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New Brunswick

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“New Brunswick Landscape”, ca. 1879-1889, watercolour and gouache with gum arabic by William G. R. Hind. Credit: National Gallery of Canada/No. 30195.

We contacted 82 organizations/reservations/communities by internet and telephone and had conversations with 40 people from these various sources. We found 10 community arts programs and centres that provide arts access to people who lack resources and opportunities. We found 9 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We have a secondary research list to follow-up on with 44 sources.

In New Brunswick, we found two community arts programs in unconventional places, both had enormous pride in their work and paid attention to quality. One was within a library and the other was within a Boys & Girls Club.

The Moncton Public Library clearly loves art. The permanent art exhibition space of 20 panels with professional lighting, is available for any local artist—amateur or professional—free of charge. There is a formal submission process and the program is so popular that it is booked until 2010. They also run free drop-in arts workshops and summer arts programs and have a summer reading club called “Be Artrageous.” The instructors are a combination of library staff, professional artists and students.

We called several Boys and Girls Clubs in New Brunswick, until we found the Club de Garçons et Filles Moncton Boys & Girls Club Inc. We had a very lengthy conversation with the proud Executive Director who clearly recognizes art as a community development tool. This club offers a very unique arts program called the “A-Zone.” It is a core arts, music and culture program that includes sculpture, drawing, photography, videography, editing, music, dance (from ballroom to hiphop), etc.

Membership to the Club is $10/year, but they have never refused kids who can’t afford it. Instead, kids have the option to pay with their time as volunteers. Current membership of the Club is 500 kids from the Moncton core and 400 from the general area. Three-quarters of the participating youth are from low-income communities. Although the Director said that poverty is an issue, a greater one is transportation (i.e. how to get kids to the centre). To address this, they have set up a program called “REACH Quatro” whereby the staff drive a bus to 8 satellite communities (within a 12km radius out of Moncton) from low-income communities to bring the kids to the Club. Teachers tell the Director that the Club provides consistency in the kids’ lives and there is less profanity and negativity in the classrooms because of it.

The Youth Centre in Elsipogtog First Nations reservation is another really healthy, preventive, inclusive and free after-school program that has a high focus in arts for youth. Several hundred kids attend throughout the year and learn painting (taught by Elders), traditional dancing—jingle & shaw, crafts such as basket-weaving and beadwork. 12 youth also participate in a Jingle & Shawdance troupe and get hired to dance in festivals. These are great youth employment opportunities provided by the Youth Council.

We found a fantastic arts centre called Fredericton Arts & Learning that offers amazing outreach programs for children and youth who are at-risk, homeless or disadvantaged. They partner with many social agencies and offer art workshops free or charge run by qualified arts educators and professional artists. Positive feedback is enormous. Here are two testimonials that speak of the benefits of arts from their website:

From the Youth Options Program of the John Howard Society: “The main theme that many of these students are faced with is not having a passion in life. The workshop in photography has not only provided our students with a sense of pride in their pictures, but also a sense of accomplishment.”

From the Fredericton Boys’ and Girls’ Club: “We have experienced first hand the incredible difference the arts can make to a child. Self expression through art offers many children an outlet to release tension and frustration, which helps them to concentrate on their studies and improves overall behaviour levels.”

Another arts centre that’s making a difference is the Saint John Arts Centre. We found many art centres, galleries and schools in New Brunswick that lacked art outreach programs for people with economic barriers. However, the Saint John Arts Centre has a small and growing outreach program that is a good example of how a little money can go a long way. They partner with the YMCA, bringing kids over to the gallery for free. They also send art instructors out to teach workshops at schools in vulnerable communities. Sometimes the transportation from the YMCA to the centre is provided by the police, which is fun for the children!

Overall, in comparison to the other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick seems to have fewer Anglophone community arts centres or programs that reach out to under-resourced communities. However, we have not completed mapping Francophone arts centres and programs and suspect that we will find more because it is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. There is definitely a lot of arts in New Brunswick, but from our calls, it seemed that fewer people had the resources or interest to offer more in the way of community outreach through arts. Government knowledge on community arts resources and programs within the Arts Council was very limited. However, the community arts programs and resources that we did find were making a real difference and had remarkable qualities.

Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Spring 2009