My full circle journey to Shō Studios

It is hard to believe that just 6 years ago I joined Shō Art, Spirit, and Performance. I was an eager 29 yr. old emerging artist, just beginning to get my feet wet in the local arts community.

Shō Folks after Barry Brodie’s Scattered Ecstasies, 2013
(Left to Right: Phil McLeod, Susan Maisonville, Barry Brodie, Lorraine Steele, Katherine Roth, Christy Litster, and Darryl Litster)

In the 3 or 4 years prior, I had participated in small shows, mostly in bars and coffee shops. However, I had big ideas and big plans, with admittedly not much experience. I don’t know if it is just my drive, or the fact that I am fierce Leo woman, but when I decide I want to do something I usually just do it. I was looking for the next step in my “#artlife” evolution. In the early spring of 2013, I found that thanks to a wonderful Artist & Fashion Designer named Ruth Germain.

The Incomparable, Ruth Germain

My first real experience at Shō was an awesome Art meets Fashion event entitled “Ruth Germain’s Wearable Art Show”. Having started my career in Fashion, I was so blown away by her work. She seemed to effortlessly marry my two greatest passions: Art & Fashion. She brought in a collaborative effort from designers, makeup artists, and hair stylists. Prior to the Fashion Show, she held an open studio for artists and photographers to capture the work in a “preview” event. Images created during this evening were curated and shown as part of the Wearable Art Show the following week.

Images from “Ruth Germain’s Wearable Art Show”

During this time, I was organizing my first large-scale show, SKIN, at Walkerville Brewery. I was looking for designers to participate in my fashion show, so I came to meet her during a meeting she was having for her event. I was so impressed with everything I saw during this meeting that I volunteered to help backstage. Right from the beginning it was clear that Shō Art, Spirit and Performance was something truly unique in Windsor. It was inclusive and non-competitive. It aimed to foster the strength found in the local community and build upon it. Ruth inspired me to learn more of what this amazing studio/gallery space was all about.

I decided to join as an associate and it really changed my life.

My Husand Darryl and I enjoying “ Shō Time”

Before Shō , I very much felt like I was a fish out of water. I was looking for guidance, and I found that in two amazing mentors: Phil McLeod and Lorraine Steele. Both Phil and Lorraine took me under their wing. I had the awesome opportunity to upgrade my art skills from painting sets for Les Miserables to curating many art shows that came through Shō . One of the most fun and memorable experiences I had in my early days with Shō was the first day painting sets with Lorraine.

I had never really attempted large scale work like that before. Within 20 minutes of arriving on set, Lorraine handed me a brush and paint and told me to dive in. I stood there, slightly intimated by the task before me. As I did, she walked over to this big bridge that was already well underway. She grabbed a 2.5” brush and paint and magically this cobblestone walkway began to appear beneath her. I was so inspired by her fearlessness, I followed her lead and dove right in. With this experience and the many following, Sho upped my game when it came to the quality of my work.

During my time at Shō, I would say that I grew closest to Phil. He and Sue basically adopted my husband Darryl and I as their own. They were “Shō Mom” and “Shō Dad” and we were the “Shō Kids”. Phil is a quintessential “idea guy”.

My most fond memories of my time at Shō were chatting away the hours while painting along side Phil. He taught me to ALWAYS go big with projects. There is always a way to bring your ideas to life.

One of my favourite pics with my “Sho Mom”, Sue Maisonville.

I believe I stayed an associate with Shō for a total of 3 years. I’ll admit, I don’t remember the exact details of how I left. I know that I was at a point where I felt that I needed to venture out on my own. It was like going off into the world again, but this time with a plethora of amazing experiences and tutelage under my belt. It was an incredibly difficult decision as I was so concerned that I would let my mentors, my family, down. Much to my surprise, just like family, they all continued to support me on my mission of building my Art career. Phil and Lorraine, in particular, were more than happy to offer letters of support for opportunities that I was seeking on my own. They even set me up with an awesome opportunity to work as Studio Assistant to award winning, international artist, Shirley Williams.

It wasn’t long after I ventured out on my own that my life took a very big detour. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In the two years since I finished treatment, I refocussed my energy into becoming a full-time artist. Using the skills that I had learned during my mentorship at Shō Art, Spirit and Performance, I created murals around the city and county and was awarded various grants to help facilitate some of these opportunities.

Another Memorable Night with the Shō Family
(Left to Right: Katherine Roth, Phil McLeod, Susan Maisonville, Ruth Germain, Mark Crampsie, Greg Dehetre, Mary Lou Amlin, Darryl Litster, Lorraine Steele, Christy Litster, and Barry Brodie)

Last fall, I came home to Shō Art, Spirit and Performance for my first solo show in a gallery. Choosing Sho was really a no-brainer. This was my homecoming. My show, “Merkaba” which focussed on healing through Art and the study of Sacred Geometry and Spirituality, was greatly successful. It felt good to be back at Shō with my family once again.

“Merkaba” My Solo Art Show at Shō Studios last fall.

Recently, I had been asked if I would be interested in rejoining the Shō family as an associate and to rekindle this Shō Notes blog. It feels, quite palpably to me, that everything is coming full circle.

Shō has grown tremendously in the years since I was an associate. They’ve added beautiful studios, retail spaces, workshop spaces, and even the brand-new Roth Theatre.  I was recently taken through a tour of the renovations upstairs, and the new spaces are already fully booked and are sure to be pure magic. The initial gallery had grown and flourished itself. How could it not? The amount of love and support that I received as a young associate, which continued even after I chose to move on, helped me grow tremendously myself.

It is clear, that this same devotion to growth has been imbued into this ever-flourishing adventure that Shō Art, Spirit and Performance has been on.

Shō has always been incredibly inclusive. They take emerging artists, like me, and assist them in building their career. Additionally, they provide a high-quality experience for well established professional artists as well. Shō Art, Spirit and Performance has truly become a powerful and inspirational community, steadily growing over the past 10 years.

Written by Christy Litster

Christy Litster is a Visionary Artist living in Windsor, Ont., Canada. Her work ranges from mixed media abstracts to psychedelic digital mandalas. Visionary art aims to transcend the physical world and portray a wider version of awareness, often including spiritual or mystical themes.

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