On Wednesday February 25, AOE Arts Council hosted a Showcase Night at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital to celebrate the 2014-15 Art Place projects. Presented by AOE Arts Council and funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Art Place, a new professional artist-in-residence program, addresses social issues by placing professional artists and arts groups in the community to artistically co-create and engage in meaningful conversations. Since last November, clients from seven non-for-profit organisations (Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre, Élisabeth Bruyère Residence and Saint-Louis Residence of Bruyère Continuing Care, Hospice Care Ottawa, Ottawa Mission, Immigrant Women Services Ottawa and Zonta Club Ottawa) have benefitted from participating in Art Place.
The Art Place artists have been working outside of their known environments to help others discover the empowering qualities that the arts can have on individual lives. To provide greater access to the arts, most of the activity has been going on in non-traditional community settings. For many of the participants, taking part in one of the project meant more than simply creating a work of art.
“We built this script together and it represents us, not just one of us, it is represents the challenges that we all deal with daily. Some of us may not struggle with them anymore but others are still experiencing those problems.” says Angela, a participant in Naomi Tessler’s forum theatre project. The collaborative creation of the play and its forum-style performance provided a vehicle for the community to come together and work through the challenges they face as New Canadians in Ottawa, and identify solutions.
In its inaugural year, the 2014-215 projects varied from theatre to sculpture, to storytelling and book arts, enabling artists and participants to co-create artworks built on the foundation of collaboration and story sharing. Participating artists were: Christine Mockett and Karina Bergmans, Laurie Fyffe (Ottawa StoryTellers), Marc Walter, Naomi Tessler, Rachel Kalpana James and Sarah Conn (STO Union). Art Place offered the opportunity for participants to practise art in a safe place and use their own artistic skills to communicate their emotions and experiences.
“Our residents are living in a very structured environment. The routine is similar each day so it was fantastic to see them try new creative activities,” says Kimberley Durst-Mackenzie, Coordinator and Recreation Therapist at Bruyère Continuing Care. “I was able to capture the weekly progress with photos that were shared with the residents. It was definitely an opportunity to try something new in their environment and share with their family members.”
AOE Arts Council has witnessed the positive impact these artistic projects are having on Ottawa communities. “Artists and participants have been given the chance to grow artistically, but also to raise public awareness on societal issues such as elder abuse, isolation and discrimination,” says Victoria Steele, AOE Arts Council’s Executive Director.
Art Place has permitted artists to push and develop projects that otherwise might not have happened without this funding. “Without this kind of partnership, most women would not have had the opportunity to engage with this medium nor have access to the kind of expertise and creative energy that Karina and Christine bring to the project,” says Gundel Lake, a counsellor at Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre. “Further, the opportunity to connect with other women while participating in this project is extremely powerful; new relationships have been formed and others have been strengthened simply by having the opportunity to create in the presence of others.”
Consult the 2014-15 Art Place Brochure
Pictures of the February 25, Art Place Showcase Night
Photo credit: Claude Brazeau