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The Benefits of Community-Engaged Arts

Art-making, creativity and art expression bring children, youth, adults and seniors together in community studios that combine arts education, life-skills building, economic development and leadership.

Community-engaged arts benefit neighbourhoods and individuals by

Creating more vibrant neighbourhoods, improving crime prevention, enhancing mental and physical health, contributing to greater success in education and employment, increasing community involvement and engagement, as well as fostering neighbourhood revitalization.

Stories of community-engaged arts

We want to share with you, the inspiring stories of community-engaged arts making a difference in Canada. Take some time to browse and appreciate.  

Stories to read

  • DAREarts, Webequie, ON: In this story you’l l learn how the co-creation of a song empowered youth in a northern community.
  • The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, Edmonton, AB: Read about the art and inspiring story of The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, where adults with developmental disabilities focus on the creation of art and their development as artists. 
  • Le Festival de films par et pour les jeunes, Edmundston, NB: Discover this New Brunswick francophone festival that provides youth, ages 6-18, with a space to be heard. Youth are introduced to video production and their worked is screened. They also have access to screenings of videos directed by youth from around the world.

Videos to watch

  • BluePrintForLife, The Arctic: Inuit youth learn hip hop and free up their voices while connecting to their ancestral traditions and addressing important issues related to mental health, violence, drugs and alcohol, abuse and suicide.
  • Community Collaboration: ‘Placemaking’ Brings Halifax Neighbourhood Together, Halifax, NS: watch how city engineers and staff collaborated with community artists and residents to unite and strengthen one Halifax neighbourhood after a devastating car accident.
  • Leave Out Violence (LOVE), Halifax , NS : A video collection of stories from youth whose lives have been changes through media arts
  • Outside Looking In, Toronto, ON: Snippets and commentary from the 6th Annual Outside Looking In show June 6, 2012. First Nations youth perform live at St Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

What people are saying about ArtBridges/ToileDesArts: 

Thanks @ArtBridges ! A great resource for other exciting #communityarts projects across #Canada as well     - @muralroutes


The Michaëlle Jean Foundation enjoys receiving regular updates from ArtBridges, which provide us with such a rich and comprehensive appreciation of the vitality of the arts for social change sector across Canada. – Peter Flegel, Communications and Programs Director, Michaëlle Jean Foundation


ArtBridges has connected us with Aboriginal Organizations and other connections to art stores, etc. (…) We could not be happier with our relationship with ArtBridges [they] have really gone above and beyond to support our campaign and especially support our youth in the north.  Miigwetch.- Lauren Akbar, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win: North-South Partnership for Children 


I really appreciate your help connecting with SYiM (Southern Youth in Motion); it was a great day.  They also had an exhibit of art from the Pikangikum F.N.  I was up there as part of ArtsCanCircle/Carol Teal - she also got my material through ArtBridges.  Thanks for everything (…) Actually, Carol had pulled me from the ArtBridges information; than [sic] Lauren (SYiM) pulled me from ArtBridges, and when I was working the Peel Alternative School North in Brampton, I had met both of them back to back on the same day.  Imagine that. - Michael Cywink, Community Artist


Thank you for all the support you gave our project, and for the experience and knowledge that you shared. As all of us work as individual organizations to bring arts programming to young people with diverse experiences, we need that “spark” or momentum that comes from being connected to a larger network – a bigger picture of the community impact of our efforts. It [being connected] allows us to learn about, and connect with other organizations who share our vision. It also validates what we do, and strengthens our own efforts. There’s a tremendous trickle-down effect (as well as an efficiency) that comes with learning from others’ experiences as they work to achieve similar goals and objectives.

Some of the most valuable things that you did for me were: sharing your own and others’ experiences with program development, marketing, and funding; providing positive feedback regarding the direction of our program; and connecting us with the national movement to bring the arts (and their benefits) to kids who might not otherwise that the opportunity. You rejuvenated me and our program by bringing Focus on Nature into this network at a time when we were just starting to develop, feeling slightly isolated, and unsure of our direction and funding. Thank you!
- Shirley Hunt, MSW, Co-Founder of Focus on Nature, Guelph ON. “Inspiring children to explore and appreciate nature through photography”

Some of ArtBridges' successes

ArtBridging [ahrt-brij-ing] verb.

Creating networks and collaborations between community arts projects, programs, organizations and resources with the outcome being positive benefits to Canadian communities.
Origin: 2008 Artbridges/ToileDesArts

ArtBridging in Hay River, NWT
ArtBridges contacted 12 sources across ON, NWT, NFLD and the YUKON and advertised the need for a caribou hair-weaving instructor for an Inuit community in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). This community had the funding to fly in an instructor, but couldn’t find anyone, so they wrote to us. Through our connections and assistance, the community found and hired an art instructor from Hay River, NWT.

Fundraising for community-engaged arts in Ottawa

Students at the University of Ottawa needed to conduct a fundraising event for their studies in Education. One of the groups reached ArtBridges/ToileDesArts and asked what arts organizations/programs/projects worked with at-risk children and youth in the Ottawa area to be a recipient of the event. ArtBridges/ToileDesArts directed them to four groups and shared fundraising event-planning information with them. The benefit raised over $1,000.

ArtBridging for community-engaged arts initiatives
RaY, a street-level agency working with homeless youth in Winnipeg, asked ArtBridges/ToileDesArts who to talk with for advice about setting up an arts-based pre-employment program for street-entrenched youth. We led them to : The Murphy Centre for Community Youth Arts in St. John’s, Street Culture Kidz Project in Regina and ArtHeart in Toronto – all agencies that had experience in providing this service.

ArtBridging for capacity building

  • The founder of community arts organization Six Ah Wi (a Toronto-based group of African-Canadian emerging artists) called ArtBridges/ToileDesArts and asked for help finding new Board members. ArtBridges/ToileDesArts posted about this need on our network and directed him to other resources that could help.

  • Both Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) and 220 OAK Street Potters asked ArtBridges/ToileDesArts for examples of organizational and program policies and procedures in order to adapt them for their arts programs.  We sourced a few and provided them with the material.