In the fall of 2014, seven professional artists from the Ottawa region were selected to participate in AOE Arts Council’s new artist-in-residence program, Art Place. From various disciplines and backgrounds, these artists were paired with a non-for-profit organisation’s clients/residents to co-create a unique art project. Residencies varied in duration, from five to eight weeks, and offered citizens from across the city a chance to engage in the arts, in a known and safe environment.
Although each project evolved in a different way, for example producing a theatre play, or constructing an outdoor art installation, the Art Place artist-in-residence program provided participants with the tools to artistically express themselves on issues close to them. For some, partaking in an Art Place project gave them their first real experience of performing in front of an audience or using different art materials. The enthusiasm and dedication the participants and artists demonstrated towards Art Place gave rise to six projects which continued after the residencies.
Forum Theatre Artist Naomi Tessler was paired with the Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO) where she and her participants put together a Forum Theatre play entitled ‘No Country No Conflict’, consisting of worst case scenarios addressing issues immigrant women struggle with. After a three-month period in creation, the play was presented twice on January 29 in front of a generous audience. It turned out to be a big success. Naomi and her group got the opportunity to present it again during IWSO’s cultural evening on March 12 and on May 28 for an all staff meeting at the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre. Naomi hopes they will be able to share it with other audiences to spark a bigger dialogue and encourage community change.
Another Art Place project which continued well past its residency was led by Laurie Fyffe, director of Ottawa StoryTellers, in partnership with Ottawa’s Zonta Club, dedicated to advancing the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. With the help of this organisation, Laurie was able to write stories based on interviews and research focusing on elder abuse. Storytellers Naomi Tessler and Jennifer Gray brought those stories to life for the first time at the Art Place Showcase Night on February 15 at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital. Entitled, ‘Where are all my beautiful things?’, the show was also presented by Naomi Tessler, Katherine Grier and Lia Maria Talia on June 4 at the Ottawa Public Library. Laurie’s Art Place project is still blooming since a workbook compiling the stories has been published. This workbook will allow people to come together to read the stories or perform them. Furthemore, it will be handed out to seniors’ organizations, homes and care centers and wherever social workers feel that intervention about elder abuse is needed.
This past December, ‘Land Art’ artist Marc Walter created with clients of the Saint-Louis Residence (Soins continus Bruyère), life-sized wooden sculptures placed in a courtyard for everyone to enjoy. Built and installed in December, the sculptures took a different shape during the winter and although some of the pieces slightly changed or moved, they are still standing tall. With the change of seasons, Marc’s hope is that these sculptures will attract birds, be animated by the wind and more importantly, generate discussions and exchanges between residents.
Sarah Conn of STO Union created an interactive theatre play entitled ‘Trophy’, structured around a life-size board game. As part of her residency with Art Place, she collaborated with clients from The Ottawa Mission to develop the various elements of the game, which audience members navigated through during the performance. That performance was held at the Art Place Showcase Night (Feb. 2015) where players were given a challenge at each square, some solo and others with a partner, creating small, reflective, and intimate moments between players. This was the first step of a larger project which Sarah wishes to keep working on over the course of the next year. She has also applied to a few festivals where she wants to present it, and hopes that it will continue to grow.
Last January, Rachel Kalpana James worked with clients of the Élisabeth Bruyère Residence on visual journals that reflected the participants’ personal journeys. Kim Durst-Mackenzie, Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator at Soins continus Bruyère, accompanied Rachel through the workshops and was pleased to see that the residents had the opportunity to create such visual memoirs they could share with family and friends. “They were very proud of the finished product and appreciated being able to make their own choices. Often in long term care the choices are made for them because the environment is structured and regulated,” said Kim Durst-Mackenzie.
Textile artists Christine Mockett and Karina Bergmans were partnered with Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre. There, they helped clients create fibre sculptures which they worked on over a period of six weeks. Initially, the end project proposed was a large installation at the Centre. However, Christine and Karina had to rethink their project because of space constraints. Participants therefore shaped their own sculptures that they were able to bring home. Employees at Amethyst were thrilled to see this opportunity given to their clients. “As we are a small organization with a small staff, it is difficult to provide programming beyond our core programs. Without the Art Place initiative and the wonderful artists who came to our organization, we wouldn’t have been able to provide this type of programming to our clients,” said Geneviève Charest, Relations Coordinator.
The second edition of Art Place will start rolling out this fall 2015. All artists’ applications have been received and will be reviewed by a jury. This year, eight new artists or groups of artists will be selected to give life and form to original projects throughout the next year. AOE Arts Council is thrilled to offer once more new inspiring opportunities to artists and reach out to Ottawa communities by providing them with creative outlets to make positive changes.
Art Place is a new community engagement professional artist-in-residence program that takes artists out of their studios and places them in the heart of Ottawa communities. Presented by AOE Arts Council and funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the program addresses social issues by placing professional artists in the community to artistically interact, co-create and engage in meaningful conversations. In its inaugural year, the art projects varied from theatre to sculpture, to storytelling and book arts, enabling artists and participants to create artworks built on the foundation of collaboration and story sharing. Between November 2014 and February 2015, clients of seven not-for-profit organisations have benefitted from participating in Art Place.