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We contacted 53 organizations/reservations/communities by internet and telephone and had conversations with 36 individuals from these various sources. We found 15 community arts programs and centres that provide arts access to people who need resources and opportunities the most. We found 11 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We have a secondary research list to follow-up on with 92 sources.

We started mapping Manitoba by calling the dynamic community arts organization Art City in Winnipeg, as one of ArtBridges Advisors, Stephanie Whitehouse, recommended it to us. She was on their board for five years and has a wealth of knowledge on community arts in Winnipeg. Stephanie also told us about the Winnipeg Cultural Map which highlights numerous arts programs and centres across the city. She also provided us with a thorough report written by Michelle Kuly and Etoile Stewart in partnership with Art City about the state of community arts in Winnipeg called Enhancing Cultural Capital: The Arts and Community Development in Winnipeg (2005).

In mapping Manitoba, we really got a sense of the connection between health and art. We became familiar with different funding models that support community arts programs on reserves such as Health Canada’s National Aboriginal Youth Suicide and Prevention Strategy and the National Native Alcohol And Drug Abuse Program. We also found an arts program within the Ma-Mow We-Tak Friendship Centre in Thompson that is funded by a Regional Health Authority. This free arts program, Tea and Craft for Elders, is comprised of quilting and beading, while focusing on diabetes prevention through healthy eating, slideshows and discussions. It is one of many great examples of bridging health and arts.

We also began to learn about the differences and similarities between artist-run centres and community arts centres/programs. For example, Ace Art Inc is an artist-run centre in Winnipeg that is focused on contemporary art and dedicated to culturally diverse communities. It is a great affordable resource and provides access to tools, woodworking, studios and workshops. From the Program Manager, we learned about a network called the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives of Ontario as well as a national one called the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference.

There were several strong community arts programs/organizations as well as artist-run centres that we found in Winnipeg. There are too many to name! TheUrban Shaman Gallery’s main focus is art exhibitions and sales for Aboriginal artists. They offer a free community gallery for anyone to show their work. TheArtbeat Studio is for artists who face mental health, social and financial challenges. Here, participants can make art in a safe and secure community studio. Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), works with homeless or street-involved youth and encourages them to post their artwork on their virtual gallery.Arts Connection is a free program that is offered through all of the Boys & Girls Clubs situated in lower-income communities of Winnipeg. The Clubs have also partnered with the Graffiti Art Program to increase and develop art skills with inner-city and at-risk youth. The Edge Gallery is a relatively new community-driven non-profit arts organization for homeless and at-risk youth. The list goes on…

When we were looking for community arts programs in Northern Manitoba, we discovered some websites that helped us to pinpoint under-resourced or distressed communities. Through StatsCanada and the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada websites, we found the¬†Community Well-Being Index¬†(CWB) Database, 2001. This rates ‚Äúthe socio-economic well-being, including education, income, housing, and labour force activity‚ÄĚ of each community. We found nine Aboriginal communities that had very low Community Well-Being Index ratings (i.e. below or around 50%). We also learned about another great resource called theManitoba Arts Network. Their mission is to ‚Äúfoster arts and culture in rural and northern Manitoba.‚ÄĚ We used the¬†Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Territory and First Nations¬†map and the¬†Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres¬†list as well.

We found Little Grand Rapids, a community with no road access except in winter (via skidoo). They offer art activities/programs that are funded by Health Canada’s National Aboriginal Youth Suicide and Prevention Strategy. This community has a very high youth demographic. In a community twelve miles away called Pauingassi, the Health Canada’s National Native Alcohol And Drug Abuse Program Coordinator told us about their community centre that offers painting, crafting, beadwork and skinning for drums. He has a small budget for art supplies, which he brings in from Winnipeg. During our conversation, he had to get off phone because the plane which comes in once a day was arriving!

We also looked up¬†RCMP¬†reports on at-risk communities and found a summary about Shamattawa and the extreme issues at hand.¬†G√°ldu, an online Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, posted an article on youth suicides and the disparity in Shamattawa (Northern Manitoba reserve): ‚ÄúLife in the remote community of Shamattawa, Manitoba, is so bleak. In the first five months of this year, 37 kids and 10 adults attempted suicide, and 52 others told health care workers or family they plan to kill themselves.‚ÄĚ Here is¬†the link to the article. We called the Band Office and learned that there was no arts offered whatsoever. Shamattawa represented the most alarming and distressed community that we have found in our research so far.

We did hear of a very positive story from two people, one from the¬†Martha Street Studio/Manitoba Printmakers’ Association¬†in Winnipeg and the other, Jaimie Isaac, the Aboriginal Programs Manager of the¬†Arts and Cultural Industries of Manitoba¬†(ACI) who organized the¬†Northern Aboriginal Arts Tour¬†in 2009. This was a one-time project that cost $10,000. Both Jaimie and the staff member at Martha Street Studio said that the tour was very successful and that it should be an annual program. It was all about doing outreach, arts education, training on grant writing and governance, developing relationships with the artists in northern and aboriginal communities as well as understanding their needs. They went to Norway House, Thompson and Clear Lake. Martha Street Studio brought up printmaking supplies and showed people who wanted assistance how to make linocut prints. We hope projects like this can become sustainable!

Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Summer 2009