OUR NEIGHBOURS – The Many Talents and Interests of Steve Fick

Dianne Wing

Perhaps best known to Old Ottawa East residents as a co-founder and co-owner of Terra Firma, Ottawa’s first and only cohousing community, Steve Fick is a renaissance man. He is a cartographer, painter, couples counsellor, grandfather, swimmer, cyclist, storyteller, singer and so much more.

Steve Fick strums the guitar during a family sing-along at the Terra Firma birthday celebration. Photo by Paul Scott

Steve Fick strums the guitar during a family sing-along at the Terra Firma birthday celebration. Photo by Paul Scott

Colorado-born, Fick still feels a creative umbilical cord to the magnificent western landscape. He completed his Masters’s degree in physical geography at Simon Fraser University where he met Signy, his wife of 42 years and where they began their search for a spiritual home. They found it in the Quaker community. Quakerism stresses experience over belief, that everyone has a seed of the divine in them and everyone is capable of direct unmediated experience of the Divine. These tenets have guided their life together.

Fick was one of those kids who could always draw and paint. So it was a natural arc that his study of physical geography would lead to cartography. And it was the offer of the job as Chief Cartographer at Canadian Geographic Magazine that lured him to Ottawa. It was the best place in the country to be a cartographer and for 23 years he created beautiful maps there: maps with deceptive simplicity, beautiful to look at but containing a lot of information.

A year after leaving the magazine, Fick began working with the Inuit Heritage Trust, an organization dedicated to the preservation, enrichment and protection of Inuit cultural heritage and identity embodied in Nunavut’s archaeological sites, and traditional place names. Fick creates regional maps from a database of over 10,000 Inutittuk place names. Very few are actually official names at this point but probably will be someday. Every map has an index and for each place name, there may be an explanation or story about that name. Fick marvels about this experience. “It is an amazing window on an extraordinary way of life.” He is often told how much the Inuit treasure these maps. “They are so tied to the land and at a glance, they see their heritage.”

Whether at Canadian Geographic Magazine or the Inuit Heritage Trust, maps show relationships in a way that, if there is stuff missing, it is obvious, Fick explains. He is interested in relationships, as a cartographer and a spiritual person. After raising three children, his wife Signy earned her Masters of Counselling and Spirituality at St. Paul’s University.

Self-portrait of the artist  Image by Steve Fick

Self-portrait of the artist Image by Steve Fick

A certified psychotherapist, she obtained permission from the College of Psychotherapists for Fick to assist her in 2 on 2 couples counselling, as part of her practice. Together they counsel couples who are about to become parents. Harkening back to Quaker principles, they provide leadership in what they call birthing from within, emotional and spiritual preparation for a life-changing event. As with cartography, he finds this work to be challenging but gratifying. Fick’s most recent gig is as grandfather to baby Gabor. He has already painted an arresting portrait of his baby grandson.

Fick is first and foremost an artist. He prefers working in oils, and he started with landscape painting. He found a second artistic umbilical with the Canadian Shield as inspiration. Always one to need a challenge, he later went on to portrait painting which he mastered to the same high level as his landscapes.

It was his interest in relationships that prompted him, along with Rosie Cusson and the late Kathleen McCrea to envision the first Old Ottawa East Art Tour in 2019 as a way to show their work. The first tour was well received at a time when people were looking for something normal to do in the early days of the pandemic. The Tour, which has now been named A Walk of Art, has grown from 11 artists in its second year, and on September 10 this year there will be about 20 local artists and photographers exhibiting their work.

From Terra Firma to the Old Ottawa East Art Tour, Fick is a proponent of intentional communities, communities that are designed and planned around a social idea or collective values and interests. We are fortunate that he chose to make Old Ottawa East a part of his intentional community.

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