TGW Q+A: Marissa Boisvert, Founder of The WANA Project, New York

WANA is an acronym for Where Awareness Nourishes Artistry. Marissa Boisvert’s project goes against the grain, just like the people she wishes to engage with. The WANA Project’s mission is to protect and cultivate creativity during a distracted era.

With mindful practices at its core, the WANA project provides a framework to ensure artists are creating fulfilling work, collaborating and staying well in the process.

Being a creative herself, Boisvert saw a need for the highly artistic population to put an end to being overlooked and under-nourished. She said,

‘Ultimately, the WANA project challenges the exploitation of artists and the glamorization of the tormented artist.’

And that ‘peaceful, sensitive and complex people can find it challenging to handle society along with their innate idiosyncrasies. But the job of the artist is to be themselves, not what others want them to be. On top of that, the artistic path is one of the most professionally challenging.’ Boisvert wholeheartedly believes that we exist in a time where society is often times non-supportive of an artistic career.

The WANA project has been set up to change that. We discovered Marissa project online  (from a kitchen in Australia) and contacted her directly to find out more.

TGW: We first came into contact when I reposted your call out to New York, scouting for people and places to film. Tell us about the response you had in New York from artists and creatives, and the selection process that came after that?

MB: Considering the fact that the project was still taking shape, it was remarkable to see others respond to the Call for Artists announcements that were distributed on Facebook, Instagram and the NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) website. The submissions were reviewed and immediately it was clear that our featured artist, Franck de las Mercedes (@franckstagram), was it. Emily and I were initially drawn to his vibe and his work. With a deeper look into his work and after meeting him, we soon discovered that he is not only an acclaimed artist, but an incredible, wise soul who has had quite the impact on his community.

‘Franck de las Mercedes… is not only an acclaimed artist, but an incredible, wise soul who has had quite the impact on his community.’

The original thought was to spend time with a handful of artists and get a lot more footage, but making films is so damn expensive. I self-funded this film, so we had to work with a tight budget and the people and timing of it all made for just as big of an impact. The making of this short was like any other creative process…you start out thinking you’re going to do X, then you’re faced with obstacles, you find solutions, and it becomes what it’s supposed to be.

We also challenged ourselves to meet a musician in NYC. We loved the idea of an impromptu meeting, even when you have to face external factors…rejection, weather, events, etc. This experience definitely was an opportunity to practice a “WANA” lesson – a lesson in meeting the moment. We rolled with the weather, plus the Bernie Sanders rally, and found an awesome musician who also happens to be a film critic, Filipe Freitas, who was playing at the 5th Ave-53rd St stop. We even managed to make it to the rally!

FdlM
Artwork by Franck de las Mercedes (@franckstagram) Photo by Emily Alexander (@ladyalexander)

TGW: The WANA project is something you’ve physically been working on for a few months now. The resulting short web film has gone live. What are your hopes now that the website is live it’s been shared with the world? 

MB: The WANA project is the maturation of the term, Where Awareness Nourishes Artistry. The four words that spontaneously transferred from my mind onto paper almost 4 years ago. It’s how I define the point at which mindfulness feeds our artistic abilities and our ability to be an artist of life. This project is the result of a lot of listening, patient observation, and simply allowing an idea to breathe.

The short film is just one piece of the puzzle. The purpose of it was to get the concept out, while featuring artists and their voice. It’s also a glimpse into what I hope we’ll be doing a lot more of — traveling to different cities in the US and parts of the world to spend time with artists and documenting their realities, processes, and the impact their environment has on their work. Through the WANA project resources, I want artists to have the opportunity to share their genuineness, and together, we will tell the story.

It’s about being human, without getting stuck in the suffering. It’s about learning how to fully accept each level of one’s creative success. It’s about staying connected to who you are and what you need to do.

I see the WANA project as the start of something fresh and to start conversations. About alternative ways to do this whole creative thing. Artists standing up to nurturing themselves holistically so they can make the most of their time here.

I have a clear vision for this project and for the impact that can come of it. I also know that things become what they’re supposed to. So, my job is to listen, guide it, create what I need to and go where I need to, in order to realize it.

I’m also very passionate about helping to expand our perception of the artist’s vital role in the health of humanity.

TGW: Your email updates contain these profound statements of clarity and wisdom, that have certainly struck a chord with me. Where do you find the inspiration or is there someone in particular that you have learned these from? How does one arrive at that frame of mind? I read somewhere that you are a Behaviour Change Specialist and Certified Integrative Health Coach. That certainly explains part of it, but who have some of your spiritual or philosophical mentors been?

MB: Wow, thank you. I’m moved to hear you say that.

‘Inspiration comes when I’m tuned into life. That’s what years of mindfulness has given me. I learned how to let life teach me. And in doing so, it has showed me how to be a better listener, cultivate patience, notice, nurture all parts of my life, even work with perfectionism, and glide through the chaos.’

I’ve had fantastic dance teachers, music teachers, yoga teachers and holistic health teachers over the course of my life, all of whom I looked up to. And learned a lot through reading books, articles and listening to interviews with Dr. Andrew Weil, Gloria Steinem, Bruce Lee, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Maya Angelou, Paulo Coelho, Rick Rubin, Ram Dass and Thích Nhất Hạnh.

Above all, continuing to grow by doing.

TGW: Tell us about your working relationship with Emily Alexander (@ladyalexander). How have each of your contributions given value to the WANA Project? 

MB: Emily Alexander and I first connected to discuss my vision in November of 2015. We continued to talk over the next few months.

I brought the idea and gut instincts. Emily brought a background in film and the ability to visually communicate a complex concept.

‘This short film was just the two of us. Two chicks, one camera, and a lot of laughter while working through creative obstacles.’

Watch The WANA Project short film:

 

TGW: Before The WANA Project came into being, you had an interesting experience in LA, which led you back to New York. Why do you think you felt so strongly that you didn’t need to be there, but rather to focus back on New York?

MB: That trip to LA is one of the reasons why this project exists. At that point in my personal and professional path, I thought I needed to be based in LA. But, sometimes what we think, just isn’t so. You have to go to know if it’s right and if it feels forced you have to redirect. While I was there I found that my idea needed to change and I had to accept it. Life was steering me in a different direction and I needed to listen. I’m very glad I did.

TGW: Now that The WANA Project website is live, are you able to elaborate a little for us explaining what and who (the film, and the website) will serve. Are you selling something?

MB: My hope is that the WANA project platform is valuable to the artistic and creative community in a variety of ways.

There will be mindfulness based programs and resources to nurture our creativity and well-being, as well as, opportunities to learn and implement mindful practices, build community, and initiate collaboration. Next up, I’m opening up my teachings to the public through my Founding Artists Class and I’m also launching the WANA project podcast this summer. You’ll find the description below. I’ll continue to contribute to the blog and will be adding short audio lessons suitable for anyone at any given time.

The WANA Project Podcast

Creating the environment to help us get out of our heads and into our experiences, the WANA project podcast addresses and examines the natural ebb n’ flow of the creative process, as well as the obstacles in the lives of both emerging and established artists. Marissa weaves in ways to protect and cultivate creativity, regardless of the circumstance. Featured guest artists will have an unscripted, raw conversation about their realities and have the opportunity to share their latest works, collaborations and projects.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section.

 

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