What makes a good story? What makes something art? These are the kinds of questions Dr. Edward Chamberlin raised in his October 19 lecture at the Sanderson Centre where dozens of students, staff, and faculty gathered to hear his message. His talk was part of Laurier Brantford’s Grand River Book Forum and Chamberlin’s speech was based on his nonfiction book, If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground.

“We need to understand our stories because our lives depend on it,” Chamberlin said, engaging the crowd. Explaining in great detail the cultural importance of knowing past myths, understanding paradoxes and finally how science and stories, while they may seem incompatible and irreconcilable, are actually quite complimentary when kept in their proper place.

“‘We’re not sure’ is a signature of good science, even as ‘we are sure’ is a signature of its storytelling,” he says.

Dr. James Cairns, a Contemporary Studies professor at Laurier, commented on the event and its inception.

“The Grand River Forum was the brainchild of Ian MacRae,” Cairns explained. “He proposed a one book project where everyone on the campus, especially in Contemporary Studies, would be encouraged to read one book.”

Chamberlin’s book was chosen this year and organizers of the event hope that this year’s Grand River Forum, showcasing If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories, will be the first of many successful annual conferences that discuss interdisciplinary themes and values people can incorporate into their lives.

Along with the lecture was the revealing of an art exhibit. The art gallery had a total of 27 pieces of art, all of which were inspired by Chamberlin’s book. Two local artists, Daniel James Hill and Aliki Mikulich, along with 26 Contemporary Studies students, created a vibrant piece of art entitled “Finding Common Ground.” It was based on a simple question: what does Brantford mean to you?

Danielle Rama, one student who worked on the piece, says that “we brainstormed ideas about what Brantford means to us. Through telling stories we figured out how our stories connect.” The other 26 pieces of art were collages, each created by one of the participating students.

“It’s kind of like a personal experience,” says Kayla Doucette, a third year student and creator of “Essence of Life.” “I wanted to show people what my life was like.”

Each collage showed an aspect of the artist, from their perspective on the world to their own past. And each one tells a unique story. All 27 pieces of art are on display in the Brantford Arts Block until November 23.