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Ontario

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images by kate austin, pizzodesevo

We contacted 164 organizations/reservations/communities by internet and telephone and had conversations with 29 people from these various sources. Because ArtBridges is based in Toronto, we were able to name 27 services just from memory as a starting point.

Toronto and the GTA offer a vibrant community arts scene. People understand that arts works as a community development tool. Our target communities seem to have better access to art services that are accessible and mostly free. You get a sense that as this is the financial capital of Canada, these arts services are better supported by corporations, foundations and individuals. We have listed another25 community art centres and programs in Toronto to follow-up with for our secondary research, but as we have exceeded our quota, we are moving on to map Manitoba.

We realized that we needed to get out of Toronto to see what was going on in the rest of the province. The resources and the approach to community art as a community development tool were entirely different once we left Toronto. There wasn’t the financial backing, the majority indicated that they either had no resources for arts at all or they were barely getting by. One arts centre in Atikokan claimed that the town had a poverty mentality and couldn’t fundraise. Another very successful one in Sudbury had made three appeals for charitable status and had been turned down for thirteen years. A Native Friendship Centre near James Bay stated that their resources were very limited and at the time of our call, were unable to run their art program. We connected with the North-South Partnership for Children and the director indicated that the 30 First Nations reservations in the North that she partners with have no resources or arts activitiesto speak of whatsoever, that their communities are in such decline that they are more preoccupied with housing repairs and health concerns. She understands the value that arts could bring to these communities for self-esteem, community building and skill development and invited us to initiate a partnership.

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We found 14 community arts programs or art centres outside of Toronto and 20 community arts, outreach and educational resourcesacross Ontario (including Toronto). We have a list of 34 community arts centres, resources and programs to follow-up with our research across Ontario (outside of Toronto).

Way up North, we found two web-based virtual art studios and galleries for artists living in remote locations needing mentorship and resources. These were creative solutions to bridging the long distances and remoteness of people living up North.

We found a one-staff arts council in Windsor-Essex County that had a reach of 2000 people. They developed an outstanding community outreach program through their storefront gallery and newsletter.

As we were mapping Ontario, we didn’t experience discouragement in the process. We felt we had only scratched the surface. Because of the population density in Ontario, with greater funding available and the highest ethnic diversity, it has the biggest concentration of both community arts centres and resources. So far, we have found that Ontarians have a great understanding of what community arts is and its relevance in community development for communities that need hope and opportunity the most. Of the people we spoke with, people are keen to connect.

Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Spring 2009