers and creative problem-solvers in one way or another. However, I’m the only one who is into the more traditional arts like writing and drawing!
Who is an artist that inspires you?
There are a lot of writers and poets who inspire me; in the naturalist context, someone like Mary Oliver definitely stands out. She won a Pulitzer prize, but her work is also very accessible. I know a lot of people who don’t normally read poetry who have been inspired by her writing.
Did you know anything about the ravines before joining LUNA?
I’ve spent a good part of the last nine or so years out in the ravines with my children and with our homeschooling friends. Before that I’d often go for walks through the ravines with my husband, but it’s mostly in the last decade that I’ve felt at home in them.
For a long time we were quite involved with nature programs through the p.i.n.e. project, first by the Humber River and then the past three years in the ravine by Taylor Creek. We’ve also spent lots of time in the ravines around Evergreen Brick Works, as well as Cedarvale Ravine, which is closest to our house.
I was also involved for a couple of years in leading a monthly tracking club in different wooded areas of the city through the p.i.n.e. project.
To learn more: https://www.pineproject.org/
What’s one thing that’s surprised you about Wilket Creek?
I was surprised to learn about the amount of urban infrastructure that’s been built around and even under the ravine itself. I had never considered the massive underground pipes that carry storm water and sewage; the complexity of maintaining it all for a huge population while keeping these green spaces thriving is quite a feat.
Can you tell us what compelled you to sketch this skunk cabbage?
Well, in early spring there wasn’t much growing and that was the most visible plant! But it’s also a fascinating native plant; I like how the flower and fruit are hidden, and the furled leaves have a sculptural quality that was interesting to draw.
How has spending time in the ravine changed you over the past six months?
I’ve developed an even greater appreciation for these spaces. They’re so unusual. Many cities have places that are above ground, like hills, but I love how when you’re in a ravine you feel so distant from what’s happening above.
What’s one piece of advice you have for young artists?
Keep going, even if there’s clear no container for what you’re doing. As a child and young teen I used to draw a lot, but I stopped for a long time because art didn’t fit into any of the structures of what I was being encouraged to do. But even when I wasn’t focused on art, it kept creeping back into my life in different ways. I started drawing and taking art classes again because I wanted to record the plants and creatures around me. I now know that doing something for the sake of doing it is valuable in itself; the very act of drawing makes you more aware of the world and it makes you see differently.
You can meet Malgosia and the other members of LUNA Toronto at the upcoming Ravine Symposium at Toronto Botanical Garden. LUNA artists will have their artwork on display inside the Weston Family Library where everyone is always welcome!
To learn more about the symposium: https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/learn/adult/symposium-2/