Arts Engage participants gather
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Arts Engage!: Arts for Community Engagement Training Intensive (Arts Engage!), June 2010, Halifax, NS 

This training and and symposium was developed over late 2009 and ealry 2010 in response to needs expressed by the local arts community for training and for an opportunity to come together as a “community of practice”. 

Arts Engage!  was the first-ever event focused on community arts in Nova Scotia and provided significant opportunities for skill building across a range of contexts and art disciplines, raised the local capacity for community arts leadership to a professional level, and inspired emerging community-engaged artists to envision a professional level of practise.

Arts Engage!  was structured and presented as a model of arts for community development. The training and the symposium were both developed through the approaches, values and principles that were also being taught and demonstrated throughout the event. Participants were active and contributing rather than merely receptive. This new model of symposia engaged participants in building a community (of practice) while building individual skills, engaging in peer-to-peer dialogue, and learning from more established artists. 

Arts Engage! also “put on the map” local artists who were already achieving remarkable things at a community level, yet whose accomplishments were relatively unknown in Halifax or the region before the event.

Arts Engage! was delivered in two parts – a 5 day training intensive for 20 participants and a weekend Symposium with 149 pregistrants and 8 guest community arts practitioners from across Canada and the United States leading hands-on workshops. The symposium also provided information sharing and community-building opportunities through large gatherings, small group work, and "World Studio" sessions.

Accessibility was a key goal of Arts Engage!  and it was open to all artists at any level of artistic endeavour and those with an interest in working with artists at a community level. Less experienced community artists were given a unique opportunity to learn with more established  “peers”. Registration fees were kept low and the 4Cs Foundation sponsored several low income and/or persons living with disabilities to open up the opportunity to artists experiencing barriers to access. Holding the event at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Port Campus ensured physical accessibility for participants.

Impact and Outcomes

  • Training of 20 artist facilitators who now have the tools and know-how to develop and deliver community arts projects with a high impact.
  • ​The range of workshop topics illustrated that community arts occurs the spectrum of art disciplines.
  • Fostered personal and professional connections developed with artists and organizations across Canada,  placing Nova Scotian artists within the national community.
  • Created a significant “buzz” about community arts and possibilities for the practise in the broader NS community.
  • Non-artists from other sectors (health, education, homelessness, Youth work, etc.) learned about community arts as a tool to apply their work and about artist-community collaborations as a methodology.
  • Brought to attention local community artists who are already achieving remarkable things at a community level.
  • Resulted in a group interested in Intersection Placemaking who initiated the first Intersection painting project in HRM. This has lead to many, many Intersection painting projects over the years since Arts Engage! 

Training Intensive Monday, June 14 to Friday, June 18, 2010 from 9:30 to 4:30 each day.
This five-day intensive program is designed for artists and community-workers who want to coordinate and deliver community-engaged arts projects.  It is participatory, experiential and developmental – each part builds on the previous section. A commitment to attend each full day is required. 
Training Faciltators: Tessa Mendel, Camille Dummond, Alice Evans and Gerard McNeil.  

Day One:
Setting the Context
Developing a Framework: Community Development/Popular Education/Anti-Oppression Approaches

Day Two:
Community-Engaged Art – What is it?
Engaging the Community – including issues of accessibility and inclusivity
Working in Different Contexts and With Different Populations

Day Three:
Design and Facilitation of Creative Arts Projects: The theory and practice of designing and facilitating projects or programs that engage the community through the creative arts.

Day Four:
Project Management:  This includes developing a budget, grant-writing, financial record-keeping, communication, public relations, working with the media, involving and managing volunteers, evaluation,   and more!

Day Five:
Putting it all together: Learning reflections/evaluations/next steps

Workshop Descriptions: 
1. Arts and Social Engagement
Saturday, June 19, 9:30am – 12:30pm (Part 1)
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00am (Part 2)

In this two-part session Jen Delos Reyes will draw on the various aspects of her practice: the study of the history of socially engaged art, teaching Art and Social Practice, investment in a contemporary dialogue around socially engaged art and the creation of a community project that focuses on group work and collaborative efforts. The first session will give insight into her own art making process, give a historical perspective on Art and Social Practice with a focus on contemporary examples and socially engaged art in Canada through discussion and activities, and talk about the program that she directs with Harrell Fletcher at Portland State University—an MFA program in Art and Social Practice. In the second session Jen will collaborate with the session participants to create a new community engaged work. This is a six-hour workshop divided into two sections – Session 1: Saturday morning and Session 2: Sunday morning. Participants need to sign up for both sessions.

2. Simple Gestures: Activate Space Activate People
Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
The act of a simple gesture has the exciting ability to activate spaces and people in an immediate way. Artist and ‘activator’ Valerie Salez will show examples of projects which illustrate this and talk about breaking down the barriers of tentativeness and fear that participants often have. The workshop will then take to the streets and test Valerie’s approach hands on. Working as one, the group will engage with their surroundings and the people passing through it in an immediate and fun project that is sure to leave participants with a new perspective! Participants will be going outdoors – please dress appropriately as it can be chilly on the harbour front.

3. Placemaking With City Repair
Saturday, June 19, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00pm
City Repair is a 15 year old grassroots organization in Portland, Oregon dedicated to restoring the village heart in the urban environment by facilitating creative community placemaking in the public right of way. Michael Cook will share the story of the organization’s radical and enchanting beginnings: how a journey into the indigenous cultures of the world sparked the creation of a guerrilla tea house, the transformation of a street intersection into a village commons, and a culture of neighborhood placemakers across the nation.

After learning about the principles and elements of placemaking, we will look at some of the most recent case studies of projects that happened during our 10th annual Village Building Convergence before joining together in our own collaborative public art project that will give us firsthand experience of the placemaking process and of finding harmony within the diversity of a community. This will be a messy workshop – so come dressed for mess!

4. DisTHIS!: Adapting the arts to the community instead of the community to the arts!
Saturday, June 19, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00pm
In practical, fun, and creative ways, Michele Decottignies will guide workshop participants through a step-by-step process of how Stage Left’s professional arts training programs have been made more fully accessible to and meaningful for people with developmental disabilities and/or dual diagnoses.

Stage Left’s ActiveArts Program immerses disabled people/ artists in multidisciplinary Popular Theatre and Performance Creation genres as a means of self-advocacy. Besides practical arts training, ActiveArts participants also strengthen the skills necessary for meaningful community inclusion, practice their ability to articulate and advocate both personal and social concerns, and safely share experiences with the larger community through the arts. NOTE: While the focus is primarily on developmental disability, sensory and/or physical impairment and emotional/mental health can also be considered. All participants will receive a copy of Stage Left’s Improving Alberta’s Handicap DVD and Training Manual.

5. Explorations in Dance and Community-making
Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Co –presented by Penny Couchie, Choreographer and Dancer, and Ruth Howard, Jumblies Theatre (who share an affinity of values and visions: a belief in the entwining of art and life; in the mingling of generations; in not leaving anyone out; in interdisciplinary process; in placing our artistic passion and expertise firmly at the heart of it all; and in reflecting honestly on the ensuing difficulties, absurdities and joys) this workshop will focus on choreography and dance facilitation within community arts practice.

The workshop will enact a mini-process that shows flexible ways to enter into dance and movement through integrated arts processes, moving into movement explorations from the generation of story, image and text. You will experience specific facilitation techniques, be invited to try out some ideas of your own, and end with short experimental presentations. We will comment along the way on topics such as dance with indigenous and newcomer communities, mixed ages and abilities, unreliable participants, traditional versus contemporary dance forms and transferability of approaches across arts disciplines. Suitable for those with no dance experience and professional dancers and choreographers; a spectrum of ages, abilities and experience will make it most interesting and instructive for all. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that allow you to move.

6. Giant Puppets with Team Possibles
Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Join Team Possibles, Renee Forestall and Erin Laende in creating giant (ten – fifteen foot high) pole-animated puppets, constructed from wire frames, papier mache, foam, and mixed media. Team Possibles will bring puppets in various stages of preparedness, so that participants can experience the entire process of giant puppet building from the idea right through to the final painting. If weather and time permits, join the Team in a parade along the waterfront. This will be a messy workshop – so come dressed for mess!

7. Common Circles: Addressing Violence Through Art
Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Learn about this community arts project (curated by Carey Shaw from Common Weal in Regina, Saskatchewan) in which community members from many cultural and social backgrounds were invited to share and explore their personal and community experiences related to violence against women and families through the arts. Artists facilitated workshops about how violence affects people through the general themes of belonging, independence, self power, and generosity. Join Danette Exner for a similar arts based workshop exploring the issue of violence and these teachings adapted from both the four virtues of the Circle of Courage (Brendtro, Brokenleg, Van Boken, 1995) and Perceptual Control Theory of William Glasser. Learn how to adapt and apply this approach to community settings that involve using the arts for education and healing. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that allow you to move.

8. Community Stepping Stones
Saturday, June 19, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Learn the basics of Pebble Mosaics in this hands-on workshop/seminar. Make your own community stepping stone with one of Canada’s leading mosaic arts facilitators. Glen Anderson will share his techniques and trade secrets, along with his insights and experiences creating mosaics with various communities in a cultural development context. The first day will be devoted primarily to creating an artwork, with the second day for finishing and further discussion. There will be lots of time in between for sharing ideas and possibilities about this exciting ancient art form, along with a brief introduction to tile mosaics for communities. Come prepared with a simple design or at least an idea. All materials supplied, but bring your own stones, glass or non-corroding metal if you like. This will be a messy workshop – so come dressed for mess!

9. Authentic Community Engagement
Saturday, June 19, 9:30am – 12:30pm (Part 1)
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00am (Part 2)
To truly create impact through community-based arts projects, it is important to engage all participants along the journey. How members collaboratively work toward a shared vision regarding project outcomes is key. In this workshop, participants will work with Miro Davis and Jeanie Cockell through interactive artistic processes, learning how Appreciative Inquiry methodology can be used to engage community in projects of deep impact that truly reflect a shared community vision and voice. Building on participants’ stories and strengths to create strategies for engaging communities as well as collaborating to create an art work, this workshop promises to give you the tools to facilitate authentic community engagement arts projects. This is a six-hour workshop divided into two sections – Session 1: Saturday morning and Session 2: Sunday morning. Participants need to sign up for both sessions.

10. Story Builders
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00pm
The language, content and sharing of stories allows us to connect with one another. What happens when we create visual images from these stories and then as a group, begin to layer, reposition, print in multiples, suspend, rotate and paint over images from our stories? As we play, what is revealed through overlay, points of intersection, contrast and dialogue? This is an exploratory workshop with artists Heather Wilkinson and Melissa Marr to create a temporary art piece that transforms personal stories through collaboration. This will be a messy workshop – so come dressed for mess!

11. Poets 4 Change: A Choral Connection
Sunday, June 20, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Join spoken word artist and musician Shauntay Grant for a unique exploration of performance poetry within a choral music paradigm. Words, rhythms and sounds come together in this inter-arts experience built on a discussion around the arts as a tool for self-empowerment and social change. Participants will learn basic choral techniques and work to create a collective performance piece highlighting the uniqueness of each individual voice, as well as the strength that comes from building community through collective sung/spoken song.