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Posts Tagged ‘ontario’

Resilient Communities Fund (Ontario)

“COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on the non-profit sector and its ability to build resiliency, and support and serve communities across Ontario. The non-profit sector faces many challenges, including the need to adapt program and service delivery, generate revenue, meet changing community needs and address health and safety requirements.

COVID-19 recovery support is essential for non-profit organizations, Indigenous communities, and Municipalities to deal with ongoing needs for both them and their communities. 

What is the Resilient Communities Fund?

This fund supports the recovery efforts of organizations impacted by COVID-19 and helps them respond with immediate, medium, and longer-term recovery projects.

  • Applicants can apply for a minimum of $10,000, and up to $200,000, with a maximum of $100,000 per year.
  • The Resilient Communities Fund grant application will be available starting Wednesday, November 9, 2022.

Resilient Communities Fund grants support projects that help rebuild an organization’s capacity, enhance their resiliency, and meet the changing needs of their communities. Projects should be focused on: 

  • developing new approaches;
  • starting new activities;
  • adjusting strategies, or 
  • planning for future challenges 

Applicants who received a Resilient Communities Fund grant from the April 6, 2022 deadline are not eligible to apply for this round.

Discover more about this fund and if your organization is eligible for funding here: https://otf.ca/our-grants/resilient-communities-fund

-from Ontario Trillium Foundation

Call for Submissions: Josephine Massarella Artist Award 2022 (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto)

“The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) announces the call for submissions for the Josephine Massarella Artist Award 2022

In June of 2018 the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto’s (LIFT) longtime member Josephine Massarella passed away after a short illness. https://lift.ca/news-post/remembering-josephine-massarella

She was an important part of the LIFT community and she will be truly missed. She was extremely productive in the final five years of her life, returning to filmmaking after many years spent raising family and care-giving for relatives. Once she returned, she was at LIFT often, working on three films, “Light Study,” “No End” and “165708,” the last of which we supported through a production and post-production support grant.

To honour her spirit, and through the support of her family members, LIFT inaugurated the Josephine Massarella Artist Award in 2019. After a long pause due to the pandemic, we are happy to announce the second competition for this award in 2022.

The Josephine Massarella Artist Award will assist female-identifying artists 50 years and older to return to filmmaking after a long absence. Eligible applicants are female-identifying, moving-image artists living within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, who have had to step away from artistic practice for at least five years and need support in the research and creation of a first new work on their return.

LIFT is an artist-run production and educational media arts organization dedicated to celebrating excellence in the moving image. We support a wide range of production formats, including Regular 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm, Super 16mm, 35mm and HD; our facilities include film and digital editing suites, optical printers, contact printers, animation stands, a darkroom, and more. Toronto also offers a range of lab facilities, a large pool of experienced technicians and talent, a vibrant film community and a dynamic arts environment.

This artist award focuses on the production of analogue film-based works, although strong digital applications will also be considered. Applicants may also propose elements of community collaboration through teaching workshops, artist talks and/or presentation activities—these engagements are a valuable part of each residency offered by LIFT.”

For more information, please visit: https://lift.ca/programming-home/call-for-submissions-josephine-massarella-artist-award-2022/

-from LIFT

Ontario Culture Days: Performance in the St. Vincent Atrium (Radical Connections, Sep 23)

Culture Days 2022: GrandRounds at Saint-Vincent Hospital

https://culturedays.ca/en/hubs/243d021e-bf86-4342-8922-ef02745183c1

https://www.radicalconnections.ca/

Culture Days is a nationwide initiative to celebrate arts and culture. Ontario Culture Days is taking place this year from September 23 until October 16, 2022.

At Radical Connections and Bruyère, we believe participation in the arts should be a standard aspect of healing and wellness. During Grand Rounds at Saint-Vincent Hospital (SVH), visitors will get a chance to sample the art and artists offered to the people in care at Bruyère’s hospital and long-term-care sites. 

What are Grand Rounds? A doctor’s daily rounds are a central aspect of inpatient medical care with their focus on the immediate care and support of patients in the hospital. Grand Rounds are educational sessions, open to all members of medical departments. Our Culture Days Grand Rounds, brought to you by Bruyère and Radical Connections, are open to artists, arts workers, and all members of the healthcare community as well!

Performance in the SVH Atrium, in Person for Staff and Residents and Live Stream for the Public: Friday, September 23rd, 2pm

Performance in the SVH Atrium features performances by Unmasked Connections artists: storyteller Kim Kilpatrick, cellist Fanny Marks, jazz vocalist Empress Nyiringango, as well as pianist Dr. Carol Wiebe, who is also Radical Connection’s Executive Director. Stay for a Q&A session with the performers after the show, to hear more about Unmasked Connections.

Link to the live stream will be on the Culture Days event page:

https://culturedays.ca/en/events/2d3b9250-522c-4bd5-a017-dccf3b00a881

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Eldercare Foundation of Ottawa and the Ontario Arts Council

Double Virtual Exhibition: Hidden Shapes of Nature and People Who Love People

We invite you to celebrate the opening of two new virtual 3D art exhibits at Saint Vincent Hospital: ShapeVision’s “Hidden Shapes of Nature” Oscar Parra’s “People who Love People”.

These exhibits (Physically installed in the Saint-Vincent Hospital’s Elevator Galleries) have been made into virtual galleries to increase accessibility, both to patients at Saint-Vincent and to the outside world, who cannot access the physical shows at this time because of COVID-19 protocol.
Assistive technology, including joysticks and eye-tracking systems, will be used by patients with physical impairments to visit this realistic virtual gallery!

These exhibits are part of “Grand Rounds in the Atrium at Saint-Vincent Hospital” an event hub at Ontario Culture Days by Bruyère and Radical Connections. At Radical Connections and Bruyère, we believe participation in the arts should be a standard aspect of healing and wellness,

Access the event here: https://culturedays.ca/en/events/26c19abd-aa26-427c-a109-480f90a764e3

-from Radical Connections

iNdigital Youth Collective (imagineNATIVE)

“Formed through collaboration between imagineNATIVE and ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency, the iNdigital Youth Collective is a new group of emerging digital and interactive artists aged 12-24 and based in Ontario. 

This collective operates with a collaborative spirit to engage Indigenous youth in a community-focused approach, fostering creativity, technical skill, and confidence. The iNdigital Youth Collective’s mission is to empower Indigenous youth, growing the next generation of Indigenous voices in digital media.

2022: VIDEO GAME DESIGN

For 2022, the iYC Cohort will be learning Game Design skills through a series of workshops alongside Indigenous Mentors and Artists. The games and experiences you create will be featured as part of an online exhibition as well as a special showcase at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in October! 

The iYC meets weekly on Thursdays for approximately 3 hours using Discord. All iYC members will receive a cash honorarium for their participation in the cohort. Join us from April 28th to June 3rd, 2022!”

For more information, please visit: https://imaginenative.org/indigital-youth-collective

-from ImagineNATIVE
photo by imagineNATIVE

STORIES OF NOW: Workman Arts

photo credit: Workman Arts

VignetteWorkman Arts, Toronto, https://workmanarts.com

“STORIES OF NOW” is part of a project ArtBridges is working on with Judith Marcuse Projects’ ASCN (Arts for Social Change Network) and ICASC. It is about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field now and about what issues and areas of focus matter. 

In conversation with: Kelly Straughan, Executive Artistic Director, on March 3rd, 2022

If you could tell a story about your community-engaged arts initiative now, this year, what would the story be about? What are the main themes?

KS: I think on the positive side – what it’s allowed us to do is see how going virtual can benefit members – our 500 members. We used to wonder if we could move things more virtually and that maybe people would like to engage more virtually. Fast forward- we’re able to do it!  We, like a lot of arts organizations, were amazed at how innovative it could be to offer virtual art classes, choir improv classes, metal work classes, etc. It’s an interesting puzzle – if it weren’t for (pandemic circumstances) this discovery would not have happened. 

We have a core group of about 150 – 200 participants invested in 20 – 25 art classes a week. This has scaled up our projects.

What are the main issues your community-engaged arts initiative faces? (e.g., social justice, environmental justice, pandemic-related, operational, financial, HR)

KS: So many! Naturally this is about serving a marginalized, vulnerable community – many people are on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program).  Our core members who we deeply engage with day to day are more vulnerable – they have housing issues, some are in and out of shelters, have food insecurity and added pressures. Members have to have the basics of life to be able to actually engage in art processes. Now that we are dealing with virtual, some members need us even more – many don’t have access to the internet or computers, so we purchased 30 ipads and cell phone programs, so that people could participate.

How has your initiative been addressing these main issues?

KS: Supplying the 30 purchased ipads; redirecting funds from the arts council for immediate covid support, really looking at funds we were using before, and reallocating them, looking at the cost of groceries, creating food bursaries, food vouchers for $100 – supplied by the TD bank. Redirecting funds to help people survive day to day. Moving in that direction more. 

How has the community of participants that your initiative engages with evolved in the past year (if at all)?

KS: Our artists support each other all the time, our members are instructors as well, people have maintained peer level of support, members are also peer supporters. 

We have a virtual ‘front desk’ on Facebook. This evolved from the membership. It’s lovely to see how members can give back and keep making connections through it all. Through this front desk, a member can call if they’d like to chat. Members provide peer support, instructors provide peer support – it can help. In the classes – the virtual ones, members can help other members with any digital support, too. Members supporting members – this makes our program seem less clinical.

How is your organization engaging with your community right now? (Logistics, pandemic public health and safety guidelines & policies, changes in the way we gather)

KS: Our major partner is CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) and our physical office is in the hospital. They need to be cautious when easing Covid restrictions and move more slowly than the rest of the province. So at this time, our work remains totally virtual. We’ve done mailing, drop-offs and pick-ups of art supplies to members to get them materials they need to paint and make art.

What are one or two new projects your initiative implemented this year?

KS: One would be – the Slate Family Foundation is big on mental health support – Workman Arts was one of the recipients of their support throughout the GTA. This helped us to create a scaling project and decentralize our work – it’s called the Workman Arts Satellite Programs. 

New folks…our class sizes have grown, our core membership people rely on classes, and with virtual access – the classes have grown. We also noticed with the Rendezvous with Madness festival, people were logging on from other places.

What is your initiative doing new–digitally–compared to pre-pandemic?

KS: …We will keep the virtual part; it’s allowed people to participate in ways they haven’t before. How can we maintain this model and not put extra stress on the instructor? and work in a hybrid format? There are members that feel like they can participate in more classes because we offer virtual ones. 

We were not doing ‘virtual’ before, not at all. We had an idea – we noticed that 50 members at most – were not doing anything with computers, so we mailed them some.  This (the pandemic) has coerced people into technology – this has been huge for members. We asked a member with tech savvy to show people how to log onto zoom to be able to engage in the virtual workshops. It’s so lovely to see. Peer support is a major part of our work. We have up to 500 members. We hired Nate for one day a week to help everyone to get in touch – even learn how to turn on a computer.

Is there a recent achievement, wonderful moment, or quote you’d like to share about your initiative or its impact? 

KS: So many – specifically – when we moved to reallocate a lot of our funds to food gift cards for our holiday gathering and give out 100 Walmart cards, there was a real level of appreciation. We stepped outside of our core business of arts and recognized that this was the need. We got heart-felt feedback – that it was making a difference. 

Organizationally, as we don’t rely on box office revenues, we have been able to survive – we’ve done ‘pay what you can’, we’ve been well equipped to survive. 

Reducing social isolation- we already do it!  it’s our mandate – through all of this, we are staying true to our values – our mandate.

In conversation with Seanna Connell, ArtBridges  sconnell[at]artbridges.ca

Find Workman Arts on: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

BEING SCENE 21ST ANNUAL EXHIBITION
In-Person and Online:  March 31 – May 31 2022
workmanarts.com/being-scene-2022

Neighbourhood Arts Network: Mentor In Residence

Registration for Spring/Summer mentors is now OPEN! Mentorships may begin in March 2022.

Many artists have been forced to cancel and postpone event based presentations, exhibitions, and other activities essential to their professional practices as a result of COVID-19. Many have had to pivot or shift their approach as a result. In partnership with North York Arts, we’ve launched a digital Mentor in Residence program to support artists in the reimagining of their work. 

The Mentor in Residence program assists artists working in all disciplines by providing mentorship support in career planning, project development and entrepreneurial skills through virtual consultation sessions with industry professionals.

Mentor meetings are being delivered over Zoom, Google Meets and/or phone calls while we observe physical distancing. Let us know if there is a diffeent method of technology that works best for you when you connect with your mentor. You can note your preferred method of communication and any accomodation requests when you register.

Registration for Spring/Summer mentors is now OPEN! Mentorships may begin in March 2022.

Eligiblity: Toronto-based professional artists and/or arts workers. This program is free to access. 

Accessability: Neighbourhood Arts Network is happy to book you accomodation as requested, including captioning and ASL interpretation for your sessions. Please indicate how we can support you on the registration form.”

For more information, please visit https://neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/programs/mentor-in-residence

-from Neighbourhood Arts Network

Call for Participants: Aurora Cultural Centre

“WORK WITH US! You do not have to live in Aurora, or Ontario for that matter. The Cultural Centre has performers from all over Canada and touring artists from around the world. We Welcome Everyone. We invite all artists, performers and educators, from all cultures, 2LGBTQIA+, and persons with disabilities to participate with the Aurora Cultural Centre.  

We recognize and acknowledge that we do not have a comprehensive understanding of artists from traditionally vulnerable and marginalized groups in our existing relationships. We request this information to better serve our clients, deepen our relationships, and form meaningful partnerships.

To see our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Framework please visit this link: https://auroraculturalcentre.ca/

-from the Aurora Cultural Centre

STORIES OF NOW: Focus on Nature (Guelph, ON)

VignetteFocus on Nature (Guelph, ON)

Follow us on Instagram | Photos on Flickr  | Visit our web site | FoN on YouTube | Like us on Facebook!

“Inspiring young people to explore and connect with nature through photography.”

“STORIES OF NOW” is part of a project ArtBridges is working on with Judith Marcuse Projects’ ASCN (Arts for Social Change Network) and ICASC. It is about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field now and about what issues and areas of focus matter.

In conversation with: Simon Bell, Executive Director, Focus on Nature, November 29th, 2021

If you could tell a story about your community-engaged arts initiative now, this year, what would the story be about? What are the main themes?

SB:  Our story is one of adapting to the new reality of school lockdowns and pivoting to remote learning. Focus on Nature’s mission is to inspire young people to explore and connect with nature through photography. We do this primarily by offering full-day nature photography workshops in schools. This allows us to reach the broadest possible audience of children, regardless of their financial ability to participate.

Pre-pandemic, our program was expanding each year to include schools in Hamilton, Halton Region, Waterloo Region and Guelph-Wellington, where we started in 2010. By 2019 we were touching the lives of nearly 7,000 children each year in Ontario. In 2020, with the arrival of Covd-19 and schools locked down, our reach collapsed to just 90 children and we knew that we had to re-invent ourselves.

We began by creating short video modules based on the Elements of Design, photo composition and photo editing. This proved quite popular with teachers, so we expanded the Focus on Nature Online web portal to include more videos, check-in quizzes and photo challenges, all in both French and English. We added a Teacher’s Lounge with access to extension activities and resources that teachers could use while students were learning remotely. In 2021, we had 80 teachers and about 2,000 students signed up!

What are the main issues your community-engaged arts initiative faces? (e.g., social justice, environmental justice, pandemic-related, operational, financial, HR)

SB: The main issues have been the need for staff and volunteers to work remotely and of course there’s the financial impact the pandemic has had on the organization. We’ve had to restructure to a smaller staff and we’ve developed new skill-sets to work in the digital domain. Fortunately, we live in Canada where government support has been generous. We have benefited from wage subsidies and youth employment programs. The Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Guelph also provided community grants to help us continue developing our online platform and promoting it.

How has your initiative been addressing these main issues?

SB: Without our annual fundraising events, such as photo exhibits and garden parties, we were in a tight financial situation last spring. Our Board of Directors rallied to start a GoFundMe campaign and encouraged our supporters to donate more than they usually do.

The campaign was successful, allowing us to prepare summer camp programs for Oakville, Guelph and Waterloo, plus our first virtual summer camp. Camps were smaller and campers had to wear masks and stay 6 ft. apart when indoors. Still, everyone had a great time and created some wonderful photo-art. Some of the fun can be seen in our online summer camp photo gallery.

How has the community of participants that your initiative engages with evolved in the past year (if at all)?

SB: Everything we did with them until June was online. This was a drag as we couldn’t to interact in-person with the kids at all. It was hard for teachers as well. We loaned cameras and students could use their cell phones as well. One teacher said that three of their students had poor cellphones, so the teacher picked up our cameras and took them over to the students at home. As part of a project about human impact on the environment, they took pictures of litter, quarries, sunsets and butterflies. We then created a photo gallery of their best shots to share with the public. Covid restrictions have not allowed us to have our photo exhibits in galleries as we normally do. So newsletters and online exhibitions are the way we’re doing this now.

How is your organization engaging with your community right now? (Logistics, pandemic public health and safety guidelines & policies, changes in the way we gather)

SB: Now that schools are reopening to in-class learning again, we are dealing with Covid-19 health protocols that vary widely between school boards. Some schools do not allow any guest presenters, while others will allow us to meet students but only outdoors and online.

So we’ve redesigned our school workshops to a hybrid format, combining outdoor and virtual learning and it seems to be working. In October and November of 2021, we delivered 63 workshops, giving 1520 children an opportunity to explore nature as visual artists. We expect more schools will allow this hybrid format for their students in 2022 as the threat of Covid-19 recedes. The future is unpredictable but we’ll keep adapting to meet the needs of teachers and students for outdoor arts programming.

What are one or two new projects your initiative implemented this year?

SB: The Principles of Design online course for high school students is new, allowing us to expand our reach to teenagers. We were working with grades 3 to 6 originally but now, with so many kids suffering through the pandemic, we thought “why not grades 7,8, 9 and 10”? This is one adaption. We’re also developing a new module for Indigenous Studies, featuring the work of Indigenous photographers in Canada and in other countries as well.

What is your initiative doing new–digitally–compared to pre-pandemic?

SB: So much has changed because of the pandemic. Since our staff and volunteer board members are located in multiple locations, we didn’t see each other too often. Now we are actually collaborating together more than ever by adapting to new technologies such as Zoom, Canva and Slack.

There’s been a learning curve for sure but teachers and students have adapted to using Google Meets, Drive and Photos to engage with our workshop teams in the afternoon, after we’ve taken them on their photo walk with cameras in the morning. They all have Chromebooks in the classroom now and we’ve changed our program to engage with them remotely. Who knows…this might become the “new normal” going forward!

Is there a recent achievement, wonderful moment, or quote you’d like to share about your initiative or its impact?

SB: When the wage subsidies were announces in April 2020, I wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau to thank him. Next thing I know his office called to ask if he could mention Focus on Nature in his daily briefing! It was the first time our name ‘Focus on Nature’ was heard from coast to coast to coast! And then CBC News called and interviewed me live that evening, allowing me to tell our story more completely.

Recently, a parent recalled that her son said “it will be so boring – focus on nature…. but it was the best day of school I ever had!”, and that he’s now taking pictures of nature all the time. Check out some other comments by teachers and students on this webpage.

For some video content, check our YouTube Channel. There you’ll find my CBC News interview and a playlist of my Photo Safaris among other things. You can see some student photos on Flickr as well.

In conversation with Seanna Connell, ArtBridges

STORIES OF NOW: Thinking Rock Community Arts (Thessalon, ON)

Vignette – Thinking Rock Community Arts (Thessalon, ON) www.thinkingrock.ca

“STORIES OF NOW” is part of a project ArtBridges is working on with Judith Marcuse Projects’ ASCN (Arts for Social Change Network) and ICASC. It is about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field now and about what issues and areas of focus matter.

In conversation with: Miranda Bouchard (she/her), Artistic Director, Thinking Rock Community Arts, November 12th, 2021

If you could tell a story about your community-engaged arts initiative now, this year, what would the story be about? What are the main themes?

MB: The Surfacing the Sault (Sault Ste. Marie) mural project was different in focus and form than we had previously intended for it to be. It has so far gone through 3 phases: 1) a pilot phase, featuring a woven fence mural in the Sault during the pandemic that amplified messages of Mina-niibaanamaadaa / Joyeuses fêtes / Season’s greetings in high-traffic areas of the community. It was well received. People appreciated it, as they went about their business on the outdoor trail or driving by on busy Bay Street. 2) We installed a second mural this summer themed around “community & self love” – a message of love (Gizaagi’igoo / Tu es aimé.e / You are loved) was woven into the fence. We did our first mural activation at Cancel Canada Day, and another on September 30th – the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or Orange Shirt Day – where we invited community members to tie orange flagging tape in solidarity and recognition of the children and survivors of the Residential “Schools” and their families. We hosted 16 activations from July through October on Thursday afternoons. This connected the community, connected the staff team, and brought us all together for safely-distanced community arts programming. We’d show up, set up a tent, and have jelly roll strips of our green Social Fabric (handpainted recycled cotton sheets) and orange flagging tape (biodegradable!) and we’d write messages of community love & self love and weave them into the fence. Clusters of these messages grew over the summer. We’ll next work in collaboration with community members to sew the strips into the front and back of a quilt of community care over the winter. This will carry the legacy of the murals forward into our multi-year Social Fabric project as a physical artefact of that process. 3) We also hosted 5 youth-engagement sessions designed and hosted by youth staff members through the summer, inviting youth in the community to vision and co-design a third woven fence mural installation. The youth shared their dreams and hopes for the community – some coming from beyond the Sault, encompassing wider regions of Algoma – and we designed and installed the resulting mural for Ontario Culture Days this year. The message of this third mural is Giganawenindimin / Chal-heureux / We keep each other warm.
Surfacing the Sault became an exceptional, year-long project with a reach, impact and new partnerships we hadn’t initially imagined and a different approach from our original project plan: we had pitched the project pre-pandemic as a one-time installation. Through the pandemic and with feedback received from folx about how good the mural’s messages made them feel, the project became an interactive message board, a place to leave love letters for and from the community.

What are the main issues your community-engaged arts initiative faces? (e.g., social justice, environmental justice, pandemic-related, operational, financial, HR)

MB: We are a community arts organization that practices creative community building and arts for social change.Our current issues and challenges – particularly throughout the pandemic – are about feeling (and staying) connected to and engaging deeply with our communities across Algoma. Just prior to the pandemic, we had launched our first recurring series of in-person drop-in art-making sessions, but then all programs were cancelled or postponed due to lockdown. The hardest part of this was losing connection to community participants and partners. We had been enjoying that growth of connection, relationships, and enthusiasm for the Social Fabric project. There was uncertainty internally (and across the field) about knowing how to pivot community arts activities online, and how long that might last. In the North, our rural communities are facing, among other issues, a lack of access to technology and reliable internet access and connectivity. Online programming can be inaccessible, daunting and isolating to many in the North, while opening new access to folx who otherwise wouldn’t be ale to attend. We’re a hands-on organization, and this pivot required us to learn a lot – and quickly – about how to adapt, engage and include folks, and carry on. We’re still learning, growing, and approaching these challenges with creativity and care.

How has your initiative been addressing these main issues?

MB: Through the Surfacing the Sault Mural Project and launching two streams of recurring virtual programming – Social Fabric Online Gatherings/Workshops, and Seasonal Making Nights. These virtual programs foster opportunities to connect artists and audiences, engage Social Fabric artistic team members, and provide online opportunities for participatory art-making. Our Online Gatherings include an artist talk in the first hour, and then an inspired art-making activity led by the guest artist in the second. At Making Nights, we’ll host discussions on topics of conversations connected to project themes or previous Making Nights, while holding space for unstructured creative time: folx bring the handwork projects they have on the go and we invite them to show and share. We’re also hosting a year-long series of online season- and sense-inspired children’s programming, along with skill-building workshops with senior mentor artists. We’re working actively to connect people to each other and to their creativity. With all of our programming, we can pivot to in-person when we’re able, though we will likely always have a hybrid participation option for folx who prefer to join virtually.

How has the community of participants that your initiative engages with evolved in the past year (if at all)?

MB: We’re still seeing a relatively similar number of participants overall, but the demographics have shifted slightly. Prior to the pandemic, we were engaging with more children, youth and adults in our in-person drop-in programming. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been consistently connecting with older youth, adults and seniors. There are certain folks we’ve been missing who haven’t rejoined our virtual programs due to tech access issues and poor internet connectivity. We have tablets that we can loan out to folx wanting to join our programs, and staff are able to provide training to community members for connecting via online platforms on demand. We’ve noticed that more folx are joining from outside of the geographic region of Algoma, which is also expanding our ideas of community. Prior to the pandemic, our mandate was focussed locally and regionally. Now, we’re connecting with folx from within Algoma and well outside of the geographic region, and it has been enriching and exciting to witness people coming together.

How is your organization engaging with your community right now? (Logistics, pandemic public health and safety guidelines & policies, changes in the way we gather)

MB: Mostly online. We did host 16 in-person outdoor activation events at our mural site over the course of the summer. We’re figuring out how to open our storefront studio space for public programming. During the pandemic, the space at the front of our building became available, and we’ve rented it. There is huge potential here for working and creative space, as we now occupy the main floor of the building. It’s an exciting, new chapter for us – the biggest space we’ve ever had – and we look forward to welcoming folx in as soon as it’s safe and possible to do so.
Another exciting way we’ve engaged with the community is through the development and launch of a new resource, called Waazakonewinaagan/The Digital Basket. Created by staff member Cassandra Spade, it’s a resource for Indigenous, Settler & Newcomer folx that reinforces the practice of slowing down, putting meaning into work, relationship-building and intergenerational sharing. Each basket strip that participants use to weave with – it’s a participatory art-making resource! – represents different, localized (to the Algoma and Great Lakes region) actions that incorporate the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ (TRC) Calls to Action, and raise awareness about the historical and ongoing legacy of the Indian Residential School Policy (IRSP). Folx are invited to check it out on our website here.

What are one or two new projects your initiative implemented this year?

MB: The Surfacing the Sault mural project, which launched in December 2020; and our online programs (including our Online Gatherings/Workshops, Making Nights + Children’s Programming), which initially launched in May 2020 (Gatherings), and which we’ve been developing and growing since.

What is your initiative doing new–digitally–compared to pre-pandemic?

MB: The Thinking Rockers spend a lot of time online between virtual programming and remote working from home. This year, there were many changes to the staff team, which has grown significantly. We had to figure out how to work together, remotely. We have learned a lot about staying connected to each other while avoiding Zoom burnout. We’ve also had more opportunity to virtually connect with colleagues and partners from across the region, province and nation, and to act as project consultants for groups and organizations within and beyond our community, thanks to digital connectivity.

Is there a recent achievement, wonderful moment, or quote you’d like to share about your initiative or its impact?

MB: Meaningful, wonderful moments of connection with community happened repeatedly during the Surfacing the Sault mural activations. Folx walking by on the public Hub Trail – which runs alongside the mural site – would stop in, add their stories and messages to the mural, and offer words of encouragement and thanks to the Thinking Rockers. They shared about the positive impacts the project was having on their days. It helped me – and I think all of us – understand that there is a lot of power in community-engaged activities regardless of how folx are participating – whether they are hands-on in the making of something, or activating the mural by walking past, reading it, and carrying those caring messages forward. This project reminded me of the beauty and impact inherent in creative processes that unfold over time, with sustained presence and attention that echoes the rhythms of deep relationship building.

In conversation with Seanna Connell, ArtBridges

STORIES OF NOW: Vignette – Acorn Arts Project (Toronto)

STORIES OF NOW

Vignette – Acorn Arts Project (Toronto) https://www.acornartsproject.ca

“STORIES OF NOW” is part of a project ArtBridges is working on with Judith Marcuse Projects’ ASCN (Arts for Social Change Network) and ICASC. It is about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field now and about what issues and areas of focus matter.

As told by: Naomi Chorney, Founder & Secretary, Acorn Arts Project, October 7th, 2021

If you could tell a story about your community-engaged arts initiative now, this year, what would the story be about? What are the main themes?

NC: Main themes – building a strong (organizational) foundation, that was really a large part of what transpired in 2021. A lot of establishing by-laws, doing the ground-work and developing governance.  This is what we’ve been doing a lot during the pandemic. 

We’ve also been reaching out and getting more involved in the (Regent Park) community (where Acorn Arts is based- at 220 Oak) meeting people, and finding out what’s going on. We’re trying to map out what’s going on art-wise in the community. We’re participating and engaging by zoom, working towards a common goal.  

What are the main issues your community-engaged arts initiative faces? (e.g., social justice, environmental justice, pandemic-related, operational, financial, HR)

NC: Finding space to do programming in the community. This is part of our ongoing conversations –  there are a lot of spaces in the community – common rooms & areas available for grass roots programming. We’d like to offer programming to other demographics – children, youth, seniors. We’re walking a tightrope for what is safe re: COVID and zoom/online fatigue. Youth are tired of zoom calls. We need space to meet (in real life). 

Growing our capacity. We need to find a few more Board members who can take on responsibilities including fundraising. We are doing community outreach to attract talent that represent the community we serve. We’d like to work with students, mentees, and grow our HR. 

How has your initiative been addressing these main issues?

NC: We’re reaching out within the community, seeking community representation. We’re involved in Regent Park stakeholders/community meetings to expand our network, have conversations and grow. We’re doing a deep dive in meetings and creating new partnerships. We’re applying for grants- for resident-led initiatives.  

We’ve had a few sessions of strategic planning with an outside facilitator. We’re getting clear about our goals and mission. There are so many moving parts. We need more people to help with this admin work. Now that we are back on site again, we need more help and extra hands as we grow our programming. Maybe hire university/college students, high-school students doing volunteer hours, volunteers. We got our banking sorted out, wrote grants, and looking at workplace policies. We accessed government relief support to get us through the pandemic. 

How has the community of participants that your initiative engages with evolved in the past year (if at all)?

NC: The pandemic has been very hard on our group, the group that we serve at 220 Oak St. There was a before, then the pandemic, then after. People more autonomous, living independently, have managed, but bemoan the lack of community engagement. Their building was locked down, there was security on each floor making sure people were not gathering – no congregating at mail boxes, in the lobby, anywhere in the building. Some people’s health has deteriorated. The isolation, the absence of people to say hello to. Some of our former participants with health issues didn’t make it. Others moved away as their physical and mental health deteriorated and became too much for them to manage.

How is your organization engaging with your community right now? (Logistics, pandemic public health and safety guidelines & policies, changes in the way we gather)

NC: We’ve been live for the last 6 weeks! (since early September). We’ve been doing programs outside, at the side of the building. Today is our first day inside (the studio). There is a new limitation of numbers of people inside as per Toronto Public Health policies:  4 people plus 1 instructor in a room. We have 2 spaces, so we can have 10 people. It can’t be the drop-in that it was before. We all wear masks and can’t serve coffee or food.  We need to be cautious. Many vulnerable people are double-vaxxed, but others may not be. We will respect whatever requirements that are stipulated by Toronto Public Health. People are just so happy to come back into the studio! 

What are one or two new projects your initiative implemented this year?

NC: Our community partner, COTA Health, impressed with our programming and its transformative nature (at 220 Oak), invited us into 3 other sites in the city – group home-based for individuals independently living with assistance; housing for people difficult to house, facing food insecurity or addictions.  For the last 6 weeks, we’ve set up 3 new programs. We’re using accessible media- pencils, markers, watercolour, air drying clay. We’ll do clay at 220 Oak- where we have a kiln. It’s fun- bringing the art in, inviting people to participate in making art and talking about their lives. 

We are thrilled to be back in the field. We tried kits, but because our program doesn’t transfer well to the virtual space, it was difficult to drop off the kit and go. Participants need the human contact, being around other people. After months of isolation and being back together, the art is almost secondary. People need to just be able to sit and look in each other’s eyes.  They are so happy we’re back. It’s so moving.   

What is your initiative doing new–digitally–compared to pre-pandemic?

NC: We’ve done all our board meetings over zoom, it’s more convenient, so much easier. Easier to attend conferences and meetings, too. …All the webinars and professional development are all online. Even our strategic planning is all online. It’s more focused. 

In terms of program delivery – the digital world – our people don’t’ navigate well. Many don’t have stable internet. Many don’t have the savvy to navigate digital space. Phones get stolen, people lose data, some are elderly or blind, have fine motor skill problems or brain injuries. We realized it’s not worth it (doing digital/online programs). Not accessible for a lot of people. Clients in their 50s and 60s, for decades now have not been around computers. Totally unrealistic to expect people to interface with digital – even phones are hard to navigate. Cognitively many can’t. Computer with internet can be cost prohibitive.

Is there a recent achievement, wonderful moment, or quote you’d like to share about your initiative or its impact?

NC: People are thrilled to have us back at 220 Oak! …To have the ability to resume community and reconnect! People need connection – even putting a hand on someone’s shoulder, elbow bumps, or back to back hugs, outside. There’s joy in people being able to get together and come back into the space and be together with their neighbours. 

As told by: Naomi Chorney, October 7th, 2021 to Seanna Connell, ArtBridges