ArtBridges Fourth Annual Recognition Awards / Prix honorifiques annuels d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts!

We are pleased to announce the award winners for
ArtBridges Fourth Annual Recognition Awards!


The awards showcase remarkable work in community-engaged arts in Canada in three categories: Innovation!, Resiliency! and Creativity!

The award process: In mid-2018 we did a call for community-engaged arts initiatives, community partners and ArtBridges Member initiatives to participate in award nominations. All of the entrees were compelling and demonstrated amazing work. The awards jury was comprised of three active leaders in community arts in Canada from Vancouver, Loring ON, and Toronto. The recipients will each receive a certificate and an award of $250. We will be calling for nominations for our Fifth Annual Recognition Awards this Winter!

Nous avons le plaisir de vous présenter les lauréats des quatrièmes
Prix honorifiques annuels d’ArtBridges/ToileDesArts!


Ces prix soulignent un travail remarquable dans le domaine de l’art communautaire au Canada. Il y a trois catégories : Innovation, Résilience et Créativité.

Processus d’attribution des prix : à la fin de 2018, nous avons invité les organismes et les membres de ToileDesArts qui réalisent des projets d’art en milieu communautaire à soumettre des candidatures pour nos Prix honorifiques annuels. Tous les projets soumis étaient convaincants et démontraient un travail extraordinaire. Le jury était composé de trois personnes qui se sont illustrées par leur leadership dans le milieu de l’art communautaire; elles venaient de Vancouver, de Loring en Ontario et de Toronto. Chaque récipiendaire recevra un certificat et un prix de 250$. Nous lancerons cet hiver un appel à candidature pour la quatrième édition des Prix honorifiques annuels de ToileDesArts !

Congratulations to / Félicitations aux lauréats! :

The Remarkable Innovation! Award to / Le prix soulignant une innovation remarquable est remis à : SExT: Sex Education by Theatre (Toronto)

SExT: Sex Education by Theatre

Au Canada, c’est toujours dans le contexte malaisé d’une salle de classe que l’éducation sexuelle a été faite, généralement par un enseignant ou une enseignante qui aurait préféré être ailleurs et avec des vidéos terriblement dépassées. Pour les profs, il est difficile de trouver comment présenter cette matière sans outrepasser les limites entre les élèves et eux, tout en s’assurant que les jeunes sont mieux instruits sur leurs droits en matière de sexualité. SExT résoud le problème : il faut laisser les jeunes enseigner aux jeunes ! Ce programme alliant jeu théâtral et atelier éducatif sur la santé sexuelle mobilise les jeunes dans une formule d’éducation par les pairs.

“Sex education in Canada has always been taught in awkward classroom settings, usually involving a teacher that does not want to be there and terrible out-dated videos. It is a struggle for teachers to know how to implement the sex ed curriculum without crossing boundaries with their students, yet still have an impact on their students’ lives so that they are better educated about what their rights are. SExT solves this problem: let youth teach youth! Based on a peer-educator model, SExT is a workshop and performance program that engages youth on topics related to sexual health and education.

Four years ago, SExT creator and PhD candidate, Shira Taylor, partnered with a school in the Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park area (also the centre of all the protests about the new sex ed curriculum) and educated a group of youth on topics related to their sexual health. The youth were asked to create skits, poems, raps, songs, and dances about what they learned. The result was a show that the youth performed for their community, which then went on to receive rave reviews at the 2016 Fringe and Summerworks Festivals, including a -NNNN review from Now Magazine. SExT has now embarked on a national tour in partnership with The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) to educate youth in areas of Canada most affected by HIV.

This group of youth now have the tools to educate others on sex education, empowering them with knowledge and teaching them leadership. This work has never been done before and every teacher that sees the show is in awe, particularly by how engaged their students are with this work and how it has opened up their students to engage with these kinds of discussions and share their opinions. In the past 4 years, this project has grown exponentially but there is still so much more to do and so much more youth to educate. Please see– submitted by Elena Juatco

The Mandel Surprise-Me Award for Innovation is sponsored by the Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES Fund.
Le prix Mandel Étonnez-moi ! soulignant une innovation remarquable est commandité par le Fonds Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES.

The Remarkable Creativity! Award to / Le prix soulignant une créativité remarquable est remis à : Red Dress Productions (Toronto, Renfrew County)

Depuis plus de 10 ans, les Productions Red Dress collaborent avec différents milieux à des projets socialement engagés, inclusifs, collaboratifs et hautement créatifs. Principalement grâce à des mosaïques communautaires de grande taille, son équipe créative laisse une trace durable de la créativité des collectivités et de la collaboration vécue lors du processus. Multidisciplinaire et talentueuse, elle intègre également le théâtre, la musique, le conte et les arts visuels à ses projets.

1) Red Dress Productions (RDP) has for over 10 years worked with communities to carry out socially engaged projects that are inclusive, collaborative, incredibly creative and build community. Their mainly large scale mosaic works are a long lasting legacy of the creativity and collaboration of community. However, their multi-disciplinary and highly talented creative team brings interdisciplinary to their projects, often integrating theatre, music, storytelling and visual arts. In my mind, this makes for remarkably creative projects, offering many points of entry for any community member. In addition, their creativity is not limited to their artistic products. RDP is highly creative when it comes to facilitating community arts-based research in order to arrive at a final product. Integrating art making into their methods is standard practice for them, and always keeps art making front and centre. While their creative accomplishments are too many to list, I do want to mention one last very important aspect of what RDP does, and that is their emerging artist apprenticeship model. RDP is also in the business of working with emerging artists interested in community engaged social practice, and will integrate emerging artists to work on their large scale projects, and pay them! I think this is a highly creative way to train new artists and pass on the skills of doing this type of work. For more information on RDP and documentation of their projects, please visit:

2) This company produces remarkable quality and quantity of work, including audio walks, creative writing, performance, mosaics, choir, singing, storytelling with such diverse communities including women firefighters, blind people, new Canadians, mental health survivors, LGBTQ, youth and Deaf people. Their work is profound, their process entirely inclusive and they lead projects with respect and sensitivity at the core of their creativity. Red Dress Productions are equally creative in process and approach to the inclusion of art created with a non sighted starting point. Rather than creating access for people with disabilities at a later stage,(which is the norm) this company puts access and inclusion at the heart and at the lead of their process. A recent project,called May I Take Your Arm, features blind actor and writer Alex Bulmer who takes the arm of someone from the St. Jamestown area, one of Canada’s most diverse and densely populated communities. During the walk Alex and her guest sighted guide talk about the locations and people they pass, and discover what is significant about the land, landscapes and memories held in these spaces. The walks are recorded, and will be edited and produced for an autumn site specific sound installation. This highly innovative approach to storytelling and story sharing, community engagement and audio art is hallmark Red Dress creativity and innovation brilliantly integrated in one compelling project.

3) We knew we as women firefighters wanted to tell our stories. But we had no idea how to do so. Lucky for us, the team at Red Dress Productions knew exactly what to do. Their ability to “make art” from the disjointed words and ideas of over 30 diverse professional and volunteer firefighters, from young new recruits to women contemplating retirement after 25 years in the profession, at a dozen workshops, in multiple cities, is nothing short of inspirational. Through flexible outside-the-box intuitive workshop facilitation, to brilliant audio splicing and editing, to exceptional creation of visual components of the program including physical firefighting props, still photography and video creation, the RDP team created a multimedia evocative art experience that stirred real emotion and incited passion in all those who were privileged to attend the opening installation and reception. The remarkable creativity of the RDP team shone through in both how they drew out the stories and artistic expression from their often reluctant artist/participants and how they took so many disparate contributions and wove them together in a powerful presentation that we are confident will have a ripple effect on the inclusivity and diversity of our profession. It’s hard to explain just how extraordinary the Red Dress Productions Artistic team is. Anna, Tristan, Kou and Aidan are so many things. They’re artistic midwives, A-plus active listeners, deeply collaborative, visionary in their ability to imagine possibilities. They are able to gently and thoughtfully draw stories out of reluctant artists, including those who would never think to label themselves as such. While chatting about this project with Anna after one of our Toronto workshops, she said something that resonated deeply. She said that listening to these stories and helping to shape them was like using someone’s name – when you call someone by their name, you give them dignity. For us, the magic of the artistic experience with RDP is in no small part that through their empathy and remarkable creativity, they became, for us, givers of dignity.” – submitted by Florencia Berinstein, Alex Bulmer, Adina Kaufman, Joanne Brooks, Sandi Bratina

The Award for Creativity is sponsored by the Sharna Foundation.
Le prix soulignant une créativité remarquable est commandité par la Fondation Sharna.

The Remarkable Resiliency! Award to / Le prix soulignant une résilience remarquable est remis à : Sister Writes (Toronto, ON)

Le programme de création littéraire et d’alphabétisation Sister Writes, fondé par l’auteure Lauren Kirshner, vise à mettre en lumière la sagesse et l’expérience des femmes vivant dans le centre-ville de Toronto. Depuis huit ans, grâce à des ateliers d’écriture, à du mentorat offert par des auteures professionnelles, à la publication de magazines littéraires et à des événements artistiques publics, Sister Writes a contribué à ce que des femmes ordinaires qui ont vécu des situations extraordinaires arrivent à reprendre leur pouvoir.

Sister Writes, a creative writing and literacy program founded by author Lauren Kirshner, is dedicated to honouring the wisdom and experience of women in downtown Toronto. For the past eight years, through writing workshops, mentorship from professional women authors, the publication of literary magazines, and public arts events, Sister Writes have been empowering ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary situations.

The women Sister Writes serves are affected by homelessness, underhousing, trauma, mental health and addiction issues, and other upheavals and significant life transitions. Through the support of our sponsors, including Sistering, The Ontario Trillium Foundation, and The Toronto Public Library, and the assistance of professional guest writers including award winning novelists and poets, Sister Writes offers a range of hands-on programming that is 100% free and inclusive.

Our longest running program, The Writing Workshop – weekly two-hour sessions for 12 consecutive weeks three times a year – provides budding women writers with the opportunity to learn valuable literacy and writing skills, hone their voices as writers, share stories and write about the realities of their lives. The culmination of The Writing Workshop, is the publication and public launch of Sister Writes, the program’s literary magazine.

In September 2017, The Writing Workshop became participant-led, a remarkable achievement that attests to the confidence women feel as a result of attending this program. With the guidance and support of Lauren Kirshner, experienced Sister Writes participants now plan and facilitate the workshops and gain a unique opportunity to enhance both their writing and leadership skills. The new attendees, quickly become a part of this dynamic creative community, acquiring writing skills and emotional support from women who have been there.

Sister Writes in the Community, is our programming arm that goes further afield, providing one-off creative writing workshops to women’s agencies across Toronto. This Outreach Program provides experienced Sister Writers with the opportunity to design and lead workshops that can reach women in shelters, employment centres, community centres and sex workers’ organizations. In 2015, we offered |OUTLOUD! A creative writing conference for LGBTQ youth with guest writers Zoe Whittall and Vivek Shraya and others. In 2016, in partnership with Sherbourne Health Centre, we ran a successful program for trans women. As one participant of that program remarked: “I want to thank you profusely for your work in running (the program) and giving the opportunity for people like me to connect and feel empowered through writing.” Sister Writes is dedicated to the principle of breaking down barriers to the arts, one story at a time.

We – Cindy and Donna – have been members of Sister Writes for over five years. Together we coordinate the Community Outreach Program. Donna would like to say a few personal words now:
Donna: I joined The Writing Workshop after experiencing family crisis. My marriage had broken down and I faced the prospect of being homeless. I was reluctant to share my writing at first, but I developed confidence as the weeks went by. I used the creative writing skills I was acquiring, to craft a beautiful vignette about my childhood in England. My story was published in Sister Writes. This gave me a tremendous feeling of pride and accomplishment. At a Sister Writes public event, I read a story I’d written about my experience with poverty and single parenthood. I felt uncomfortable. After the reading, a member of the audience approached me and said, “Your story was very moving; I tried to stop myself from crying.” I realized that by allowing myself to be vulnerable, I had been able to reach out to the audience. By 2015, I felt confident enough to assume the duties of a Community Coordinator, and together with Cindy Maguire we organized and helped to facilitate, OUTLOUD!- a creative writing conference for LGBTQ youth.

Our participation in Sister Writes has allowed us to find our footing as writers and workshop facilitators. We have discovered the value of getting stories out and on paper and then sharing them. And what gives both of us the greatest pleasure, is listening to other women tell their stories in their own words and seeing them grow in strength and confidence. – submitted by Donna Reid and Cindy Maguire

Honourable Mention / Mention d’honneur :

Nous aimerions attribuer une mention d’honneur au projet Into The Current (Dans le courant) de Miriam Colvin, dont la candidature a été soumise par Julie Lebel de Made in BC — dance on tour, car il est arrivé bon deuxième dans plus d’une catégorie.

Miriam Colvin a plus de 20 ans d’expérience à faire danser et à mobiliser les gens. Elle est incroyablement active dans son milieu, à Smithers en Colombie-Britannique, en territoire Witsuwit’. Son travail illustre bien comment les artistes peuvent travailler avec les membres de la communauté, et il met la barre haute, car Miriam rassemble les gens et favorise l’expression de différentes voix artistiques. Elle collabore souvent avec d’autres organismes tels que Made in BC — Dance on Tour, la Bulkley Valley Concert Association, le Conseil des arts de Bulkley Valley et Ewk Hiyah Hozdli.

We would like to give an honourable mention to Into The Current and Miriam Colvin, who came second in multiple categories and was nominated by Julie Lebel with Made in BC – dance on tour.

Miriam Colvin has over 20 years of experience in dance making and community engagement facilitation. She is incredibly active in her community, Smithers BC on Witsuwit’en Territory. She sets a high bar of excellence for what it can look like when artists work in cooperation with community members. Her community engagement facilitation aims to bring people together, encouraging many voices in the arts. Her work is often in aligned with community partners including Made in BC – Dance on Tour, BV Concert Association, BV Community Arts Council and Ewk Hiyah Hozdli.

Recent work includes:

Into The Current (2014-2016) facilitated over 581 community interactions towards the creation of the Into the Current Spectacle. Youth and children were facilitated by professional artists as makers, musicians, and performers. Over 81 community performers brought the Processional Spectacle to life. On the night of the performance, audience members were transported to the watershed of the Skeena River in downtown Smithers. As the sun set, they became part of the free processional spectacle that celebrated and honoured our watershed. Weaving music, puppetry, dance and visual art the line between performer and observer melded as we explored our shared landscapes walking through our downtown. Built on over two years of research in Kispiox, Hazelton, Witset and Smithers and combining elements from Enderby and the Cowichan Valley, this celebration was larger than her immediate community.

’Alhk’ikh Ts’inideh |Dancing Together |Danser Ensemble (2017) was an part of three series of community building events linked together by the themes of bringing people of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry together, building relationships to carry us forward and celebrating our communities.

As Miriam describes, “In order to come together across communities, we first needed to create spaces for Indigenous artists to heal, reflect and grow.” In June 2017, Miriam facilitated ’Alhk’ikh Ts’inideh : Dancing Together : Danser Ensemble bringing together Yukon-based Dakhká Khwáan Dancers and Witsuwit’en Ewk Hiyah Hozdli. Ewk Hiyah Hozdli, a traditional dance and drum group, has 25 multigenerational performers who practice approximately 13 Witsuwit’en songs. Many of the dances that go along with these songs have been suppressed for generations and are now being revitalized. Lead by Witsuwit’en elders, hereditary chiefs and community leaders, they focus their dances on young people and ensure the appropriate histories and stories are taught with each song and dance we perform. In the context of an intensive retreat, Ewk Hiyah Hozdli realized that they have so much capacity within our group as dancers, singers and drummers. The public performance brought people together from many ethnicities, impacting the artists and community members alike. As a result of this work, dialogue about ‘living culture’ and creating art that expresses the ‘history of now’ is at the forefront of our local communities.

For a sample of Miriam’s work: Into the Current, (project description, photo and a video):– submitted by Julie Lebel & Miriam Colvin

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