Keileigh Lowe and Sarah Horobin

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there existed an imaginative and creative world named Story Planet. Orbited by the love and dedication of its volunteer inhabitants, Story Planet has been home to some of the most amazing creatures. And none have been more wonderful then our new intergalactic interns, Keileigh Lowe and Sarah Horobin! From helping to facilitate the Lift Off after school program to reorganizing the space clutter in our back room Keileigh and Sarah have done it all! We here at Story Planet cannot be more grateful for their astronomic contributions and their overall cheerful disposition that makes our little planet shine that much brighter. Story Planet has searched near and far for space travellers like these wonderful ladies and we hope they call this place home for many more light years to come.

We asked Keileigh and Sarah to answer a few questions about themselves to help paint a brighter picture for those who have not met them yet. Check out their responses below!

Introducing Keileigh:

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1. Favourite Planet to live:

I used to live on Mars. It was nice because only a few of us knew about it, but now that they found that water, I guess the secret is out!

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read:

My favourite book is Weaveworld by Clive Barker.

3. Favourite writers:

Douglas Adams is an awesome writer for fiction, but in terms of non fiction I love reading Stephen Hawking so I can really understand the way the universe works!

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:

I love visual arts, and I love the nature planet Earth has to offer. When I was growing up my dad and I used to go on hikes and then find a nice spot to paint what was around us. I find that as I have gotten older I tend to put things like that on the back burner, but every once in a while I find the time to go up north to my cottage. Temagami lake is my favourite place in the entire universe (even including Mars), and being able to sit under the stars and see the milky way with as much clarity as a photograph, or paint the sun as it is setting, is a truly magical moment.

5. Favourite Earth food:

My favourite current Earth food would have to be Apiecalypse Pizza as it is the best vegan pizza in the city! (And up the street from Story Planet- wink wink)

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here:

It is hard to pick just one. Every time a student shares something with me, whether it is some artwork or a smile I try to log it in my brain so I can remember it for years to come. Mithulaa drew a pumpkin for me for halloween and that was awesome. When Hamsa made his origami jumping creature finally jump and laughed for 5 minutes straight I didn’t think we would ever be able to stop. The staff and volunteers at Story Planet inspire me every day, and the students who come could brighten the day of even the grumpiest person. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found such a special place.

Introducing Sarah:

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1. Favourite Planet to live: 

It’s so hard to pick just one, but if I had to choose, I’d choose Venus. It’s named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, so I feel like I’d fit right in.

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read:

My reigning favourite is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

3. Favourite writers:

I have a few. Junot Díaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Kurt Vonnegut are the first ones that come to mind.

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:

Anything arts and culture related, really. Watching tv and movies. Reading comics. Going to art exhibits, poetry slams, and concerts. I love being able to see the world with a new set of eyes through these artistic mediums.

5. Favourite Earth food:

Avacados, hands down.

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here:

My heart grew three sizes the day I wore a shirt with a smiley face on it and one of the space travellers was so eager to tell me that that my shirt was smiling and it made her smile.

Duffy’s Dispatches: Getting Colourful with Artist Callen Schaub

Callen Schaub is an artist and graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design’s Drawing & Painting program. Known for his spin and pendulum work, Callen has painted, illustrated, and sculpted for Story Planet. In 2013, he co-founded Project Gallery, a commercial art gallery in the Leslieville area. 

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Duffy: I ended up here by accident, but I don’t recall you crash-landing as well. How did you get involved with Story Planet and what kinds of projects have you done for us?

Callen: I was in school and one of my professors thought I had an interesting illustration style. He thought I would be a good match for Story Planet.

When I started, I was mostly focused on illustrating for the Alphas to help inspire kids to write stories. I’ve also done some sculpture work with kids to make their characters, and I’ve helped at Story Planet’s portfolio-building workshop.

Gliese 436 b (Ice Planet) Acrylic and latex on canvas 12” x12” 2015 Gliese 436 b’s main constituent was initially predicted to be hot ice in various exotic high-pressure forms, which remains solid because of the planet’s gravity despite the high temperatures.
Gliese 436 b (Ice Planet)
Acrylic and latex on canvas 12” x12”, 2015
Gliese 436 b’s main constituent was initially predicted to be hot ice in various exotic high-pressure forms, which remains solid because of the planet’s gravity despite the high temperatures.

Duffy: You currently have a series up for sale in the Intergalactic Travel Authority featuring some of my favourite celestial bodies. I used to mine Gliese 436 b for its infamous hot ice for my equally infamous house parties. As an Earthling, what inspired this series?

Callen: My paintings are usually abstract, but recently they’ve taken on a galactic, celestial appearance. These planets just started coming to me naturally, but I wanted to add more context to them. That’s where the naming came into the fold: these names are more site-specific. I wanted to get more educated about these planets, and I wanted to get kids who come in to learn about space as well.

Duffy: I’m glad you brought up naming. I’ve been told I named myself after a disgraced Senator with questionable spending habits. How do you name your pieces?

Callen: I don’t usually make a piece and name it myself. I’ll ask people, get their input, and talk about what the piece is trying to do and how it makes them feel. Together we can arrive at a proper title, while still trying to keep the option of thinking differently about the artwork.

Methelusa (Ancient Planet) Acrylic on canvas 12” x12” 2015 Methelusa AKA PSR B1620-26 b is the oldest planet discovered in the universe, at approximately 13 billion years old. The planet has a circumbinary orbit around two stars, a pulsar and a white dwarf, and is the first circumbinary planet ever confirmed.
Methelusa (Ancient Planet)
Acrylic on canvas 12” x12”, 2015
Methelusa AKA PSR B1620-26 b is the oldest planet discovered in the universe, at approximately 13 billion years old. The planet has a circumbinary orbit around two stars, a pulsar and a white dwarf, and is the first circumbinary planet ever confirmed.

Duffy: Let’s get hypothetical for a parsec. If you were going on a space mission for two years and could take one book, one movie, and one colour of paint with you, what would they be?

Callen: *after several torturous moments of deep consideration* I would bring… a sketchbook! Then, I would probably make a home video of all my friends and family so I could watch my loved ones so I wasn’t lonely in space. Hmm… one colour? I guess I’ll just have to go with green. I don’t think there are a lot of things that are green in space.

Duffy: Well! You win for finding the most creative way around that question. Speaking of things going around, tell me a little bit about your spin and pendulum paintings.

Callen: The original idea came to me when I was in a painting class at OCAD. I looked around and realized, “I’m in an art college. I’m supposed to be pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is new.” We were all doing the same thing. So I ran down to the pottery floor, got a potter’s wheel, and started spinning my canvas on it and splashing paint. It sort of started as a gimmick, but I realized there was a lot of potential with the spinning technique. I have an interesting homemade contraption to spin my paintings. Five years later, I’m still spinning and finding new and interesting ways in which paint responds to centrifugal motion.

Duffy: Sounds like something I should give a whirl! I’ve been researching Earth hobbies. So far I’ve discovered that humans love strapping knives to their feet while hitting round objects with sticks, watching movies that stimulate their fear systems on purpose, and complaining about how they never get enough of this totally useless thing called “sleep”. Do you have any hobbies you could recommend?

Callen: I do a couple interesting things. I’m a unicyclist, which you should definitely try out. I’m also an arborist, which is a tree surgeon. That’s not really recommended for children yet because it’s a dangerous line of work.

Duffy: Okay. Last question, but the most important one: what is something that makes you laugh?

Callen: Tickling! Tickling makes me laugh.

Duffy: …Where?

Callen: That’s a little personal, Duffy. But probably my feet!

Check out more of Callen’s work on his website, and don’t forget to stop by the ITA to see his whole planet series in person.  

 

Duffy’s Dispatches: An Interview with Context Creative

Context Creative is a marketing and web design company which helped launch our website into the exosphere. I shouted a few questions into the void, and Andy Strote, Context Creative’s Director of Strategic Services, kindly shouted back.

Duffy: Greetings, Andy. Could you tell us how you got involved with Story Planet?

Andy: I knew about Dave Eggers before there was a Story Planet. In fact, about 10 years ago, I made a point of visiting 826 Valencia on a vacation in San Francisco. I have a t-shirt from the pirate store! Then one of my friends, and eventual Story Planet board member Daniel Ho said a similar outlet might open in Toronto, and was I interested?

Sure! The first meeting was in a bar at Bloor and Bathurst. There were many people involved with getting this off the ground obviously, but that night I volunteered Context Creative to build the website. And it rolled from there….

Duffy: From strategizing marketing campaigns to developing websites, Context Creative appears to do it all. (If you’re ever looking for a career change, we could use your versatility on long-term space missions.)  Can you expand a little on the different ways you bring a client’s vision to life?

 Andy: The first step in bringing a client’s vision to life is to ensure we all have a common understanding of that vision. It’s important that we’re very clear on the objectives, the audience(s) we’re talking to, the outcomes we’re expecting and what constitutes success.

Then, we make sure we’ve defined the audience in a way that’s useful.

Once we’re clear on objectives and our audience, we look at media. In most cases the campaign will have some presence on the company or product website, or it may need its own site. But perhaps it’s also on paper. Maybe an insert that could be distributed in media, but also handed out at events. We’re always looking for the biggest bang for the budget, so if something can do double duty, it helps. Also campaigns are likely to include social media and perhaps email.

So, then we write, design, produce and deliver the campaigns. Once they’re launched, we measure, observe, adjust if necessary and rinse and repeat.

Each project is a bit different and has its own challenges, and that’s what keeps it interesting.

Duffy: Besides helping us with our website, you also generously donated two computers to our space. Why is community engagement important to Context Creative?

Andy: It’s quite simple. We live in a big city. At Context, we’re fortunate enough that sometimes we can help others, and so we do. I think there’s a moral obligation to do so. Everyone can decide what’s right for them, and how they want to contribute, but doing so is just part of life. We don’t live on an island, and we’re all in this together.

Students enjoying Context Creative's gifted iMac computer

Duffy: Storytelling is the backbone of our organization, and it seems to span many disciplines. In what way is marketing similar to storytelling as well?

Andy: That’s a very interesting and timely question because it’s currently the subject of a lot of discussion. Sometimes in marketing we get so focused on the “features” of a product or service,that we forget about the benefits to the user. Why would the user care? What’s the story?

As much as people like to think they’re rational, they don’t actually buy for rational reasons. They buy on emotion, and then justify their emotional decision with rational points.

Smart marketers tap into the emotions, and once you’re talking emotion, you’re talking stories. It all comes down to how it makes you feel, even for an everyday product like laundry detergent. Underlying every purchasing decision is a set of emotions. Some are stronger than others, but they’re there. Good marketers know how to appeal to those emotions, and it’s often in the form of a story.

Duffy’s Dispatches: Joe Lasko on Story Planet’s AGO Event

Joe is Story Planet’s intrepid Program Director, and on Saturday, March 21, he led our An Alien Has Landed event at the AGO. During the single hour of the day that I am awake at the same time as humans, I had the chance to sit down with him to ask how it went.

Duffy: Unfortunately, I was at the ITA on Saturday welcoming a group of lost Zyxxons and couldn’t make it to the AGO. Can you let me know what you got up to?

Joe: When aren’t we welcoming a group of lost Zyxxons? We really could have used your help at the AGO, but of course we totally understand. Here’s what happened…  Early in the morning, we got a call from the AGO, reporting that there was some strange activity being reported around their young learner commons. Some strange rock-like materials had been found, and it appeared that someone or something had been in the space, looking for something. We searched and searched, but other than a few strange messages printed out and written in a language we were unable to decipher, we were unable to find anything. Now, as you are well aware, sometimes adult eyes are the problem, so we asked a group of young Earthlings for their help, as their eyes often see things ours don’t. They searched the scene and were able to find a number of strange artifacts. After some series investigation, the young Earthlings figured out that an alien spaceship must have crashed somewhere nearby and that these were parts from the ship.

Duffy: It sounds like you and your team of intergalactic mystery-solvers had a blast. Here’s the question of the hour: what was the alien looking for?

Joe: Funny you asked!  We were lucky enough to have a few young Earthlings in the group who could read the strange language. They translated the messages and revealed that the alien was here looking for new energy sources for its home planet called Zero. From there, our team of young Earthlings wrote a story to help explain to others what happened, and then created a number of art projects to spread the word and help the alien find what it was looking for. They made buttons, booklets, posters and alien ships in a jar.

Duffy: We call this program ‘galaxy-famous’. As someone who has successfully traversed the Milky Way (despite being lactose intolerant), I agree with that statement. Could you explain what makes programs like An Alien Has Landed so unique?

Joe: As I said before, young Earthlings are able to see things adults can’t. They just need to be given the opportunity. Being able to take part in an experiential project where they are immersed in the mystery allows them to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways, making connections and applying prior knowledge to the investigation. It’s also a lot of fun. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their Saturday afternoon looking into alien activity?

Duffy: One of the most inspiring aspects of Earth is that volunteerism is thriving. How are events like these exciting opportunities for not only kids and youth, but volunteers as well?

Joe: These events couldn’t happen without our volunteers. They are so vital to the success of the project, ensuring every young Earthling on our team gets the attention and assistance they need. Events like these are a lot of fun. Not just in terms of setting the scene for the adventure, but in being able to see how excited young people get when they’re invited into this strange and exciting world of mystery. It’s an experience that really does last an intergalactic lifetime.

Thanks for hosting such a fantastic event, Joe! 

Introducing Duffy the Alien

Story Planet is thrilled to officially introduce Duffy the Alien to all of our fellow travellers, storymakers, and friends. If you’ve ever visited the ITA, you may have seen Duffy lurking behind the portal door, taking a nap on a bench, or even siphoning a cup of Black Hole Brew (but only when it thought you weren’t looking). Duffy may be a new face for some, but like a Federation starship’s warp core, it was actually the driving force behind Story Planet and the ITA.

In a gripping tale involving an out-of-control spaceship and a passionate hunger for an enormous space squid eyeball, Duffy hurtled through the Earth’s atmosphere from its home planet Plutonia PS9, and crash-landed at the corner of Bloor and Dufferin. It named itself after the first sign it saw – a street sign for ‘Dufferin’ – and a little offended by Canada’s frigid climes, sought shelter in an empty office space located at 1165 Bloor Street West.

Much like the ITA we support today, Duffy invented the ITA to create an intergalactic travel hub here on Earth. It was a place where aliens many parsecs from home could recharge and grab a couple of souvenirs before beaming up and blasting off. And because the local children thought Duffy was interesting, they started gathering there to share tales, write stories, and create artwork about their travels. These are the values to which Story Planet remains committed, under the leadership of its Alien Chieftess, Liz. (According to Plutonian record, Liz’s coronation was so beautiful even the most poker-faced of alien species wept.)

Now, Duffy has decided the time and space has arrived for it to directly interact with our community. Communicating via the Space Blog, it will discuss its Earthly explorations, particularly liaising with our generous partners to help us get a sense of what community engagement on our planet is all about.

Check back soon for some stellar interviews about the people who help keep Story Planet in orbit.

Story Planet at the AGO!

Story Planet will be holding one of our galaxy-famous – nay, universe-famous – programs at the beautiful AGO on Saturday, March 21! Join us from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at our An Alien Has Landed event, where discerning space detectives aged 3-12 will have the opportunity to participate in a day of clue hunting, story creation, and art programming. You’ll find us in the AGO’s Children’s Workshop Space. We hope to see you there!