Alisdair MacRae

Connecting with others through the arts: concluding thoughts with Alisdair MacRae

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April 18, 2016

How would you describe your overall experience with Art Place?

I would describe my overall experience with Art Place as thoroughly satisfying. I appreciate how and why the program was established. However, I am very grateful for the freedom granted to artists to work with their given organizations. Although there were site visits, and the blog posts might make any challenges evident, I feel as though a great trust was placed on the artists. From that, I was able to truly engage with my host organization and make decisions regarding the outcome of the project as I saw fit. The provision of funding, time and a willing group of participants was truly luxurious.

What are some of the most significant things you’ve learned through out your project?

I think some of the most significant things I learned throughout my project were very particular to my circumstances. Given the shifting circumstances of many residents at the Ottawa Booth Centre Salvation Army, I learned that my expectations needed to remain extremely flexible. That sense of flexibility was also very important in trying to anticipate what the participants would get out of the project. Since their circumstances could be quite different than mine, I had to be very careful not to assume that a particular direction for the project would give them the same sense of satisfaction or fulfillment as me. Facing homelessness or addictions can present very harsh and dire situations, neither of which I have experienced.

How was your project a success?

I think my project was a success based on the response that participants had to the things they created. I was very pleased to see participants enjoy the availability of a space and resources with which they could be creative. I was also very happy when offering the opportunity to take their projects in new directions. For instance, incorporating their art work into displays or articles of clothing. I think my project was a success based on what I mentioned previously in terms of learning, but also the mutual sharing of experiences and interests with the participants. I believe the project provided a space for sharing that allowed people to open up and attempt things they had previously thought were not possible.

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What do you intend for audiences to see, experience, and think about when learning about your project?

I intend for audiences to see the participants in the project as equal to themselves. Likewise, there was no hierarchy between myself and the clients at the Ottawa Booth Centre. In that way, I hope the audience can find the project approachable and something that they could be a part of.

In what ways did or will the community benefit from your project?

The community will see benefits from the project in several ways. For the immediate participants in the project, there was the opportunity to work on art projects that they were interested in. For instance, participants were asked what sort of materials they would like to work with, and I would try to find these materials for them. There were other tangible benefits from the project. If they were interested, participants could have their artwork transferred to articles of clothing through screen printing or embroidery and on one occasion, greeting cards. Several copies of these items were produced and provided to the participants in the program and clients at the Ottawa Booth Centre. Another benefit of the project was the production of four cases in which artwork could be displayed. The cases are hinged and have latches on the side so that the artwork can be rotated after being on display for a while. Some of the artwork produced by participants in the program will be installed at the Ottawa Booth Centre. Whether having their artwork transferred to articles of clothing or cards, or having it displayed on a permanent basis at the project location, gift certificates to a discount variety store were offered as a form of compensation.

In your opinion, what did the participants learn from the project?

I think the participants learned about a variety of artistic processes and artists that might be of interest. I think it’s also fair to say that participants learned about the value of self-expression, creativity, and through participating in the final showcase, a sense of dignity and self-worth.

Did the participants feel that arts and culture offerings are physically, financially and/or geographically accessible to them? Did participating in this project change this?

I think participants saw that arts and culture could be physically, financially and geographically accessible to them. A number of the artists didn’t feel very artistically inclined at the start of the project. However, these people were often the most dedicated, and by the end of the program, their opinion of themselves as artists was more firmly established. I think the participants also found that the arts were not just for a select group of people, either creators or audience members, and they saw how they could connect with other people through their arts.

Do you have anything else you would like to share about your project or the program?

Art Place d’art is wonderful, and I am so impressed with the amount of activity. I hope the program is renewed after its third year.

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Thanks for sharing / Merci d’avoir partagé!

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