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Our Voices

Hurtling Towards a Metaverse Future

Photo of a young woman wearing a blue v neck sweater and a virtual reality headset.
Candice Houtekier, founder, Art Collision. Photo by B. Mulholland, Moo Company

“The frenzy was really unique,” Candice Houtekier said, recalling her first Collision technology conference in 2018. Houtekier had recently obtained a graduate degree in Art History and Video Games from the University of Montreal and was working at a contemporary art gallery. At the Collision conference she met tech-savvy entrepreneurs working at the intersection of art and blockchain technology. “It was avant-gardist,” the 29-year-old said.

“I remember thinking art fairs, art events and art organizations in general are really late,” she said, thinking back to how dated the arts world seemed compared to what she experienced at the Collision event. She wanted to change that. Six months after the conference she launched her own business. She had the perfect name: Art Collision.

Working at the Intersection of Art and Technology

Like many entrepreneurs Houtekier said “Yes to everything,” at the beginning. Her clients were independent artists, collectors and smaller arts organization wanting to improve their digital presence.  She helped them with things such as website design and analytics.

“But with years, I learned what I’m good at, what I like to work on, and what is profitable for my business,” she said. While she still provides more routine technical support, there has been a seismic shift in her business in a short time. In 2020, virtual reality services were less than ten percent of revenue. A year later it jumped to almost twenty-five percent. More and more clients are from around the world.

While the overall value of NFT art has dropped precipitously recently, Houtekier maintained it is a sound longer-term investment for savvy art collectors. She gave the example of the American abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler.  Someone who bought one of her paintings in the 1970s and flipped it two years later probably lost money. “But if you resold it forty years later, well you’re probably going to make a lot of money.” Houtekier helps her clients succeed in the world of NFTs. “I think the scene is a bit overwhelming because there is a lot of information, a lot of new vocabulary, and a lot of scammers,” she said. “I show to my clients how to enter the scene in a secure peaceful way.” This includes everything from how to open a crypto-wallet to minting an NFT to showcasing clients’ artwork in a metaverse where it can be exhibited “In a professional and beautiful way.”

Houtekier is a solopreneur with a strong team of collaborators like Brendon McNaughton, co-founder and CEO of Art Gate. She introduced herself to him at an art fair after noticing cynoculars in his hands. “Wow, what’s going on in your headset?” she asked. “Show me what you can do.”

Art Gate is a metaverse that leases space to art galleries to exhibit beyond their brick-and-mortar spaces. Imagine this: An art collector from anywhere can visit an art gallery thousands of miles away. They enter the Art Gate metaverse via their laptop or virtual reality headset. This gallery may be designed to look traditional with white walls or something completely outrageous. Similar to an in-person experience, there are even greeters and tour guides—sometimes these are bots. Art Collision and Art Gate collaborate on several art fairs every year and a month-long biennial with talks, discussions and gallery tours.

 A New Land Owner in Cryptovoxels

Last year, Houtekier expanded her footprint in the metaverse by buying a parcel of land in Cryptovoxels. Cryptovoxels (like Art Gate) is a metaverse that works well for exhibiting art. Her first project on her property was designing wearables (digital clothes for avatars). Her collection of designer hats was a hit with other Cryptovoxels land owners, artists and art collectors. “Or just people having fun and meeting the community and partying,” Houtekier said. After all, making a fashion statement in the virtual world is as important as in real life.

This wearable project built Houtekier’s competencies for selling digital assets in the metaverse that translated to her core business of helping artists. Many artists work with NFTs but there is not enough gallery space around to exhibit and sell their work. Houtekier collaborated with an architect to create Floating Point Gallery in the web3 to support emerging artists.

Art Collision’s first exhibit in Cryptovoxels was the work of Canadian artist Antoine Lortie (@agrophobe). “I fell in love as soon as I discovered his work,” Houtekier said. With the wearable project and her first art exhibit under her belt, she was ready to do more. She has recently added four new artists to her roster and has more exhibitions planned for later this year.

Avatars Empower Us

The metaverse opens up possibilities beyond creating and exhibiting art. Houtekier said it also empowers people by allowing them to create avatars as a form of expression. “It’s about being yourself; it’s about choosing who you want to be,” she said.

Houtekier said some metaverses are very inclusive where avatars can have different skin colours (even blue!), religious symbols, assistive devices like hearing aids, robotic parts for limbs—and more. “The metaverse is giving us the opportunity to lay the foundation of a gender-neutral world where people can adopt the gender traits they want,” she said. One of her female colleagues “Always wears a pretty moustache” during their team meetings in the Horizon Workrooms metaverse. “You can now be a woman, a man or a sandwich!” she joked. What about Houtekier’s digital incarnation? “I embrace my female traits,” she said. Her avatar sports sneakers and a little skirt—and of course, a hat!

Houtekier spent a lot of time as an avatar during the pandemic. She joined empowerment groups in the metaverse like Meta Angels where she met other women interested in sharing intelligence about the blockchain. She expanded her network across the globe thanks to Natural Language Processing which removed language barriers. However, the metaverse can only go so far in building networks. She is looking forward to live conferences, art fairs and openings. “It’s going to be a great spring and a great summer and a great opportunity to meet the community again and to connect with people in real life,” she said. “It’s important to have a real time conversation with people one-on-one, face-to-face.”

The Future of Art Collision

Houtekier’s said she feels very privileged to work in an area she loves and to feel so well supported by the arts community and her collaborators. Art Collision has accomplished a lot in just a few short years. But Houtekier is set to take a big leap forward.

“We are ready to work with larger art organizations, museums, the government, and academic institutions”, she said. Art Collision is currently working with the Canadian government to help transition from the traditional Canadian art scene to a more digital one, and advance the empowerment of women and minorities in the metaverse.

“We have the tools, the experience and the skills to really make the Canadian art scene a better one.”  Houtekier is “Ready to do a great digital transition.”


Publishers Note: Art Collision participated in the Fifth Wave  Initiative, a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to minimum of 50% participation per cohort by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth ally sponsor at the Lighthouse levelApplications for Fifth Wave Connect are open. Apply here

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Our Voices

No Person is Ever Just One Thing

image of a white woman in a black tank top. She has tatoos on her left arm and shoulder. Short hair.
LiisBeth contributor and author Lori Fox. Photo by Mark Kelly

If this book was a Venn diagram, the intersecting circles would represent the relationship between rage, compassion, and survival. Lori Fox has crammed a lot of life (and moving) experience in their thirty-something years on this planet. They are unique, as we all are, by default: “I’m a visibly queer and non-binary person who grew up in a time and place when that was even more dangerous than it is now, who has lived and worked in communities and settings where my queerness was often a threat to my safety. I should, statistically speaking, be dead. Probably more than once,” writes Fox.

Blunt and unapologetic, recurring themes and ideas are intertwined and interconnected throughout the book and include, but are not limited to, financial instability, mental health struggles, sexual assault, emotional and physical abuse, the unconditional love of pets, and the consequences of speaking truth to power.

This Has Always Been a War (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022) is also about the duality and complexity of our human existence. One can be enemy, stranger and lover all at once. We can be both strong and vulnerable. Fear and courage often ride side by side in Fox’s camper truck or beat up cars. Shame snuggles up to pride and perseverance is the shadow side of surrender.

At times laugh out loud, at times jaw-droppingly shocking, Fox writes about the hard things. They write about the things we think we shouldn’t say. “It’s because I won’t nod, smile, and keep my fucking mouth shut.”

The writing is compelling and gripping. Every essay flows like a draft beer from a fresh keg in one of the many restaurants Fox worked in during their seventeen years in the service industry.

You’ll find descriptions like:

“Her making excuses, dodging responsibility, calling down some folksy morality or looking to a fucking magical dead-ass zombie carpenter to fix the things she, herself, refused to fix.” When Fox disclosed a sexual assault by a family member to their mother.

“This novel, like its narrator, needs to take itself firmly by the shoulders and pull its head out of its own ass, because pay the fuck attention.” From Fox’s take on Sophie McIntosh’s novel, Blue Ticket.

“It was partly furnished, and in the nightstand there was a bottle of KY Jelly and a pair of edible underpants with a bite taken out of the crotch.” Describing one of the numerous apartments they’ve lived in.

 If you are uncomfortable with hearing about poverty, hunger and abuse, you should read this book. If words like cunt, dick and mother-fucking asshole make you squirm, buy this book and challenge yourself to walk a mile (or thirty thousand) in Fox’s shoes -worn out flats or a pair of boots with a knife tucked into the side.

Because what does Fox want readers to do? Open their minds. Ask questions. Never assume.

Fox takes responsibility for their choices but argues that some choices are not available to many. The book peels back layers on topics that have shaped Fox’s shapeshifting existence to reveal the raw and tender truth of their lived experience. Here are a few excerpts that stood out.


“We are not paid fairly for the things we make, yet things can be denied us or taken from us if we cannot pay for them. If we refuse to obey the rules of the people who have those things, we will be punished. If we refuse to be punished, we will be imprisoned or killed.

We are told, when these things happen, that this is justice…Serve us or starve. Work or be evicted. Obey us or live in misery. What part of that sounds like a choice?”

From This Has Always Been A War

Lori Fox, Author of This Has Always Been A War, is also a LiisBeth contributor.


“I think about that photo [a young man in a leather jacket, clean cut, smiling warmly, leaning up against the side of a black-and-chrome Harley Davidson motorcycle] a lot, about how there’s no one story, no one straight narrative that can be told about a person, no matter how much we would like there to be. Everyone you know, including yourself, is a shapeshifter, some of us more so than others. No person is ever just one thing.”

From Every Little Act of Cruelty.


“Only a small part of my survival can be attributed to my own choices and skills; something I learned while I lived out in the bush is that sometimes good things happen to you, and sometimes bad things happen to you, but mostly, things just happen to you. You can be the fittest, most cautious, most competent bushperson around and still get mauled by a bear or drown in a river for no goddamn reason at all other than it’s just something that happens. You can prepare and do your best to avoid bad situations, but the amount of power you have to control your fate is limited. The bush—and the wider world—is amoral and impartial to both your success and your suffering. Some people find that hard to stomach, but I find it tremendously comforting. Often, things just are.”

From This Has Always Been A War

In short, we need more books like this.

We need to read the stories of despair and suicide attempts and crippling depression. We need to share our own stories of resilience and courage and survival. Because, as Fox puts it: “If things are the way they are because this is the only system we have, then we need a new fucking system.”

“It’s a system of learned helplessness. And it doesn’t have to be that way”, they write.

While the rants and tangents are on point with some laugh out loud metaphors, some trimming back to pieces where a point has already been made might allow the prose to pack more of a punch than it already does.

We recommend buying a copy of Fox’s book from your local indie feminist bookstore or via the publisher here

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A Queer Evangelist Who Preaches Hope, Risk and Doing the Impossible

A photo of Reverend Dr, Cheri DiNovo.
Toronto Reverend Dr. Cheri DiNovo. Photo from Facebook.

The Joy of Sin

Reverend Dr. Cheri DiNovo C.M. was the guest on  the November episode of The Fine Print  an online conversation series with contemporary feminist authors. Hearing DiNovo speak truth to power ended the 2021 season on a note of hope, joy and resilience.

“We’re all joyously fallible, traumatized, wanting humans,” writes DiNovo in the epilogue of her compelling memoir, The Queer Evangelist. “If we are loved by anyone and love anyone, our lives include holiness,” said the former politician turned radical reverend. ‘The joy of sin’ is how she prefers to reference the mantra ‘progress not perfection’.

DiNovo understands progress. During her tenure representing Parkdale-High Park in the Legislative Assembly on Ontario she passed into law more pro-LGBTQ2+ legislation than anyone in Canadian history, including Toby’s Act which added trans rights to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012, the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act which banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ2+ youth in 2015, Cy and Ruby’s Act which established parent equality for LGBTQ2+ parents in 2015, and the Trans Day of Remembrance Act in 2017.

“I hope this book can be seen as something of a manual for how, in spite of our ‘messiness’, we can be change agents.”

The memoir is a brutally honest tale of how a queer teen who was addicted to meth and left home at the age of fifteen went on to get elected to provincial office, change laws and save lives.

From her lived experiences activism and politics, DiNovo learned that reform and revolution aren’t contradictory. We’re living in a time when reforms are happening all around us. Anti-Black racism, reaction to the climate crisis, Indigenous rail blockades, to name only a few. Revolution, on the other hand, is a loftier goal. And it’s unlikely the reforms we’re seeing today—critical as they are—will upend capitalism and displace a system that is designed for people, not profit. But DiNovo will take what she can get. “Like the tale on one woman’s life, reforms are not nothing. Reforms are crucial. Reforms change lives as they are lived now, not in some utopian future,” she writes.

Working with the Enemy

The Queer Evangelist includes the full text of a sermon DiNovo gave when she first started at Trinity St-Paul’s. The text is based on the Beatitudes and aims to shed light on the ‘hate your enemies’ mindset. She also used the sermon to help explain her move out of politics and to help those who find church as a whole, incomprehensible.

“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you,” DiNovo preached.  

Impossible, right?

“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6: 27-31)

Who does this?

Those with nothing left to lose.

“If we’re going to have differences of opinion and ideological debate in our governments, then we better learn to work with somebody who doesn’t always agree with us,” said DiNovo. “And so I did. And that’s how I got a lot done.”

She learned to respect people who had integrity and principles, no matter their political persuasion. She sought out people she could work with from the other parties and got most of the bills passed as tri-party bills. Eventually she became known as the tri-party bill queen. Further testament to befriending the enemy is the fact that Kathleen Wynne wrote the foreward to the book. After one of the worst smear campaigns that was hurtful and attacked her past and her family, the former Liberal Premier wrote: “Cheri’s telling of the story of that campaign is chilling for me to read as it lays bare the worst of the political process—a personal smear campaign. It was my party that would have supported, if not initiated, the campaign. But more than that, as an openly lesbian candidate, I have lived through my own personal smear campaigns. They are exhausting. They damage families ad they damage democracy.”

Just Do the Impossible

In our time of ongoing uncertainty about our environmental future and political divide, DiNovo uses the phrase ‘Do the impossible’ as a guiding principle in her life and work. She was inspired by this piece: graffiti is from Paris, France in the late 1960s when students protested the closure of the Sorbonne.

May 3rd 1968: French students protest the closure of the Sorbonne, setting off the May ’68 wave of demonstrations and strikes by millions of students and workers. “Be realistic, demand the impossible.” —PARIS GRAFFITI. Image by Verso Books

The idea resonated strongly enough that she used it as the title of the book’s epilogue: Just Do the Impossible. 

Because if you’ve got nothing to lose, why wouldn’t you do the impossible? Or at least give it a try.

The Queer Evangelist is DiNovo’s second book. It was shortlisted for the Speaker’s Book Award, Legislative Assembly of Ontario 2021.

She was the featured guest in November 2021, on The Fine Print, a conversation series with contemporary feminist authors hosted and produced by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC). Watch the video highlights of the conversation here on YouTube. 

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