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We contacted  65 organizations/reserves/communities by internet and telephoneand had conversations with 31 people from these various sources. We found 17 community arts programs and centres that provide arts access. We found 9 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We have a secondary research list to follow-up on with 98 sources.

Mapping Alberta was a challenge initially as we couldn’t find “community arts” per se. Community arts for social development, as a concept or as a field, doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as in other provinces that we have mapped. We spoke with a grants officer from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and she explained that there isn’t a correlation between social services/community development within the provincial arts council. Indeed, we found little in the way of funding options specifically tailored to community arts within major funding bodies. The good news is that the Alberta Foundation for the Arts grants all arts organizations (as long as they are legitimate). There is no jury or passing or failing the granting process as their mandate is: “arts for all Albertans.” The grants officer reiterated that as long as the organization was offering arts, it didn’t matter if there was a community development component or not.

Kelly Micetich from ihuman Youth Society in Edmonton understood when we said that we were having a challenge in our search. With great affection for Alberta, she generalized that her province is all about big festivals, big events, big sports, like the rodeo. She confirmed our difficulty in locating community arts centres/ programs, as they were few and far between and she could only name one other like hers. She said that there were many arts programs, but few doing community arts in higher-needs neighbourhoods. This amazing centre for at-risk youth has, among other things, a strong arts component involving silk-screening, a visual arts studio, art lessons, etc. 

True to the “go big like the rodeo” theme, Kelly enthusiastically told us about theUrban Games Project for 2010 that ihuman’s youth participants are involved with. The Edmonton Taskforce on Community Support says that this project “promises to be a first ever event to engage at-risk youth in creative ways and link them to education and support.” Kelly is thrilled with the fact that there is funding to allow for youth with past criminal records to fully engage in the leadership of this huge creative initiative. We look forward to hearing about the progress of this project from the youth involved!

We found more great community arts programs for at-risk children and youth and the homeless. We had a good conversation with Holly Simon, the Community Initiatives Officer with Calgary Arts Development, who directed us to several arts programs and projects. Many operated out of drop-ins and inner-city shelters within the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. According to Wikipedia, “the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor is the most urbanized region in the province and one of the densest in Canada.” Operation Friendship Senior Society in Edmonton provides a drop-in for 300 seniors who are marginalized. Lasha, a dedicated coordinator of nine years, provides pottery, leatherwork, arts and crafts, supplies and gets participants’ claywork fired at a local kiln. The Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (The D-I) has an art studio and woodworking shops available for the homeless. Their program description outlines their mandate: “our focus moves beyond basic human needs to providing opportunities to create meaning through art, music, words, and performance because hearts starve as well as bodies.”

Two programs for youth are Urban Youth Worx and Ghost River Rediscovery’s Urban Rediscovery Program. Another is called ArtStart(run by E4C) in Edmonton. It’s for children “who have no access to the arts due to lack of family financial resources.” Their website indicates that  “many studies have shown the positive effect the arts have on children, such as improved self-esteem, doing better in school and connecting with positive adult role models.” We found The Legacy Children’s Foundation Musical Instrument Bankin Calgary. It lends out musical instruments to children and youth who “without this assistance would not be able to take part in this type of potentially life enhancing musical experience.”

Outside of the corridor, we found out about outreach programs that provide great art access to people living in rural communities. We spoke with Todd Schaber,Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition (TREX) Manager (for the Prairie Art Gallery). The TREX program works in the four regions of Alberta and “strives to ensure every Albertan is provided with an opportunity to enjoy a visual arts exhibition in their community […] there are roughly 8000 artworks in the collection, showcasing the creative talents of more than 1700 artists.” Todd said that most of the time, the artworks are hung in non-traditional gallery settings like reserves, schools and libraries. The Foundation pays for the work to be crated out and the host community pays a small fee to exhibit the work for about a month.

ArtsSmarts, a national outreach program, is currently working with the Northern Lights School Division and local artists in Alberta.  This collaboration involves introducing Métis dance and a fiddling program into the school, so that arts can be more integrated into the curriculum. School Superintendent Roger Nippard, said that it was critical to teach cultural traditions to the new generation and with ArtsSmarts, the students have more exposure to cultural traditions and teachings. Also, the artists are great adult role models for the students.

There are a few artist-run centres with new media/multimedia focus that do great outreach like EM Media Gallery & Production Society and QuickDraw Animation Society. Both have scholarships and Production Access programs and projects. QuickDraw’s participants include “all youth, including immigrant youth, Aboriginal youth, street-involved youth and others who face barriers to employment.”

Lastly, we found a few great community art centres for people with developmental disabilities like the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts in Edmonton. We spoke with David Janzen, who told us that they are about to move into a new self-serve art studio that is 7500-sq. foot. Participation is extremely affordable. “The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts believes in the importance of the creation and exhibition of art by those who face barriers to artistic expression.” David also mentioned In-Definite Arts (Calgary) and Chrysalis (Edmonton), art organizations with similar goals. Harcourt House Arts Centre offers “drop-in art classes in collaboration with the Out of the Shadows Artists, a program established for adults with mental health concerns.”

Although the preliminary research of Alberta’s community arts programs, projects, organizations and resources seemed to be a challenge, at the end of the day, we found that Alberta had a lot of community arts programs, projects, organizations and resources.

Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Summer 2009