We contacted 52 organizations/reservations/communities by internet and telephone research and had conversations with 34 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 6 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We have a secondary research list to follow-up on with 22 sources.
The first call we made in PEI was to the Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts, where we spoke with the Programs & Communications Officer. She proudly told us about two relatively new community arts projects that the council initiated and funds. The Newcomers Art Show showcases artwork of new immigrants; the focus of the show is diversity and about bridging the old and new Charlottetown. The Aboriginal Art Show and Sale every June has high participation and features drumming, along with the sale of Mi’kmaq art.
Another dynamic community arts program is Youth Can Do in Stratford, a drama and visual arts program for youth (including at-risk youth). Facing hard times because of the recession, the youth decided that they would revamp all of last year’s costumes and set (instead of buying new costumes, props and set material) rather than canceling the production of their annual Shakespearian play. She said that this was the youths’ decision and that they are helping to solve the low funding problems.
The Outreach & Education Officer at the Confederation Centre for the Arts has helped to turn the Centre around by expanding their outreach programs tenfold and dynamically improving arts access for the community.
The Officer did express that their centre did not have focused outreach with the First Nations community, ArtBridges connected her with the Aboriginal Youth Coordinator of the Native Council of PEI in Charlottetown to help bridge the gap (art bridging!). The Native Council of PEI primarily offers weekly arts for First Nations youth ages 10-29. There is a focus on culture and tradition and there are no barriers to attend. The centre even provides transportation to pick people up to attend programs at the centre.
We called the band councils of Lennox Island and Abegweit, the Native Friendship Centre in Charlottetown, the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Cultural Centre, the Native Council of PEI, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI. We learned that the Native Friendship Centre is struggling to find resources as it is only one year old and they were not able to offer any arts programs.
The Outreach & Education Officer of the Confederation Centre for the Arts also noted that there aren’t any arts colleges or arts universities in PEI, but that Holland College has a one-year foundation course in the Arts. Therefore, a lot of youth leave the Island for academic art education. She also said that outreach with rural communities is a challenge.
We did however find a small rural arts council called the Southern Kings Arts Council that covers the eastern end of PEI. With limited funds, they have an annual arts event, give out grants and awards, help bring arts into primary schools and bolster the local music festival. The member with whom we spoke expressed that she was upset that there were no arts centres in this farming region; sometimes libraries and halls are rented out in lieu of having a dedicated centre.
ArtSmarts is a great model for arts education outreach. It provides art enrichment and art access across the country for children in higher-needs schools. We also found an innovative and free community arts program called LEAP, aimed at engaging seniors in art programs across the island.
In contrast, we found lots of for-profit art schools and lots of arts activities and galleries, but very few had accessible outreach programs.
We found that it was hard to pinpoint specific low-income, under-resourced or priority neighbourhoods across the island. Neighbourhoods and communities seemed to be economically integrated. However, we spoke with Principal of an elementary school in Charlottetown, who was our only contact in PEI to call his community arts program at his school an “at-risk school in a socio-economical at-risk neighbourhood.” Most community arts programs we found opened their doors to everyone, not wanting to single out a higher-needs demographic.
After Newfoundland, we thought the research would be easier in PEI because of the size of the island, but it wasn’t. For example, when we asked someone with the Lefurgey Cultural Centre in Summerside if she could name other art programs outside of Summerside, she couldn’t think of any. She said although there may be art programs in other towns and cities, these programs may be so small that they are not talked about beyond town borders. One thing ArtBridges can do is connect these art programs, projects and centres.
Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Spring 2009