Story Sanctuary | Resilience


  • Exhibition December 6 2023 - January 13 2024

Story Sanctuary | Resilience — Interactive Art Making Installation | Time-Based Instigations | Movement Practice
Diana McKenzie | Individuals involved in programming with the Comox Valley Transition Society | Genevieve Johnson | Community Participants

Held Space | South Gallery + Various Offsite locations within the Comox Valley

An evolving social art project that counters misogyny and upholds resilience.

Artist therapist Diana McKenzie, together with women with lived experience of gender and racial-based abuse, developed a vision for sharing their collective experience of empowerment that was fostered by coming together in a weekly stitching circle. Initially, the group created an advocacy and awareness raising banner that they carried in the Women’s March 2022. Their next work — Story Sanctuary — a stitched fibre installation expressed their desire to hold stories as a way of standing in solidarity with those who experienced violence and loss of loved ones in residential schools. The project has evolved in focus to make space for community interactions and contributions that foster resilience practices by bringing together those with lived experience of gender and racial based violence, allies, advocates, artists, and community of all ages for shared conversation, knowledge sharing, stitching circles, and movement practices.

  • Resilience Stitching Circle · Social Art Practice – Diana Mckenzie with Transition Society women – weekly offsite stitching circle
  • Movement · Stitching · Sharing Circle – Genevieve Johnson + Diana Mckenzie – private sessions with Transition Society women | Young Indigenous Women’s Group SD 71 | Community women – Held Space
  • Skills + Stories – One-to-one sessions with Diana Mckenzie and emerging artists – Story Sanctuary sessions at CVAG
  • Advocacy · Making · Conversations – Diana Mckenzie + Elder Donna Mitchell – All Gender Community Drop-in – HUB Space
  • Programming Engagement · Intercultural Sharing – Diana Mckenzie + CVAG Curators + Elder Janet Willson of the Indigenous Women’s Sharing Society – private sessions with a Transition Society women’s group – Held Space
  • Resilience Stitching + Conversations – Diana Mckenzie, Patti Alvarato of the Indigenous Women’s Sharing Society – All Gender Community Drop-in event – Held Space
  • Resilience Stitching + Conversations – Diana Mckenzie, Lindsay Celeste, Lori Ann Kenny – All Gender Community Event – Held Space
  • Labyrinth of Resilience | knowledge sharing · labyrinth creation · labyrinth walking – Diana Mckenzie – All Gender Community Drop-in Event – CVAG Plaza
  • Reflecting on the Story Sanctuary | past · present · future – Diana Mckenzie + CVAG Curators – private session with Transition Society
  • Drop-in Resilience Stitching + Conversations – Diana Mckenzie – on-site to guide visitors of all ages and genders to participate in thematically related drop-in activations. Hours posted weekly – Held Space

Story Sanctuary | Resilience is an evolving social art project that has offered space for community interaction on-site at the Comox Valley Art Gallery through drop-in and specific events throughout the duration of upholding one another and will continue with ongoing off-site activations and digital outreach.

Words From:


“I felt connected when I was helping with the project. They were guiding us on the direction of a safe place to help educate and be heard as our struggles come from deep within. Even though I was in a dark place and helping me to the light with the support and love around me. I felt like I had purpose and again on my journey to break the silence and let people know that you don’t have to be alone. Hey Hey All My Relations.”



Begin at the beginning, they say — to which my almost invariable response is to ask: but where and when and what is the beginning?

Here’s one possible beginning…

At a point in some inconceivable distance back in time, there was a Big Bang, this Universe being born into the family of Universes. More inconceivable time passed and our star and this solar system came into being.

Our star, Sol, blessed this planet with radiant heat, light, energy and lo, life appeared in and on the Earth — the gift of our DNA — that exquisite, swirling double helix with its’ multiplicity of chromosomes, completely and utterly unique to every single individual ever born to this biosphere. More millions of years of evolution and Homo Sapiens, along with cousin species, find themselves on each continent. Some cousin species die out, but Homo Sapiens keeps evolving, with nations, countries and differentiations of skin colour and language and belief systems arising.

From this long line of time and cosmic experimentation, I came.

My double helix and its many combinations of chromosomes has gifted me with strands from West Africa, the Cote d’Ivoire, places around the Mediterranean and Black Seas, France, Norway, the Pyrenees, England, Ireland, Scotland and Indigenous Eastern North America. With all these many gifts of place and people, how can I, in good conscience, NOT do my best to share some of it?

Being driven by deep passions and a deep desire to help to heal and to share, I’ve been a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a mentor, a friend.

I’ve been a nurse, assisting with bringing life into the world and holding the hands of those leaving it; I’ve been an administrator, written legislation in aid of bringing us all better air quality and endured death threats because of that work; I’ve been an addictions counsellor, brushed the hair and stroked the foreheads of women detoxing from opiates, I’ve been a play therapist, cried with while counselling child clients telling me of their distress; played and laughed with those same children; I’ve been a landscape designer, built gardens of beauty and health and healing. Throughout it all, I have been, and am, an Actor, an Artist, a Builder of Labyrinths, a. Dancer, a Costume Designer, an Explorer, a Gardener, an Historical Interpreter, a Lover of Life, a Psychotherapist, a Poet, a Singer, a Tailor, a Wardrobe Mistress and (quietly) a Zealot for Peace.

I have had the privilege of attending colleges and universities and have the honour to hold degrees — B.Sc.(N), B.A.., B.L.A., M.Sc., RDMP.

I’ve known trauma intimately in many of its’ different guises, I’ve been healthy and hale and sick as a dog, knocking at death’s door, resisting walking through that door, for so much of Life is still to be Lived.



I am an established professional Butoh dance artist, performer, and poet excited in transitioning to the visual art field. Using the sculptural aspect of my dance practice, I am exploring and actively shaping creations around the moving body on film and in durational performance-installation.

I have been performing since 1995 in Montreal, Toronto, and Nanaimo. In 1999, after practicing Butoh in Canada, I studied in Japan with Kazuo and Yoshito Ohno, Min Tanaka, Akiko Motofuji, Kinya “Zulu” Tsuruyama, and the Dairakudakan. I completed an interdisciplinary PhD in 2008 from University of Quebec in Montreal, investigating the plural body in my practice, interweaving Butoh, dance, theatre, and poetry to establish new ways to create, perform, and train. Since 2006, I am collaborating with artist Holly Bright in Nanaimo, using my creative language of poetry in motion – Landscape Under Skin Theatre. I am developing further my passion for creating dance on film through Vancouver Island University Digital Media Studies, mentoring with visual artist and filmmaker Evann Siebens, as well as joining Katrina McPherson’s “Screendance in the Landscape” residency this coming spring in Scotland.

My work is often said to be unclassifiable as my art crosses boundaries: meshing dance, poetry, film, and visual art together. It never takes the traditional path of a story unfolding chronologically but rather reveals itself through embodied impressions from images colliding. My art meanders in the in-between, more interested in the journey it takes than the arrival point. It reflects the interdisciplinary methodology I am invested in since my doctorate studies investigating the moving body in performance.


The Comox Valley Art Gallery is grateful to operate on the Unceded Traditional Territory of the K’ómoks First Nations.

CVAG is honored to collaborate with artists, writers, guest curators, community partners + volunteers. We are grateful for the support of our members + donors.

The convergent program upholding one another is made possible through the support of our FUNDERS: City of Courtenay, Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, Government of Canada, Province of BC, The Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation, Comox Valley Regional District, Town of Comox | LOCAL SUPPORT: School District 71 Printshop, Sherwin Williams, Hitec Screen Printing, Shine-Eze Ltd., BoomBright Media, Helen’s Closet Patterns | COMMUNITY COLLABORATORS: Comox Valley Transition Society, Indigenous Women’s Sharing Society, SD 71 Indigenous Education, Lil’ Red Dress Project, MIKI’SIW Métis Association, Noojim Owin Kwe, Kumugwe Cultural Society, K’ómoks First Nation







The thematic materials in the upholding one another convergent program may trigger strong emotional responses. Elders + trauma care support + resources for finding community support will be available to visitors during gallery hours and at events.


Comox Valley Transition Society