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What is Community Arts, Community-Engaged Arts or Arts for Social Change?

Is it a field? A process? A practice? A discipline? Those of us who are involved in community-engaged arts continue to unpack new perspectives and meanings. To keep the dialogue evolving, we offer some thoughtful, even thought-provoking, descriptions of community-engaged arts from our community partners and friends from across Canada.

When we started out with ArtBridges/ToileDesArts, we were cautioned by two different funders to avoid institutionalizing the practice of community arts, i.e., don’t box it in or define it. It’s an evolving practice and it’s growing organically. A community partner also pointed out that some initiatives may not want to be defined as a “community arts” practice. Instead, they may see themselves more as a ‘youth organization’, so don’t try to impose an arts label on an initiative.  Each one will self-identify.

One thing we—ArtBridges/ToilesDesArts—do know, is that the practice of community arts in Canada is unstoppable! Each day, we learn about new and interesting community-engaged arts initiatives and their amazing impact within communities.

A kaleidoscope of perspectives on the practice of community-engaged arts

In an effort to reflect current thought on community-engaged arts practice, we’ve gathered a few perspectives from organizations and initiatives that are involved in the practice. Read what each or all have to say by clicking on the organization’s name

The 4Cs Foundation, Halifax

Community Arts Practice (CAP) Program, York University, Toronto

Engrenage Noir / ROUAGE, Montreal

The Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto

International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), Vancouver