Leanne Cusack and Joel Haslam have long graced our screens, captivating audiences with their storytelling prowess. With decades of combined experience, they recently bid farewell to the familiar world of television and are embarking on a new chapter together—one that revolves around nature, creativity, and giving back to the community.
For Leanne, the transition from the structured world of broadcasting, where she spent nearly 34 years on live television, to the uncharted waters of the art scene has been transformational. Now, she has found solace in her creative journey as a painter. "When I paint, I lose all track of time. It's almost meditative," she reflects. The rhythm of live TV, measured to the second, contrasts starkly with the tranquility of painting—an experience that she describes as stillness.
While very comfortable in conversation, Leanne explains that art speaks a different language—a language of shape, colour, and texture. “It makes for a very personal conversation between the creator and the viewer,” she says. Her art resonates with vibrant energy, mirroring the feeling she draws from nature. From fields to meadows and the water's edge at the Chelsea, QC., home she’s shared with Haslam since 2013, her paintings capture the essence of the great outdoors.
But her creative expression doesn't confine itself to her studio; instead, it blossoms into the lush canvas of her garden. "Our garden is a delicious co-creation,” Leanne enthuses. ”Joel and I worked as a team. We had so much fun digging, planting, laughing, and now, enjoying. Our garden is pure joy for us, the hummingbirds and the bees.”
Having lived in the Ottawa Valley and now calling the Gatineau River Valley home, Leanne shares that ‘place’ has left an indelible mark on her heart. And when the conversation shifts to her sentiments about leaving the world of broadcasting, she expresses that the reality of it hasn't fully sunk in. "It's so new. While I may not miss the cortisol spikes of being “timed to the second”, I will miss the daily connection.” However, Leanne is committed to staying in touch because, at the end of the day, after the lights and cameras are turned off, their connections feel more like family and remain constant and steadfast.
As for Joel, he channels his creativity through music, which is more than just sound to him—it's a haven of peace and nostalgia. "When I pick up my guitar, my shoulders come down,” he describes. ”My busy mind becomes still and the noisy, unwanted distractions fade away.” The harmony of music parallels the harmony he finds in nature, creating a soothing respite. But music is more than a personal retreat—it's also a powerful complement to his storytelling.
Joel's storytelling has been celebrated on CTV’s Regional Contact, where his work showcased the extraordinary lives of people doing things they loved. "I think my approach has always been to look for stories where others aren't looking," he reveals. The tales that others might overlook often carry profound resonance, touching hearts in unexpected ways. Even beyond the show, Joel's appreciation for storytelling endures. "I will always be a storyteller," he asserts. Observing his surroundings can inspire an internal sequence of visualization, where he envisions the lighting, sequences, and interviews that would craft a powerful narrative. “It’s just the way I tick.”
Leanne and Joel's dedication to community has stretched beyond their professional endeavors. "We both think it's important to be in service and of service—to share your talents and skills in the ways you can—to help," they agree. Their involvement in charitable causes has been a cornerstone of their lives. They draw inspiration from those who serve quietly, those who embody grace and giving. "We will always believe that it's our job to create an empathetic and compassionate bridge between despair and hope, reminding people that we’re all here to take care of one another," Leanne emphasizes.
As they journey beyond broadcasting, Leanne and Joel find their path ahead is illuminated by their shared passions. Creativity remains their guiding force, and they are excited to channel their skills as visual artists and storytellers. "We are already collaborating with people we admire and respect on several exciting, meaningful, and interesting projects," they reveal. It's clear that their journey beyond broadcasting isn't an end but a continuation of their legacy of storytelling.
"Stories offer lessons, inspiration, and perspective. They incite compassion—plant seeds of hope in the darkest corners," Joel explains. Their stories bridge divides, fostering unity and understanding. Leanne and Joel's story holds onto what makes us human in a chaotic world. It reminds us all of our shared experiences and the potential for positive change.