We contacted 57 organizations/reservations/communities by internet and telephone and had conversations with 27 people from these various sources. We found 11 community arts programs and centres that provide arts access to people who lack resources and opportunities. We found 8 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We have a secondary research list to follow-up on with 20 sources.
Halifax provides great community arts outreach programs that make arts more accessible. Some of the community arts outreach programs we found included Arts Express and Youth on the Radar, which offer after school arts-based programs for at-risk youth. Both programs operate in schools in Spryfield, Halifax. The L.O.V.E. (Leave Out Violence) Halifax program has strong writing and photography programs for youth (free of charge). They even provide transportation costs for those who want to participate. L.O.V.E. also has outreach/satellite programs on two reservations in Nova Scotia. They have a waiting list of people eager to join.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia really makes art more accessible by partnering with agencies and offering unique outreach programs for new immigrants, at-risk youth, homeless youth, youth with mental health issues, seniors with Alzheimer’s, people with autism and refugees, etc. This gallery has one of the most extensive outreach mandates of the provincial galleries we have mapped to date.
Leaving Halifax was a study in contrasts, some communities boasted amazing arts and engagement of their community in arts. Others had no community arts or very little. For example, in a phone call with the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in Dartmouth, we learned that the provision of arts education, resources and programs was extremely limited for communities with people of African descent. They could not think of any arts schools for the Black community. They said that the community was extremely under-represented. They said that this tight-knit supportive community generally doesn’t see art as having value nor do they place value in African art heritage.
In contrast, when we contacted the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre, the pride for their arts, their community centre and their culture was inspiring and so overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the curator of the Cultural Centre said that the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage called their Centre “one-of-a-kind in Canada” and one of “the best” in Nova Scotia. This small reservation has about 80 homes. The Cultural Centre offers free programs, has juried art shows, has an extremely active arts community, brings in First Nations students from all over to participate and has performing arts focused on First Nations culture. The Band funds all of the work there. Many people work overtime or volunteer and many Elders come in to teach. The curator said that everyone who works there does so because they love it and are very proud of their centre. The curator could think of no other arts and cultural centre like theirs in Nova Scotia.
Our calls to the Eskasoni First Nations community in Cape Breton led us to a completely different story. This reservation has a population of approximately 3000 in which youth are the greatest number. Call after call to the Eskasoni Social and Mental Health, Sarah Denny Cultural Centre, the Crisis Centre as well as with the Principal of the High School, revealed that there were no arts programs offered at all and that there was a lack of pride in arts. We left feeling disheartened and thinking that the community could really benefit from having a community arts centre, especially since the suicide rates are high and there are many at-risk youth.
Accessing funds may be an issue. We talked with the Education and Outreach Curator of the Visual Connections Project from the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association; he was a wealth of information on community arts. He said, “getting funding for community arts was a real challenge because Nova Scotia is a have-not province.” He mentioned that the Arts Council folded and it was taken over by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. His concern was that Tourism has the priority within the Department and that quite simply, Nova Scotia doesn’t have the big corporations and foundations like Ontario does as a funding alternative.
However, we found a great community arts resource called the 4Cs Foundation that “embrace[s] a role of community animator by participating in a variety of activities to stimulate and support the growth of community arts in the Halifax Regional Municipality. [They] provide training in community arts facilitation, a small resource library, and take part in many activities, meetings and groups related to community arts.” (from 4Cs Foundation website). The 4Cs also funds an online network called Community ArtsConnect which “promotes connections in the community arts field by making project information centralized, organized and easily accessible.” (from Community ArtsConnect website)
Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Spring 2009