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

We are pleased to announce the award winners for
ArtBridges Fifth 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-2019 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 St. John’s, Guelph, and Vancouver. The recipients will each receive a certificate and an award of $250. We will be calling for nominations for our Sixth Annual Recognition Awards this Winter!

Nous avons le plaisir de vous présenter les lauréats des cinquièmes
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 : Au milieu de 2019, 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 Saint-Jean de Terre-Neuve, de Guelph et de Vancouver. Chaque récipiendaire recevra un certificat et un prix de 250 $. Nous lancerons cet hiver un appel de candidatures pour la sixième 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 : Otahpiaaki (Calgary, Alberta)

« Otahpiaaki est un projet porté par l’Indigenous Mount Royal University dans le cadre d’un programme de baccalauréat d’exception visant à répondre aux besoins en éducation de tous les peuples autochtones. L’université s’est engagée à reconnaître, valoriser et appliquer le savoir autochtone en utilisant des méthodes pédagogiques et des pratiques qui tiennent compte de leurs réalités culturelles. Axé sur les arts et la créativité, Otahpiaaki existe depuis trois ans. Ce projet est le fruit d’une collaboration entre des aînés et des Gardiens du Savoir Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot), des équipes d’étudiants et d’étudiantes autochtones et non autochtones ainsi que des professeurs et des membres du personnel de l’université.»

« Otahpiaaki is a project of Indigenous Mount Royal University. As a part of delivering an exceptional undergraduate experience, meeting the educational needs of all Indigenous Peoples, and in delivering on the university’s commitment to recognizing, valuing and applying Indigenous knowledge through culturally responsive pedagogies and practices, Otahpiaaki has worked in partnership with Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot) Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous student teams, and alliances of faculty and staff to build an arts- and creatives-focused project these past three years.

Otahpiaaki’s mandate is embodied in Mount Royal University’s Indigenous Strategic Plan 2016-2021, including the cultivation of respectful and welcoming environments; working with our communities to enhance the academic, personal and cultural experience of Indigenous learners; and fostering respect for Indigenous ways of knowing, knowledge-production and creative practice, and increasing capacity for Indigenous scholarship.

Otahpiaaki supports creative practice in three ways. First, we host an annual showcase. In its fourth year, Otahpiaaki: Indigenous Beauty and Fashion and Design Week is a 5-day community-focused visual and performing arts gathering, showcase, and critical discourse hosted in Mohkinstis/ Calgary. Designers, artists, musicians, performers, and writers from 40 unique neighbour Nations, Inuit, Northern, and Métis communities have showcased and celebrated indigenous beauty in all of its forms – intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual since 2016. Sahpahtsimah — collaborating in a good way, is core to our project. 

Next, Otahpiaaki partners with other organizations on ‘practice and issues’ workshops during and beyond Showcase Week, typically held in November. This educational programming ensures that contemporary and historical knowledge is shared through intergenerational exchange. We also host critical discourse events, for example, on creative issues and impacts facing LGBTQ+ and racialized creatives; concerned with dismantling colonial research/educational structures impacting creative research, practice, and the pursuit of prosperity; and an artistic collaboration and curation of Robert Joseph’s 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act. 

Finally, our project is uniquely designed with a scholarship of engagement strategy. Since 2016, we’ve gathered new knowledge by asking three key questions, “How can Indigenous creative renewal and maintenance of practices be articulated and protected? What are the obstacles to creative, artistic, and economic prosperity for Indigenous artists? How are creative works being utilized for healing intergenerational harms and traumas and helping discoveries of giftedness? 

Using Indigenous scholarship and practice, we have achieved new understanding about these questions. We have participated in academic conferences and events as far away as France and Germany, and as close as Tsuut’ina. We also support Otahpiaaki and other creatives with practical knowledge and tools, and we utilize popular press. We have even grown natural dye crops to resource design and artistic practice, and have transferred this knowledge to Kainai K-12 arts educators, Elders and artists to introduce Poo’miikapi – experiencing unity, balance, and harmony through regalia and other creative action.

We listen carefully to our creatives and contribute our knowledge and skills to serve their expressed needs. »

-submitted by Patricia M Derbyshire

Here’s a recent Vogue Article: Meet 4 Indigenous-Owned Streetwear Brands Empowering Their Communities

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 : Cirque Hors Piste – Cirkaskina – National Social Circus Gathering / Rencontre nationale en cirque (Montréal, QC)

« L’événement de clôture de la Rencontre nationale en cirque social durera trois jours. Le premier jour (le 17 janvier 2020), 150 jeunes participeront à une création collective présentée à la Tohu et diffusée en direct dans tous les milieux participants. Cette présentation publique vise à montrer la diversité des jeunes participants et à sensibiliser le grand public à la portée de changement social qu’ont les arts et plus particulièrement le cirque. Les deux autres journées seront remplies d’activités offertes aux jeunes par les jeunes: ateliers de partage, scène ouverte, discussions, rituels d’ouverture et de clôture, moments d’échanges informels. »

« Social circus, an innovative approach use in 17 communities in Canada. The circus has rightly been characterized as an art of solidarity because it relies heavily on mutual help and collective work. This is why social circus intervention, by the nature of the activities used, relies heavily on collective participation. To act in a group by carrying out common activities is a formidable tool to develop trust towards others which makes it possible to develop fundamental social values such as solidarity, empathy, mutual help, sense of belonging, listening, respect and friendship. The notions of leadership and respect for common rules are also promoted, which leads participants to consider themselves not only as individuals, but also as full members of a community. In fact, participants become aware not only of what others can bring them, but also of what they themselves can bring to others, essential elements in the construction of esteem. The circus tool thus becomes a pretext for promoting social inclusion, developing life skills and fostering an active place in one’s community.

The big event closing National Social Circus Gathering will last 3 days, The first day (January 17, 2020) will invite the 150 young people to join forces for a collective creation that will be presented publicly at Tohu and broadcast live in all participating communities. The objective of this public day is both to promote the diversity of young participants, to give them a voice, while raising awareness among the general public about the use of the arts and more specifically the circus as a vector of social change. The next two days will be devoted to activities by and for young people: exchange workshops, open-stage, discussions, opening and closing rituals, informal moments of exchange. »

-submitted by Samuel Jabour

The Award for Creativity is sponsored by the Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES Fund.
Le prix soulignant une créativité remarquable est commandité par le Fonds Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES.

The Remarkable Resiliency! Award to / Le prix soulignant une résilience remarquable est remis à : Thinking Rock Community Arts (Thessalon, ON)

« Depuis sa fondation en 2013, Thinking Rock Community Arts (TRCA) a imposé le respect comme organisme artistique communautaire, le seul en son genre dans le district Central Algoma du Nord de l’Ontario. Grâce à son équipe de trois employées, son conseil d’administration de sept personnes (y compris une adolescente sans droit de vote), des bénévoles attentionnés et des mentors organisationnels extraordinaires (notamment Jumblies Theatre et SKETCH Working Arts,) cet organisme à but non lucratif (incorporé en vertu de la loi provinciale) est maintenant reconnu comme un acteur du milieu vital et résilient qui produit des projets pluriannuels à la qualité artistique, la portée et l’impact élevés. Le premier projet de Thinking Rock a reçu un excellent accueil: la pièce communautaire Rivers Speak, fruit d’un processus de conception, de production et d’évaluation étalé sur cinq ans, a mobilisé 4000 personnes de 2013 à 2018. L’organisme a démontré une résilience remarquable sur le plan de son fonctionnement et de sa programmation, tout en faisant preuve d’une créativité et d’une innovation remarquables dans la construction de cette résilience. »

« Since its foundation in 2013, Thinking Rock Community Arts (TRCA) has established itself as a well-respected community-engaged arts organization, the only one of its kind based in the Central Algoma District of Northern Ontario. With the support of three staff members, a seven-member Board of Directors (including a non-voting youth member), a caring group of volunteers and formidable organizational mentors (Jumblies Theatre and SKETCH Working Arts, to name a few) this provincially-incorporated nonprofit has become known as a vital, resilient organization that produces large-scale, multi-year projects of high artistic quality and impact. The five-year process of design, production and evaluation of the Rivers Speak Community Play – Thinking Rock’s well-received inaugural project – engaged 4,000 people between 2013 to 2018. Thinking Rock has demonstrated remarkable resiliency in its operations and programming, while also showing remarkable creativity and innovation in building its resilience.

Despite its recent establishment, small staff size and location in the under-resourced, rural Northern Ontario context, Thinking Rock’s team has worked creatively and diligently to secure the resources (funding, staffing, organizational systems, community support and otherwise) necessary for its survival and sustainability. A fee-for-service consultancy revenue stream supplements funder contributions and connects the organization to community groups and initiatives. Relationships with local partners, donors and sponsors (individual, organizational and corporate) are carefully cultivated. At times, endurance has necessitated the adoption of austerity measures, leading to shifts in plans, but the organization has survived and thrived. The organizational culture embraces opportunities for learning that emerge in challenging times, recognizing that such knowledge informs forward motion while it builds resiliency. Within the last year, Thinking Rock has applied for and secured operating funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts – achieving a goal, and a big step towards sustainability, 6 years in the making. This will enable Thinking Rock to continue its various projects and initiatives, including Social Fabric, its current multi-year, community-engaged project.

Thinking Rock has learned much about the resiliency of the people of the Central Algoma region – knowledge it aims to respect, reflect and model. These communities, from Spanish to Sault Ste. Marie and all points between, continue to weather the storms of economic uncertainty, isolation (social & geographic), entrenched racism, the ongoing impacts of colonialism and more. An intensive, careful process of relationship building at the beginning of each project connects Thinking Rock with community members and organizations, to better know each community’s past, present, and hopes for the future. Sitting with Elders and Knowledge Keepers increases Thinking Rock’s awareness of local protocols, as well as their respectful observance and incorporation into this work. Access supports – such as childcare, food, transportation support, free admission, self-care resources and more – help to address needs in the community and ensure diverse participation. Making personal, trusting connections truly counts; the moving stories of life and resilience shared with Thinking Rock by community members inspire, inform, and increase the resiliency of its work in turn, in myriad ways. 

Thinking Rock will further examine, amplify and model resiliency in the two-year Stories of our Stories community-engaged research project, by recognizing and nurturing it. Supported by research partners and funders including NORDIK Institute, Mass Culture, the Northern Lights Collaborative, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts, this project will connect community-engaged artists and arts organizations in the rural and First Nation contexts of Northern Ontario to collectively explore the impacts and learnings of this field of practice, in this context; surface the challenges and barriers of this work; investigate current supports and those that are needed to continue it; build a collegial network of practitioners; and underscore the many positive impacts of community-engaged arts in this context which include, among others, building community resilience.

For more information about Thinking Rock’s work, please visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or contact Acting Artistic Director, Miranda Bouchard (miranda[at] »

-submitted by Miranda Bouchard

The Award for Resiliency is sponsored by the Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES Fund.
Le prix soulignant une résilience remarquable est commandité par le Fonds Ruth Mandel – WHO GIVES.

Honourable Mentions / Mentions honorables :

We would like to give honourable mentions to Home 2.0 (Sarasvàti Productions) in the Remarkable Creativity! Award category and to Music From Hope in the Remarkable Resiliency! Award category.

Honourable Mention Honourable Mention for Remarkable Creativity! Award / Mention honorable pour la Prix Créativité remarquable!Home 2.0, Hope McIntyre (Winnipeg, MB)

« D’octobre à décembre 2018, Sarasvàti Productions a produit « Home 2.0 », une nouvelle pièce de théâtre portant sur l’expérience des jeunes nouvellement arrivés au pays; lors d’une tournée des écoles manitobaines, elle a été présentée à plus de 4700 jeunes. La formule du théâtre forum a permis de créer une expérience interactive unique, donnant la chance aux étudiants d’explorer, en les jouant sur scène, des solutions aux problématiques évoquées. Sarasvàti a ainsi présenté la pièce à de nombreux jeunes immigrants et immigrantes, qui se ruaient sur les comédiens, après la représentation pour les remercier d’avoir raconté leur vécu d’une façon aussi vivante. »

From October to December 2018, Sarasvàti Productions produced «  »Home 2.0″ », a new play about the experiences of newcomer youth. It toured to schools throughout Manitoba, being seen by over 4,700 youth. Using a Forum Theatre style created a unique interactive experience and allowed students to creatively explore solutions, by acting them out on stage. Sarasvàti was able to share the show with many newcomer students, who would then rush the stage after the show to thank the actors for telling their stories in such a vibrant way. Music, song, and dance were all used. There was a free performance for the after-school program at Peaceful Village. They also targeted youth organizations that so often do not have access to the arts, by offering free previews at Graffiti Gallery and the Millennium Library. Just as important were the many performances at schools where a majority of students were not new Canadians. Here the students had little interaction with or understanding of the challenges faced by immigrant and refugees. Through seeing it played out before their eyes, they were able to experience what it is like to be forced to leave your home and start all over halfway across the world. In the debrief after each performance, students shared how it helped them to have more empathy and to be more accepting. The students also had extremely insightful suggestions about what needs to change in order to help make the transition easier for new Canadians.

There were so many rewarding moments. In order to include first person perspectives, Sarasvàti utilized video in the play. A Yazidi refugee who participated in the creation of the play and who shared his story on video, attended at his high school with his peers. He spoke afterwards and was so proud to be able to help others to understand. The cast also often heard students translate for each other from the audience, with those who have been in the country longer supporting the newer arrivals. Doing post-show workshops with students we also heard their passion for promoting human rights, greater acceptance and tolerance. Allowing students to use storytelling and tap in to their own creativity, kept the project engaging for all youth.

For this project, Sarasvàti Productions traveled to new communities and particularly rural communities who have less access to both theatre and human rights advocacy. This allowed the company to expand their reach and build relationships beyond the city limits for future projects, thereby reducing isolation and demonstrating that arts are for everyone no matter where they live or what their life experience has been. There were also requests from multiple middle schools so the tour expanded the age range of the audience with great success. In fact, the cast often felt the middle school students jumped in to participate more actively as it was such a unique experience for them. Sharing the stories with younger students was extremely effective in having the conversation begin at an earlier age.

The tour also included talkbacks, a resource toolkit for teachers and opportunities for facilitators to continue the conversation post-show. Now that the tour is complete Sarasvàti Productions is finalizing the script for publishing and dissemination for use by other theatre companies as well as school drama programs across the country. They have also received requests to facilitate workshops at additional schools in order to share their process and allow students to create their own work sharing stories to increase human understanding.

-submitted by Hope McIntyre

Videos from play:

Honourable Mention for Remarkable Resiliency! Award / Mention honorable pour le Prix Résilience remarquable! – Music From Hope (Toronto, ON)

« L’équipe d’animation du projet Music From Hope, constituée de personnes réfugiées, travaille avec les enfants dans des camps de réfugiés en Syrie et au Liban depuis 2012. Depuis 2016, elle utilise la musique comme activité thérapeutique avec ces enfants. Pour les animateurs et animatrices, comme pour les enfants qui participent au projet, la musique a été un refuge et un moyen de guérison. »

« Facilitators of the Music From Hope project been working with children in refugee camps since 2012 (Syria and Lebanon). They have been using music as therapeutic activity with children in camps since 2016. As refugees themselves, they found refuge and healing for themselves and the kids at the same time in music.

During trainings, we integrate the knowledge, experience and questions of the participants, to help customize towards the needs of the participants and the children we work with. In combination with our exercises, theory and stories, we facilitate a process in which people will learn from each other and learn by doing: action-based learning. We believe music can change people — and by changing people, you can change communities.

Recently, we were hosted at CBC Arts in short video that explains more about who we are and what we do:

-submitted by Nour Kaadan

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