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Artist Interview Series: Audra Townsend and lifelong learning

By Nathan Durec

Audra Townsend is a lifelong student. Never one to sit still, she has crossed the Atlantic in pursuit of knowledge, striving to learn about humans and culture.

She has worked for and been awarded a bachelor’s degree in business, a media writing diploma and a master’s in anthropology. And this wealth of knowledge is something that has influenced her worldview, which is then captured in her artwork.

“Anthropology is definitely in my art,” Audra says. “And what I find is that what I’m thinking about things, especially certain events that are going on, I’m also painting that into my painting.”

Interestingly, the painting for Audra came later in life, spurred by a desire for creativity that was missing in her work life.

Going to school

Despite a desire to always learn, it was not something that came easy. Audra lives with dyslexia, which has required her to find unique ways to learn.

“You don’t overcome that,” she says. “It’s still there, and it’s still a daily struggle. You basically adapt.”

But instead of succumbing to the struggle, she found what she refers to as ‘workarounds’, ways to change the environment of learning materials so that it is better for her style of learning. This can be as simple as changing the font or the size of writing on a screen, or it can be something more unique.

“It never goes away. It just makes things a little more interesting. When people talk about having to try to think outside the box, I can say I was never in it.”

What never wavered was the desire to keep going. After her bachelor’s degree in Canada, she looked overseas. And she also wanted to focus on something she was passionate about.

“I decided on anthropology,” Audra says. “And anthropology was fantastic. It was the best thing I’d ever done in my entire life…It teaches you about what it means to be human. My degree was in sociocultural anthropology, everything about culture: politics, economics, the social, the historical. It also talks about colonialism, racism, all sorts. It was fantastic. It gives you a better sense of people.”

What also made the program appeal to her was that it was in her home city of Manchester.

“It was a bit of nostalgia, going back to where I spent my early childhood…I also lived on a street where my family used to live. They tore down the building, and they built a bunch of these student apartments and things like that…It was fantastic.”

Finding the creative