Meet Harpreet Dayal, a South Asian interdisciplinary artist, community convener, learner, and believer in the power of the arts to connect and heal. She is the founder of ‘Love Notes’ an event that gathers artists from across disciplines to create a performative love note to Calgary and beyond. Since its inception in 2017, Harpreet has worked collaboratively with Arts Commons to bring Love Notes to their Amplify Cabaret Series, and Moonlight Market.
She is the author of the children’s book ‘Wilbert the Worm’ and a well-being and writing workshop facilitator working with art organizations and schools internationally. She also sits on the board at Handsome Alice Theatre and is a part of TEDxYYC’s curatorial team.
I lived in London, England all my life and after meeting my Canadian-born husband, we decided to start our journey together in Canada. Undoubtedly, this brought a lot of uncertainty and fear in my ability to settle in a new place without the familiarity of home, my family, friends, and the security of my job.
It was then I found refuge in words; it was my therapy, my way of making sense of and dealing with fear. I resumed writing after a very, very long time. It became a way to slowly open myself up to change as I stepped into the next phase of my life, after doing something so bold, having lived in London all my life. So, while working full-time in a bank in East London and anticipating my move, I wrote a children’s book called ‘Wilbert the Worm’ exploring just that: the fear of change.
Soon after arriving, I began working towards publishing this book; I started writing and sharing poetry on stage and shared my first poem called, ‘Mehndi’. I began volunteering with newcomer organizations and teaching ESL. Over the years, I have been working with communities in Calgary in various capacities as an artist, educator, community convener, and builder.
Despite the excitement of moving to a new country for love, there were inherent challenges. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a close community or family I could lean on and I gave myself the added challenge of exploring a completely new career, and I had no idea what that would be.
I knew to overcome this exciting yet scary phase in my life I had to embrace the unknown with an open heart and find solace outside of my comfort zone. I told myself, this is my chance to do something different from what I have always done, to explore opportunities, find my community, build my connections, and even build my own table to sit at.
A lot of things will come up for you as you explore new and unconventional paths. Past traumas, feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, fear. So, find a mentor, and seek people who are in the same arena to help you navigate through challenges. Understand what comes up for you before you are about to share your work online or on stage as an artist. Take note of what stands in your way when you do something outside of your comfort zone because oftentimes it is your negative self-talk. Find the tools and support you need to help you navigate, help you unlearn self-deprecating thought patterns, and help you to believe in your abilities. I wish someone had given me this advice as WOC exploring creativity and stepping out as an artist five years ago.
To me “women empowering women” means cultivating community and connection, and creating a space for mentorship, advice, and support. I want to share my story and experiences as a WOC to help those women who are considering taking a deeper dive into their artistic side. I want youth to feel empowered to see WOC who look like them taking up space and sharing their art, their stories, and their struggles.
No matter what life path you are on, no matter what challenges you face, no one is going to tell you or show you your potential. It is up to you to show yourself and the world. Learn from your story, shape it into something that looks like strength, use it, not as a crutch to hold you back, but as fuel to shape your present and future. You are worthy and you have just as much right to take up space as the next person.
Invest in yourself and do the inner work, whether it is through further education, life coaching, counseling, fitness – whatever it is that you think investing in yourself looks like. Don’t be afraid to work on yourself in a society that tells you it is selfish to do so.
I am constantly growing, outgrowing, and evolving. There is no right way of doing things or a blueprint I need to follow to be ‘successful.’ I am on my journey and I am grateful for the wins, the failures, and the abundance of opportunities I invite into my life.
I am an avid baker and I love learning new recipes and cooking. I am hoping to make more time for it this year!
Relaxing at home on most days and when the six-month-long winters pass in Calgary, I am out in nature for long walks or hikes with loved ones, out for strolls and casual window shopping or long drives with my husband, or at a local art event.
I am a firm believer in planning and organizing my week, my calendar, and setting timelines for projects. Knowing I have set time aside for my work and set boundaries to allow space for my health and well-being, gives me peace of mind. It allows me to enjoy my work and also allows me to be more intentional with my time off, spent with family and friends.
My most recent performance took place with Arts Commons and the Calgary Chinook Blast this month. Right now, I am in ‘complete my writing projects’ mode so I have been limiting performances. But not for very long!