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Saskatchewan

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We contacted 38 organizations/reserves/communities by internet and telephone and had conversations with 21 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 9 community arts, outreach and educational resources. We have a secondary research list to follow-up on with 115 sources.

During our first day of research, we were impressed by the number of arts resources across Saskatchewan. We were also impressed by the amount of community arts outreach programs. There seemed to be fewer dedicated community arts centres. The renowned community arts organization, Common Weal Community Arts, is a model based on outreach programs in communities with high-needs.

Common Weal, the main community arts organization in Saskatchewan, is a very unique community arts model. We haven’t learned about a model like this in other provinces so far. We talked with three full-time staff in both the Regina and Prince Albert offices. Judy McNaughton, Northern Artistic Coordinator, explained how the organization works: first they establish a relationship with a community, building trust and collaborating on ideas. Then they raise funds for the community arts project and hire the artists (they have a roster of about 30 with whom they work). Sometimes they set up an artist-in-residence. Next they assist in designing the project. The community leads the project, builds capacity with an aim of becoming self-sufficient. Common Weal makes a long-term commitment to the community and continues to act as a resource in whatever way that they are needed. They run 6-12 projects per year.

One of their current projects is based in North Central Regina, where they are supporting an artist-in-residence to work with the community. We heard that the North Central neighbourhood in Regina was “Canada’s Worst Neighborhood” according to a Maclean’s magazine article written in January 2007 due to poverty, crime, prostitution, poor health, substance abuse, etc. The article received considerable backlash from the community. This prompted us to do some digging on community arts there. We phoned three community centres in North Central and asked what arts programs they knew of in the area. Apparently, there is little going on in terms of arts programming.

However, we did learn of a great centre in this community called the Street Culture Kidz Project. It was recently granted an award of $250,000 for its dynamic work with at-risk youth.  One amazing and unique fundraising idea that they have done for years, as told by a dedicated staff, Brenda, is face-painting at corporate events and parties. Before their large grant, face-painting brought in about 55% of their revenue. Brenda told us that clients can’t tell the difference between staff and youth participants at these events as they wear the same t-shirts, establishing a collective and equal atmosphere. This novel fundraising idea is a win-win situation for all.

In Regina, we kept hearing about the MacKenzie Art Gallery, its excellent inner-city and provincial outreach programs and about how accessible it is.MacKenzie Art Gallery’s Provincial Outreach program is about getting art exhibits out to rural Saskatchewan and First Nations communities because they believe “art is for everyone!” These travelling exhibitions of original art are free to schools and provide arts education. Over half a million people have been able to enjoy and learn about art because of this program.

ArtSmarts Saskatchewan and Learning Through the Arts also do great outreach with schools. They organize professional artists to work in classrooms, combining art with curriculum. We loved learning about The Heart of the City Piano Program, which sends volunteers to teach piano in different inner-city schools in six cities across Saskatchewan (we have recently learned that they are in other provinces too). Their mission is “to proactively promote the advancement of a more equitable opportunity for potentially at-risk and economically disadvantaged youth to participate in a life-long music education experience” (from HCPP  website).

We’d like to highlight another art gallery that is going the extra mile to make arts more accessible. We talked to the director of the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery in Yorktown, who told us about a few of the gallery’s programs. He spoke with sensitivity and had insight into the profound benefits of combining arts and health as well as the value of making creativity accessible. The Gallery charges $1 for its popular after-school art drop-in. It also offers wonderful art classes for adults living with mental health issues and disabilities.

An interesting fact about Saskatchewan is that it has “the highest proportion of Aboriginal People” out of all the provinces and territories in Canada, according to a RCMP’s 2007 Environmental Scan report. We found some First Nations community arts centres, artist-run centres and resources, such as Tribe Inc., the Sâkêwêwak Artists’ Collective Inc., Kikinakhk Friendship Centre and the Red Shift Gallery. We had a great conversation with Wally Dion, a professional artist and member of the Red Shift Gallery. He told us about his experience teaching art and exhibiting his art through the Mackenzie Art Gallery outreach program in a school in Yellow Quill. He also taught atSaskatoon Community Youth Arts Project Inc. (SCYAP) that runs theUrban Canvas Project, a free arts program for at-risk youth. SCYAP has won numerous awards across Canada for their innovative work with youth and best practices.

Overall, we were very impressed by the amount of resources for artists and art centres in Saskatchewan. We learned about the Saskatchewan Arts Board, SASKCulture, ARTSask, CARFAC Saskatchewan, Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC), Indigenous Peoples Arts Collective, PAVED Arts, Saskatchewan Society for Education Through Art, to name a few. We found fewer organizations going through financial struggles compared with other provinces that we’ve researched. We found many more community arts programs and resources in under-resourced communities that we will list later as we can’t give justice to all of the amazing work being done in Saskatchewan!

Summary by Seanna Connell & Lisa Tran, Summer 2009