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Welcome to our Community Blog

We invite you to read about and contribute to what’s going on in community-engaged arts and arts for social change initiatives across Canada. We post what people submit to us as well as "all things community-engaged arts" that we find out about. ArtBridges/ToilesDesArts shares all kinds of information:
  • Conferences, workshops, training, seminars, education
  • Events
  • Arts awards, funding and grant opportunities
  • Tools, tips, ideas & updates, project highlights, resources (including books & reports)
  • Inspiring stories
  • Introductions to community-arts initiatives

Send us your story, your tip, your announcement or your opportunity – all community-engaged arts information that others would enjoy learning about.

  • Click here to read the full policies and terms of use
  • We always get permission to post something, unless it has been sent to us for widespread circulation.
  • We don’t change any of the text that’s submitted
  • We post what people contribute in their own words.
  • Posts will be uploaded based on time-sensitivity, variety of region and language.
  • Where possible, we’ll link to profiles in our Directory and our Map and add relevant links to websites
  • We’ll share on our social media profiles (Facebook and Twitter)

Are you ready to submit? Email us!

Register Now!: Art for Social Change NOW (Jan 25-27)

“Join us on January 25 to 27, 2022, for three half-days of exchange, dialogue, and community-building at our national gathering Art for Social Change NOW (ASC NOW). This is the inaugural (online) event of the Art for Social Change Network (ASCN), a new national network of community-engaged art for social change (ASC) artists and organizations.

Right now, in every corner of Canada, community-engaged artists and organizations are nurturing new forms of collaborative creation, dialogue, partnerships, and action for positive change. Together let’s explore important questions: Who is doing the work? What are the current struggles and innovative solutions? How can we and how do we address issues of equity and justice? How are we rising to the critical challenges happening in the community-engaged arts landscape today? Come celebrate the power of transformative change through the processes of participatory artmaking!

Register and learn more here: https://art-for-social-change-now.eventbrite.ca

-from Art for Social Change Network (ASCN)

Black Arts Projects Program (Toronto Arts Council)

“The Black Arts Projects Program supports arts projects by Black artists, Black artist collectives, and Black-led, Black-focused and Black-serving organizations. For the purpose of this program, “Black” refers to African descendant people across the diaspora including but not limited to African Canadian, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, East African, West African, Southern and Central African, Afro-Arab, Afro-Indigenous, etc. This funding program is intended to support the development, continuation, and flourishing of Black arts communities.

What does this program support?

The Black Arts Projects Program provides support to individual artists, artist collectives of 2 or more Black artists working on a non-profit basis and incorporated non-profit Toronto Black arts organizations.  

TAC recognizes the need to respond to barriers that Black arts communities face due to anti-Black racism. The program is designed to increase access to, awareness of, and participation in Toronto Arts Council funding by Black artists, while amplifying the work of Black artists in the city and creating avenues for sustainable art practice.

This program is multidisciplinary and recognizes a diversity of art practice, including new and emerging art forms, culturally relevant art practices, and multi/ interdisciplinary arts projects.”

For more information, please visit: https://torontoartscouncil.org/grant-programs/discover-tac-grants/tac-grants/art-discipline-funding/black-arts/project-grants

-from Toronto Arts Council

Call for Artists: 2022 CreateSpace Public Art Residency (STEPS)

“Are you, or an artist you know, interested in gaining experience, building networks and professional skills needed to launch or expand a public art practice?

STEPS believes public art has the ability to challenge the systemic inequities that exist in public space. In support of this important work, we facilitate programs that: foster inclusive public art practices; build the capacity of artists who are underrepresented in Canadian public art and demonstrate the power of art to reimagine equitably designed cities.

We are thrilled to launch the 2022 CreateSpace Public Art Residency, a national public art program designed in collaboration with advisors from coast to coast, to provide emerging Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) and racialized artists with the skills, relationships and practical experiences needed to build and advance public art practices.

Ten artists from across the country participated in the program’s inaugural year, acquiring valuable skills in the field of public art. Each artist created unique and inspiring public artworks that ranged from experimental to performative to sculptural. Visit the  2021 CreateSpace Public Art Residency webpage to learn more about these artists and their projects.

This residency is open to early to mid-career Canadian-based visual and media artists working in public space, who identify as Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) and/or racialized, interested in participating in a virtual residency from March through December 2022. Up to ten artists will be selected for this opportunity by a review panel composed of members of the arts community who identify as Black, Indigenous and/or racialized. Program components will be offered primarily in English, with translation and ASL services available as needed to support participation of a diverse community of artists. 

Applicants must be a Canadian citizen, or Permanent Resident to qualify for this opportunity. Interested applicants must submit their expressions of interest by Monday, January 31, 2022 at 11:59 PM PST. Those living outside of the Pacific time zone are encouraged to use a timezone converter to ensure your application is received by the deadline.”

For more information, please visit: https://stepspublicart.org/createspace-public-art-residency-2022/


2022 CreateSpace Résidence d’Art Public

“Êtes-vous, ou un artiste que vous connaissez, intéressé en acquérir l’expérience, dans la création des réseaux et compétences professionnelles nécessaires pour lancer ou développer une pratique d’art public?

STEPS Public Art croit que l’art public a la capacité de défier les inégalités systémiques qui existent dans l’espace public. Pour soutenir ce travail important, nous facilitons les programmes qui encouragent les pratiques d’art public inclusives, renforcent les capacités des artistes sous-représentés et démontrent comment l’art public peut aider à ré imaginer des villes conçues de manière équitable.

Nous sommes ravis de lancer la 2022 Résidence d’Art Public, un programme national d’art public conçu en collaboration avec des conseillers d’un océan à l’autre, afin de fournir aux artistes noirs, autochtones (Premières nations, Inuits et Métis) et les artistes racialisés avec les compétences, les relations et les expériences pratiques nécessaires pour construire et faire progresser les pratiques d’art public.

Dix artistes à travers le pays ont participé à la première année du programme, acquérant des compétences précieuses dans le domaine de l’art public. Chaque artiste a créé des œuvres d’art public uniques et inspirantes, variant de l’expérimentation à la performance en passant par la sculpture. Visitez la site web de la 2021 CreateSpace Résidence d’Art Public pour en savoir plus sur ces artistes et leurs projets.

Cette résidence est ouverte aux artistes visuels et médiatiques basés au Canada, en début ou en milieu de carrière, travaillant dans l’espace public, qui s’identifient comme noirs, indigènes (Premières Nations, Inuits et Métis) et/ou racialisés, qui s’intéresse à participer à une résidence virtuelle de mars à décembre 2022. Jusqu’à dix artistes seront sélectionnés pour cette opportunité par un comité composé de membres de la communauté artistique qui s’identifient comme noirs, indigènes et/ou racialisés. Les éléments du programme seront offerts principalement en anglais, avec des services de traduction et des services de langue des signes américaine en anglais (ASL) seront disponibles au besoin pour soutenir la participation d’une communauté diversifiée d’artistes.

Les candidats doivent être citoyens canadiens ou résidents permanents pour se qualifier pour cette opportunité. Les candidats intéressés doivent soumettre leur manifestation d’intérêt avant le lundi, 31 janvier, 2022 à 23 h 59 HNP. Les personnes vivant dehors du fuseau horaire du Pacifique sont encouragées à utiliser un convertisseur de fuseau horaire pour s’assurer que leur demande est reçue avant la date limite.”

Pour en savoir plus : https://stepspublicart.org/createspace-public-art-residency-2022/#french

-from STEPS

Yukon Music Video Program (Reel Youth)

“Sign up for the Yukon Music Video Program! In this partnership with Western Arctic Youth Collective, youth (aged 13-29) in the Yukon Territory will work with Reel Youth facilitators virtually to plan, shoot, edit, and distribute an original music video. Guaranteed fun and no film making experience is necessary!

      In this FREE program, you will:      

          • Learn how to plan, shoot, and edit a short film
          • Receive a $150 honourarium
          • Work creatively with a small group of peers
          • Have fun while staying safe!

Dates: Jan 18, 20, 25, 27 7 and Feb 1 & 3
            from 4-6pm Yukon Time each day

You will need access to a computer, laptop, or tablet. It must be able to run Zoom (details) and Adobe Creative Cloud Express (system requirements: here).

Reel Youth filmmaker-facilitators will help build community and technical filmmaking skills to create videos that will be featured in an online film festival and distributed through Reel Youth’s website and social media channels.”

-from Reel Youth

Call for Applications: ThisGen Fellowship 2022

Applications for ThisGen Fellowship 2022 are open to BIPOC Women & Non-Binary Performing Arts Practitioners

“Why Not Theatre in partnership with the National Arts Centre are excited to announce the 2022 iteration of ThisGen Fellowship. ThisGen Fellowship is a national initiative that supports BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) Women and Non-Binary performing arts practitioners get to the next stage in their careers through training, mentorship, hands-on work placements, and peer-to-peer connection.

We are passionate about creating a future where BIPOC Women and Non-Binary people have support, are celebrated, and have the resources and networks they need to thrive in the arts sector. By making connections to institutional leadership, enhancing valuable skill sets, and building a network of peers, ThisGen is a launchpad for Canadian cultural leaders.

About the 2022 Fellowship

Eight Fellows will be selected as part of the 2022 cohort, and applicants may apply to participate in either the Directing Stream or the Producing Stream. The program will begin in April 2022 and run over a two year period (exact dates of activity TBD).”

For more information, please visit: https://whynot.theatre/thisgen-fellowship-2022-applications/

-from Why Not Theatre

A New Year

January 2022

Happy New Year!

Dear friends in community-engaged arts!

We hope that this new year finds you and yours in good health and spirits.

We look forward to highlighting what’s going on in community-engaged arts across Canada again this year. Through the day-to-day blog posts we gather and share, a story unfolds about how people continue to pivot their arts initiatives and work within the challenges of the pandemic. A story also unfolds about what issues and areas of focus matter and how the field is evolving due to social justice and environmental issues of our time. 

We’d like to hear from you! Please email in stories, pictures or posts about your community-engaged arts initiatives, stories and opportunities. Perhaps they’ll inspire others! Perhaps you’ll find some support, idea or opportunity you’re looking for too.

Stay healthy, creative and hopeful!

We wish for you and your loved ones:
health, fortitude, and joy
to stay nimble, keep pivoting, and persist
reach out, extend a hand
rest
draw, paint, imagine, sing, dance, act, perform, photograph, film, write, tell a story
get creative
to come together in the ways we can and celebrate the small and wonderful moments

Seanna Connell on behalf of the ArtBridges team

photo credit: Nature_Design/Pixabay

Season’s Greetings from ArtBridges! / ToileDesArts vous souhaite de joyeuses Fêtes !

Season’s Greetings from ArtBridges/ToileDesArts!

To all our friends and community partners, we wish you a creative, healthy, safe, and joyful time over the holidays! All the best for a happy and healthy new year!

ArtBridges/ToileDesArts vous souhaite de joyeuses Fêtes!

À tous nos amis et à tous nos partenaires, nous souhaitons un temps des fêtes créatif et joyeux! Nos meilleurs voeux! Nous vous souhaitons une heureuse année en santé!

-photo credit: pixabay / LwcyD

Become a Member of ArtBridges! / Devenez membre de la ToileDesArts !

ArtBridges is a hub and forum for connection for anyone interested in or active in community-engaged arts and arts for social change in Canada. More than ever, because of the pandemic, connection and community-engagement matters!

Through the year, we have learned about the many ways that community-engaged arts initiatives have been working with their communities and pivoting through lockdowns, government health and safety mandates, and pandemic relief measures. It has taken great imagination, capacity, and resiliency. We have also heard and read stories about how initiatives are growing in response to the social and environmental justice issues of our time.

Your Membership support will help ArtBridges continue to gather and share about innovative community-engaged arts activities and about how initiatives are adapting their programs through the pandemic and transitioning into a “new normal.” 

Membership fees help support the work of ArtBridges all year! As a Member you will be a vital partner in ArtBridges’ important work by helping us to raise awareness, connect people to community-engaged arts initiatives, gather and share resources, and highlight what’s going on in the practice and field.

Become a Member!

ArtBridges’ Highlights of 2021:

  • UNLOCKED Project: https://unlockedproject.ca UNLOCKED became an official project of ArtBridges in June!  “UNLOCKED is an online exhibit of art created by young Canadians – their personal and creative response to the pandemic.”  
  • The Art Boxes Project:  ArtBridges matches people with art supplies to community-engaged arts initiatives that reach out.  This year, we received a donation to purchase art supplies and deliver them directly to community-engaged arts initiatives. These included: Thrive Like a Girl, The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at Humber River Hospital and Ernestine!s Women’s Shelter.
  • ArtBridges became a Regional Hub and Steering Committee Member with the recently launched Art for Social Change Network (ASCN): https://icasc.ca/ascnetwork/. This project is hosted by: Judith Marcuse Projects (JMP) and the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC).ASCN is designed to connect and support hundreds of arts for social change (ASC) organizations and independent artists across Canada”. As a Regional Hub, ArtBridges is leading a project called: “STORIES OF NOW” about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field and about what issues and areas of focus matter.
  • ArtBridges’ Executive Director, participated for the second time as a mentor in FUTURES/forward – a National Mentorship Program …”designed to connect seasoned ASC practitioners with early-to-mid career community-engaged artists, foster peer to peer exchange with others doing change work with diverse communities, and bridge the urban/rural divide. (FUTURES/forward is hosted by the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), an initiative of Judith Marcuse Projects”.)
  • For almost three years, ArtBridges has been operating as a charitable organization, not-for-profit, and registered National Arts Service Organization (NASO). (ArtBridges was previously a project of Tides Canada for 10 years.)  Like numerous arts organizations across Canada, ArtBridges is navigating through the challenges of working through the pandemic and adapting to new ways of working to continue to be relevant, viable and sustainable.  
  • We have worked hard to keep the information flowing about what’s going on in the field via artbridges.ca, with blog posts, Facebook & Twitter, Learning and Resources. We’ve responded to people with special requests—assisting with finding mentorship, connections, art supplies, and writing letters of support. Over the year, we have worked hard to preserve our website/hub.  
  • We concluded the 6th Annual Remarkable Community-Engaged Arts Awards and announced the finalists: Remarkable Innovation: Silver Scenes Film Festival (Toronto); Remarkable Creativity: Indigenous Women’s Augmented Mural Series (Calgary); Remarkable Resiliency: This Way Up Collective (Toronto). Awards were sponsored by the Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES Fund. We are currently kicking off our 7th Annual Remarkable Community-Engaged Arts Awards. Our hope is that these stories inspire.

As an ArtBridges Member, you or your arts initiative can:

  1. Have your website reviewed for accessibility, mobile responsiveness, and clarity in a one hour professional consultation.
  2. Call for mentorship, brainstorming ideas, networking, or project / organizational development support with the ArtBridges team.
  3. Member Spotlight: Have your community-engaged arts initiative featured on ArtBridges’ Canada-wide Community Blog
  4. Receive consideration for a letter of support for your initiative from us.
  5. Be listed under Membership Recognition on the ArtBridges website.
  6. Receive a Membership card: become a card-carrying member!

Join our Membership today! Please fill out the Membership registration form online at artbridges.ca. Your membership fee will cover from now through to the end of 2022. 

Thank you for believing in this work!

Wishing you joy, health, and lots of creativity during this holiday season and into the new year!

Sincerely,

Tiffany Nyklickova
Membership Developer

& Seanna Connell
Executive Director


Comme vous le savez, ToileDesArts est une plateforme et un forum de réseautage pour toutes les personnes qui s’intéressent à l’art communautaire et à l’art pour le changement social, partout au Canada. Avec la pandémie, l’implication communautaire est plus importante que jamais!

Au cours de la dernière année, nous avons vu les organismes communautaires trouver, en collaboration avec leur milieu, des moyens de continuer leur travail malgré les périodes de confinement et les mesures sanitaires. Outre l’aide apportée par les subventions liées aux circonstances, tout ça a demandé beaucoup d’imagination, d’agilité et de résilience. On a aussi entendu parler de projets qui ont pris de l’expansion en réponse aux enjeux actuels de justice sociale et environnementale.

Votre adhésion nous aidera à continuer notre travail de compilation et de diffusion de l’information sur les activités d’art communautaires et les adaptations des organismes à la réalité de la pandémie et de la transition vers une « nouvelle normalité ».

La cotisation des membres soutient le travail d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts tout au long de l’année ! Grâce à votre aide, nous pouvons continuer à faire connaître la cause de l’art communautaire, à diriger les gens vers des activités pertinentes, à rassembler et partager les ressources ainsi qu’à diffuser les actualités et les nouveautés du milieu.

Devenez membre d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts !

Voici les points saillants de 2021 :

  • Le projet UNLOCKED (https://unlockedproject.ca) « UNLOCKED est une exposition en ligne d’œuvres de jeunes Canadiens – leur réponse créative personnelle à la pandémie. » ArtBridges/ToileDesArts est officiellement devenu le porteur de ce projet en juin dernier.  (Note: unlocked, qui signifie « déverrouillé » [ou « débarré » en langage populaire], renvoie également au confinement, lock down en anglais.)   
  • Le projet des boîtes d’art: ArtBridges/ToileDesArts met en relation des gens qui possèdent du matériel d’artiste et des organismes communautaires qui en demandent. Cette année, nous avons reçu un don pour acheter du matériel de création que nous avons livré directement à plusieurs organismes, notamment à Thrive Like a Girl, à l’unité jeunesse en santé mentale de l’hôpital de Humber River Hospital et au refuge pour femmes Ernestine!s. 
  • ArtBridges/ToileDesArts est devenu une « plateforme régionale » du nouveau Réseau de l’art pour le changement social (Art for Social Change Network ou ASCN, https://icasc.ca/ascnetwork) et s’est joint à son comité exécutif. Ce projet a été mis en place par Judith Marcuse Projects (JMP) et le Centre international de l’art pour le changement social (International Centre of Art for Social Change ou ICASC). L’ASCN vise à relier et soutenir les centaines d’organismes et d’artistes indépendants qui œuvrent au changement social par l’entremise de la création artistique. En tant que plateforme régionale, ArtBridges/ToileDesArts porte le projet Histoires actuelles (STORIES OF NOW), qui consiste à rassembler et diffuser des histoires qui parlent des enjeux et des problématiques du milieu.  
  • La directrice générale d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts a joué le rôle de mentore pour la deuxième fois dans le cadre du programme national de mentorat FUTURES/forward qui « vise à mettre en relation des personnes expérimentées du milieu de l’art communautaire et des artistes engagés en début ou en milieu de carrière pour favoriser des échanges entre pairs œuvrant au changement social avec diverses populations; le projet cherche aussi à faire le pont entre les expériences urbaines et rurales. » (FUTURES/forward est porté par le Centre international pour l’art pour le changement social, un projet de Judith Marcuse Projects.)
  • Cela fait maintenant près de 3 ans qu’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts est devenu un organisme de bienfaisance sans but lucratif et un organisme de services nationaux dans le domaine des arts enregistré (OSNA) (avant cela, nous avons été un projet de Tides Canada pendant 10 ans). Comme bien des organismes d’art au Canada, nous faisons face aux défis liés à la pandémie et nous adaptons pour demeurer pertinents, viables et durables.
  • Nous avons continué de diffuser l’information sur le milieu de l’art communautaire sur notre blogue, Facebook, Twitter et dans la section Formation et ressources de notre site. Toute l’année, nous avons aussi répondu à des demandes particulières de mentorat, de réseautage, de matériel artistique et de ressources, et écrit plusieurs lettres de soutien. Nous avons travaillé fort cette année pour maintenir notre site-plateforme Web. 
  • Nous avons tenu notre concours pour la 6e édition des Prix honorifiques en art communautaire et annoncé les lauréats dans les différentes catégories: Innnovation remarquable: Silver Scenes Film Festival (Toronto); Créativité remarquable: Indigenous Women’s Augmented Mural Series (Calgary);  Résilience remarquable: This Way Up Collective (Toronto). Ces prix sont commandités par le Fonds Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES. Nous lancerons bientôt la 7e édition du concours, dans l’espoir que ces projets remarquables servent d’inspiration.

Voici les avantages offerts aux membres d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts :

  1. Une consultation professionnelle d’une heure pour vérifier l’accessibilité, la compatibilité mobile et la clarté de votre site Internet.
  2. La possibilité de faire appel à l’équipe d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts pour brasser des idées, pour du mentorat, du réseautage ou encore de l’aide organisationnelle ou au développement de projet.
  3. Une place de choix dans la section « Pleins feux sur les membres » de notre blogue;
  4. La possibilité de demander une lettre de soutien pour votre projet;
  5. Votre nom ou celui de votre organisme ou projet sera publié sur notre page de reconnaissance des membres;
  6. Une carte de membre, symbole de l’appartenance officielle à ArtBridges/ToileDesArts !

Devenez membre dès aujourd’hui ! Le formulaire se trouve en ligne sur artbridges.ca. Votre adhésion sera valide immédiatement et jusqu’à la fin de 2021.

Merci beaucoup de croire en notre mission !  Nous vous souhaitons de la santé et de la joie, et plein de créativité pour le temps des Fêtes et la nouvelle année!

Cordialement,

Tiffany Nyklickova
Responsable de la campagne d’adhésion

& Seanna Connell
Directrice

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

Mentorship in Community Engaged Arts – A Virtual Dialogue (Jan 11)

“Join us for a virtual dialogue with artist-facilitators, activists and researchers across Canada to share practices, innovations, challenges and hopes for mentorship in the field of community-engaged arts. 

Through small-group dialogues, we’ll explore key qualities of mentorship, how mentorship has adapted during the pandemic and what supports are needed to continue to foster sustainable mentorship. We’ll also hear from featured artist-facilitators, including Shira Taylor, Lisa Ndejuru, Farah Fancy and more!

Open to seasoned community engaged artists, as well as those just entering the field. Register free at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/mentorship-in-community-engaged-arts-a-virtual-dialogue-tickets-220074287117

-from Simon Fraser University