This past weekend the Death Race was held in Grand Cache Alberta.  For those who might not have heard of this sport, I share the description from the organizers website:  “racers have come to the Canadian Rockies to cheat Death in one of the world’s toughest ultramarathons. The 125 km course begins and ends on a 4200-foot plateau, passes over three mountain summits, and not only includes over 17,000 feet of elevation change but a major river crossing at the spectacular Hell’s Gate canyon at the confluence of the Smoky and Sulphur Rivers.”  I don’t pretend to be an avid fan of ultramarathons, but I am in awe of those who consider challenging themselves in this way. I was drawn to follow this year’s race as I was cheering on a friend and her fiancée who completed the task in just over 23 hours and earned the admirable position of 149th and 150th finishing spots of 271 solo runners who started the race and 174 who finished it (results from My sincere congratulations go to these incredible people who challenge not only their bodies but also their minds when faced with such a daunting task.

There is another group of people I am admiring this weekend, equally determined but often overlooked when considering heroic measures, the independent artist crafter. Today in Bronte, Ontario, the 53rd annual Art in the Park event was hosted by the Oakville Art Society and the venue boasted over 175 vendors with a wide variety of wares: pottery, painting, metalwork, jewellery, mosaics and photography. These brave artist crafters set up in tents in scorching weather (40 degrees with the humidex) and 5 hours into the event the thunderstorm hit. I managed to take in the event before the storm and I was impressed by the enthusiasm and professionalism of most of the vendors – from the not yet graduated Sheridan student to the veteran artists who worked hard to greet passersby and engage in conversations. It is possible to predict the successful ones – they make an effort to connect, to develop a rapport with individual patrons because they know it will help to ensure future sales. The life of the artist/crafter is not for the faint of heart. Undaunted by competition from the mass produced market, many artist crafters frequent the art show circuit; piling their wares into a vehicle and setting up shop in a variety of locations over the course of “the season” (typically March to late November). The neighbourhood art show draws a very different crowd from the art gallery. From the family groups on an outing to the serious collectors who are looking for a bargain, the art show offers the chance to connect directly with artists crafters and is less intimidating than a formal gallery. It is a time honoured tradition and the practice exists in countries all over the world; from Le marché de la creation in Paris, France to the Santo Spirito Artisan Market (Mercato Artigianale) in Florence, Italy, to the Vancouver Summer Night Markets. By supporting these markets, I invest in the cultural life of my community and I endorse the handmade movement, simple actions which can challenge the status quo of the mass produced market. Watch for innovative companies like Canvas and Cave who recognise the need to support artist crafters as a way to rebuild communities.

Who are your heros? For me it is those who challenge our ideas of what is expected and remind us that great things can be accomplished by ordinary people with determination.

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