Vanessa Compton PhD has spent years investigating the labyrinth: what it is, how it works, where it came from, who designed it, and the ways that people’s lives change when they experience it.
Using inventive image-based research, Vanessa has brought to light the parallels between the worldview and imagination of the original Medieval designers and the needs of people living today.
Vanessa is delighted to be able to share this with you!
Vanessa has been involved with visual art since early childhood, when she first picked up a crayon to draw the cart horses pulling delivery wagons in Montréal. Saturday art classes with Arthur Lismer at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts led to studies at Concordia University and Sheridan College School of Design. Her business, Vanessa Compton Designs, specialises in custom design, original jewellery and small sculpture in bronze and precious metals. Clients have included the Royal Ontario Museum Reproductions Department and Board of Trustees, the Governor General’s Office, Tiffany & Co., and the Disney Corporation. Her work is represented in the Canadian Museum of
Civilization History (Massey Foundation Collection).
The opportunity of examining the artefacts in the ROM collections up close inspired Vanessa’s deep respect for the creators, and curiosity about their milieu, education and beliefs about their creations. Teaching these ancient techniques of sculpture and metal-working to high school students, as a project of the Ontario Arts Council’s Artists in Education program, led her to the Independent Studies Program at the University of Waterloo to study experiential learning theory in art education. A dramatic encounter at school [PDF] with the labyrinth, that most mysterious form of public art, was instrumental to her understanding of transformative learning, and the importance of educating the imagination. In 2007 Vanessa earned a PhD in Curriculum from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Her thesis, Understanding the Labyrinth as Transformative Site, Symbol, and Technology [PDF], brings together ten years of research on the labyrinth pilgrimage experience as an organizing principle for integrated learning. She has worked with students of all ages from Grade 5 through college, and has taught counselling, curriculum theory, and arts education at the University of Ottawa.
A Veriditas trained labyrinth facilitator, Dr. Compton trained with Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Notre Dame de Chartres Cathedral in France. She established the labyrinth program at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Ottawa in 2007, which continues to this day.
The “Aha!” event — when intuition delivers a fully formed insight all at once, apparently out of the blue — has always intrigued me. As an art teacher observing such events in my students’ progress, I wondered what it was about art-making that allowed such powerful truths to emerge for the creators. What factors are involved? How does society value these factors, especially in the educational context? In the language of the times, I was determined to “make the world a kinder, gentler place” for artists — and we are ALL artists, in that we all have the capacity for imaginative creativity and a developmental need to use it if we are to do justice to our potential. Synchronicity led me to the labyrinth, an ancient form of public art and spiritual technology that reliably triggers life-changing insights.
In my practice of facilitating guided walks and workshops, I have been privileged to witness profoundly transformative moments in the lives of individuals walking into the labyrinth who are faced with all sorts of challenges in the personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal dimensions of their daily lives. Their experience with the labyrinth helped them to imagine new futures and find the courage within themselves to move forward. It has motivated me to find ways to bring the principles of the labyrinth into the everyday lives of individuals in all kinds of situations. I have developed my labyrinth workshops to teach more people about how it can change their lives for the better.