Accessibility:   A A

British Columbia

bc

We contacted 52 organizations/communities by internet and telephone and had conversations with 20 individuals from these various sources. We found 12 community arts programs and centres that provide arts access. We found21 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We accessed lists of grant recipients through community arts funding sources and lists of community arts councils, which takes our secondary research list to the hundreds.

In BC “community arts” was everywhere! We had more information than we could possibly hope to uncover. For example, we found the Assembly of British Columbia Arts Councils, which is “dedicated to connecting communities to promote and advance community arts and cultural development in British Columbia.” We found the Downtown Eastside Community Arts Network as well as the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, which “creates community through the arts.” Even the BC Council for the Arts has a Community Arts Development granting section. There is also a range of community arts festivals. People talked about community arts engagement practices with knowledge on the subject.

To capture the spirit, momentum and importance of community arts (for social development), there is a new and dynamic organization called The International Centre for Arts for Social Change (ICASC). It is has been established by Judith Marcuse Projects in partnership with Simon Fraser University. In the near future, they hope to begin offering programs, workshops, training, networking and be a hub for people working in the arts for social change in Canada and around the world! There is no such centre in Canada that we have found so far, and we look forward to learning more!

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is an amazing creative community. The creative buzz and the feeling of a real community of artists can be felt all the way to Toronto!  Fearless is an online resource that frequently posts and tweets about arts and culture in the neighbourhood. Fearless runs in conjunction with theDowntown Eastside Community Arts Network. DTES-CAN is a unique community arts neighbourhood initiative for local artists to network and work together. They aim to “strengthen the DTES as a healthy, artistically vibrant, and culturally rich community where people with predominantly low incomes and from diverse lifestyles, abilities, and financial means feel at home.” In the same neighbourhood, a new arts and culture centre called the W2 Community Media Arts Centre, is being set up in the old Woodward Building as part of the DTES revitalization. This centre will house organizations like Kickstart and DTES-CAN.

Down the street, the Carnegie Centre runs arts programs for street-involved adults in portrait drawing, pottery, etc. Another community arts centre that has just started up this year is the Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts. The totally dedicated founder, Delannah Brown, partners with the InterUrban Gallery to offer some of their unique art programs. Great idea: in the Spring, they held a 24-hour painting marathon with 24 artists followed by an art auction to raise revenue for their centre. Another DTES centre is the Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre, which offers free arts programs for people of all ages.

In BC, we found several organizations that provide access to community arts for people with disabilities or health issues. Kickstart, which offers visual arts and theatre programs, is preparing for the Kickstart Festival 2010 as part of theCultural Olympiad during the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. The Arts, Health and Seniors Project  is a “three-year community-engaged arts initiative, which has worked to improve the physical health and psychosocial well-being of marginalized seniors.” Gallery Gachet has a great studio for artists “informed by mental health issues.” We found the Arts Health Network Canada, a pilot website that is being set up to connect people with disabilities to the arts across Canada.

We found two great community theatre companies that base their work on the Theatre of the Oppressed: Headlines Theatre and Street Spirits. Street Spirits, a youth theatre company, goes out into participating communities and works with people including at-risk youth. They tackle issues such as suicide, domestic violence, racism, poverty, homophobia, etc. through theatre.

In BC there are some great resources for Indigenous artists in BC. A few stand out: the Indigenous Arts Service Organization and the En’owkin Centrewhich both advocate, support, mentor, train as well as provide resources and professional development for artists. Grunt Gallery/Visible Arts Society and the Native Youth Artists Collective also provide arts opportunities and resources for emerging and young artists.

We had a couple of good conversations with Elaine Carol, founder and director ofMiscellaneous Productions, a community theatre arts organization. She touched upon the ongoing debate in BC about community arts, tokenism within community arts and the semantics of the term “community arts.” Although community arts has been around for millennia, it has recently gained recognition from funders and policy makers as a field that includes art as a tool for community development. There are also programs/organizations that provide “community arts” to describe art being done in a community. Elaine said that there is a need to distinguish the real community arts organizations (arts for social change) from the others. These conversations make us realize how diverse and expansive the work in the community arts field is.

Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Summer 2009