Category Archives: community based art

let’s get together

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I would be sharing projects that focus on community health, healing, and art. I have found a few — today, let’s visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

One summer, I spent a few weeks in the city of Philadelphia. It was just after high school and I wanted to do something! help someone! expand my consciousness! make a difference!

So, I looked through a booklet (yup, not a website) filled with all kinds of projects and signed up for one that promised an ‘eco-friendly, inner-city experience with a group of young folks from around the world.’ And so it was! We lived together in a big ol’ house and cooked communal dinners. Never sure what we would be doing each day, we ended up in abandoned crack house (cleaning was the aim but it was a lost cause), worked in a community garden, and painted nationalistic murals on the rooftop of the house we stayed at (I think mine, in true Canadian pride, included pot leaves and peace signs). One day we went to the organizer’s house and cleaned up his overgrown library! It didn’t seem well-organized – there were times when we seemed to simply be serving the organizer’s personal and political persuasions. And sometimes, I wondered what I was really doing there – we all did.

One day we ended up in neighbourhood where the store fronts were big garage doors with bullet holes spattered across them. My eyes opened wide. Our job was to throw concrete at a mud and wood perimeter of a hole for a basement – were we building walls? I don’t know. The… space … was to become a women’s shelter – I don’t know if it ever did.

But I do know that I met a man at that site. His name escapes me. I remember his slight outline sitting on top of a ladder in the bright sun, big work boots, black jeans, and his constant companions – a walkman and the music of Phil Collins – music he credited with saving him from a life of heroin addiction and homelessness. He springs to mind when my heart is captured with joy, belonging, and a sense of home as the right note, the right phrase, the right blend of instruments fills my body with sound. I am grateful to him for sharing his path of healing with me – it helps me to recognize and open to my own unique path of healing. Because, really aren’t we are all just looking for, and finding, those sweet spots that ignite our soul? And, really, only you can know when you find yours.

What were the long-term results of our work? Did I make a difference? Did I help someone? Are those the questions to ask to get at what happened in that space?

I don’t know. We ‘parachuted’ in, didn’t complete any project, and didn’t spend much time talking with local community folks. It was loose, messy, unstructured. Subtle and gentle. A time to explore my own identity, a new community, and sit in a place of a belonging/not belonging. I took a step outside of my everyday experience and expanded – heart, soul and mind. Small steps into big questions.

So, I have a soft spot for Philadelphia and when I found the project below, I was pretty excited to share it with you. If I was going to return to Philly now, I would like to lend my skills and heart to this project:

The Porch Light Project
A mural arts project
organized by Mural Arts Program & the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services.

“A three-year initiative that situates art and human connection at the heart of recovery and healing in three North Philadelphia neighborhoods”

How does it work? Three areas of Philadelphia are participating in the project. The site is prepped and funding is attained. Then the mural artists get together with community members and people within the partnering community organizations to talk, make art, write, and share community and individual priorities, issues, and aesthetic sensibilities. The design process is specific to the mural artist – so each project is quite different. And of course, the painting and installation is done by everyone who wants to participate! When the painting is done, there is a celebration.

The Color of Your Voice – drawn from poetry created by community members, the mural focuses on themes of resilience, history, strengths and challenges.

Our Vision, Our Testament – this mural was drawn from words, lists, and collages about the value of community and what it takes to make a community to thrive.

To see more projects, click here.

And it doesn’t stop with murals! What is the value of participating in such a project? For individuals? for organizations? for communities? Long-term research/evaluation is being completed by The Yale School of Medicine and includes in-depth interviews (before and after), focus groups, and examination of data from different municipal departments about things like ” behavioral health services, neighborhood commercial activity, and crime over time” (

What a neat project. I wonder what stories the participants will tell about their involvement in the project. How will these stories be shared? Will we learn about the messy, difficult parts as well as the joyful, smooth parts of the projects? I will follow up in a while and post if I find anything interesting!

In the meantime, I leave with you some images of graffiti and murals that I have collected in my travels:

feel (san francisco) happy endings (regina) robot (san francisco)wrestlers (toronto)monster (regina)lo-cost meat (san francisco)the wall (powell river) safer (san francisco)


P.S. Also in Philadelphia, I convinced my friend that we could make it to the Veruca Salt concert across town without any money for a way home. With the generosity of a stranger who gave us the money for a cab, we did make it safe and sound. A big public thank you to this man — I have never forgotten your kindness and have paid it forward again and again.

change in a time of transition

I recently moved to Vancouver.  

It’s a pretty big transition!  As my friend and amazing artist Karlee Dawn Weisgerber says “When one door closes, another opens. But meanwhile – it’s hell in the hallway!”  If you want to see a bit of the landscape I left behind, visit Karlee’s website  — she captures the prairie skies with an open heart!

I left behind a lovely life to make a new one in a strange city.  I know a few great people. I am doing yoga (click on the link to see an video called ’80’s week: the yoga terminator. just for a second! just for a laugh!). And walking, reading, and felting.  Oh and the beach!  It is nice too!  I joined the Community Arts Council of Vancouver to see what the community arts scene is all about – lots of neat things happening.

Making art can really help to work through and just be okay with transition.  At this point, my art supplies have not yet arrived and I don’t even seem to have any pencils or pens with me  – but I have so many ideas for new paintings and projects!  Images keep floating through my mind and I can’t wait to put them to canvas and really get into wet-felting.

Meanwhile, I find inspiration in these projects:

 Art for Refugees in Transition : “helps rebuild individual and community identity for refugees worldwide. Drawing upon the indigenous art forms of each community, A.R.T.’s programs are designed to enable the elders of a culture to educate and incorporate the younger generation in their cultural traditions. By developing self-sustaining curricula and training programs, A.R.T. engages children and adults in visual, performing and creative arts drawn from their own cultures. These activities provide local and international relief institutions with tools to help refugee communities cope with the trauma, terror and dislocation of war and natural disaster.” Started in 1999. Happens in places like Thailand, Colombia, and the USA.  Not sure if it is still happening.

Before I Die:  With help from friends and neighbors, I turned the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood into a giant chalkboard to invite people to share what is important to them. Before I Die transforms a neglected space into a constructive one where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us. If you’re in New Orleans, stop by the corner of Marigny and Burgundy (900 Marigny Street) to add your thoughts to the wall and discover what matters most to your neighbors. It’s a question that changed me over the last year after I lost someone I loved very much. I also believe the design of our public spaces can better reflect what’s important to us as residents and as human beings.” A project by artist Candy Chang and the community of New Orleans.

There seems to be this comment that gets thrown at me every few months — “art is just for the rich. If you are poor, what do you care about art? You are (or should be) more concerned with survival”.  To me, this argument ignores the joyful and creative spirit that resides in each of us.  It censors self-expression by tying it to capitalist ideals. I never know quite what to say.

But the projects I post on this blog are a testament to this fact: people find a way to make art no matter where they are and no matter what others think they should or shouldn’t be doing with their time/energy.  And I am grateful for their heart-felt work in my time of transition.

Expect a few blog posts throughout the summer but I will mostly be settling in and exploring. I will be back in September with all kinds of gloriousness and probably a bit of a focus on art therapy as I will be studying it for the next 15 months!

Peace out, 



afternoon delight

happy saturday!  today i just want to share a few photos that delight and nourish my soul … what delights and nourishes you?  

PiE!  Is there anything better?  Well, yes. But pie is pretty damn good.  This is a rhubarb-strawberry pie I made .. delish! 

Scrabble! Or .. any kind of word game that you can get crazy with! I’m not the best player but it can be super fun when you relax and just spell how things sound or feel .. or bring in your own words and make up superawesome definitions that no one can deny! 

Twink! From Rainbow Brite … needle-felted wonder by my dear friend Bethany B!  Arts and crafts: fun to make, amazing to receive as gifts, and really .. just make the world a better place.  Bees, honey, flowers, linden trees, farming, growing food, making mead … yes bees are an absolute delight! a big thank you to our little friends who work so hard and bring us oh-so-much!  I spent about 6 weeks on a farm in Sooke (Tugwell Creek Farm) where they were dedicated to the bee – such an amazing experience.  That is where I first felt the shock of an electric fence! But also got to walk along the ocean every day.  Lovely. 

Costumes!  Need I say more?  
raffiti almost always makes me happy … I love to see art in public, unexpected places …I took this picture in a pathway between two old buildings on the University of Toronto campus … thanks to whoever created this and made my day!                  
peace out
P.S. Most photos taken by me .. not the one of  my though (lionesscowgirl) .. i think my friend bob took that  

grow garden grow

Everything is green and everywhere is green!  Things are growing and changing  … the trees are wide with love, the birds are finding worms all over the place, and the air is warm.  And the gardens are exploding!

For the first time in three years, I have not started a garden – and I miss it!  My first garden was with my dear friend in a yard where we battled with deer and grew kale, carrots, lettuce and tried to grow corn – with not much success. Growing in community can be a really exciting, challenging, and expanding type of experience.

Community gardens are all over the place – there was one in my old Victoria neighbourhood and although I wasn’t really part of it, I really appreciated the people who made it happen!

Growing things is very creative!  How will you arrange your growing space?  What types of plants will you grow? Why? What does it feel like to grow things?  I have always found weeding a very rewarding experience and oh-so-tangible!

And how are people connecting gardens, art, and social justice?  Here are just two projects to check out:

Name: EcoArtLab – Ella Cooper
Location: Vancouver, BC
What’s happening:Multidisciplinary artist and educator, Ella Cooper has recently gained four of the City of Vancouver’s Green Street plots and would like to turn them into a veritable eco-arts gallery and space for community engagement. Collaborating with the Community Arts Council’s Eco Arts Salon, gardeners, guerilla knitters, creative minds, poets and interested members of the community we will be working to create a happy blend of community gardening and eco arts projects that creates an interactive green space that will evolve as the plants grow.”  EcoArtsLab

Name: LoveArtLab –  Annie Sprinkles and Elizabeth Stephens
Location: California
What’s happening: A manifesto, an EcoSex symposium this very weekend, the chakras, love art lab and ecosexuals!  Who knew?  I want to go to California right now! Here is the first point from the manifesto: “(i) WE ARE THE ECOSEXUALS. The Earth is our lover. We are madly, passionately, and fiercely in love, and we are grateful for this relationship each and every day. In order to create a more mutual and sustainable relationship with the Earth, we collaborate with nature. We treat the Earth with kindness, respect and affection.”

There are many other projects, activities, websites, and neat ideas floating around … but I think that is it for me for now!

Peace out,

fibre fibre everywhere!

fibre arts …

i find working with fibre comforting, tactile, tangible, and versatile .. as you may know, i have been exploring needle felting (check out the gallery for images of felted creatures) and this last weekend i went to a wet felting workshop!

where we created fibre pornography  – as the ladies like to call it 😉

and yes, there certainly was a lot of ohhhs and ahhs and cries of ‘i’m so excited‘ .. and of course, whole lotta wetness goin’ on in that room … the explosions of creativity was absolutely inspiring and awesome!

i decided to try to make a vessel … and with a big thank you to our teacher who guided me through the process .. I ended up with this …

if you want to learn more .. here is a wet felting tutorial from crafty mamas ..  where they all work on a peice together and then cut it up .. super cool process!  and super great pics!

Fibre arts have a long history in community-based arts and in arts for social justice ..  here are a few of the artists or projects that i find thought provoking, heart felt, and technically inspiring …

Andi Arnovitz working out of Jerusalem, Israel .. Andi’s work is provocative and compelling .. she explores many different issues  – women’s place in history and religion, peace and reconciliation …  this particular peice is called  “If Only They Had Asked Us (2010) .. which is about the abscence of women’s voices in Jewish law , and suggests that, had women been involved in writing these texts, Jewish law and life would be all the more vibrant and colourful” (FiberArts Winter 2010/2011 Volume 37. Number 4). credit:  Jewish Art Salon’s Photostream.

This is the only picture I could find on-line except for A.A.’s website so be sure to go check it out!

New York! A big city that I have never been to! But, damn they have some neat stuff going on ..

June 2010 – Amanda Browder, in collaboration with North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition .. and the community disrupted their aluminum siding by sewing a giant peice of art together and pinning it to the buidling .. with the help of a structural engineer .. in a project called The Future Phenomena Project


Neat! Creative! And joyful!

And one more ..

Knit Graffiti!  Yarn bombing! You may have seen this in your hometown ..  bicycle racks .. trees.. lampposts .. doorknobs .. with a lovely, colourful knitted cover allll over them?   let’s thank Knitta Please for this awesome idea that began in 2005 .. or so says wikipedia ..

have a lovely day … peace out .. 
i like it when you comment or drop me a line at to share your stories, ideas, and images of awesome art! 

handmade is where it’s at.

Happy saturday!  Thinking of all things handmade today …  today is my first craft show … in Regina at St. Paul’s Cathedral from 12-6! You can see a few images of my felted creatures in the gallery of this blog.

And .. here is some Bansky for ya!  Happy Saturday!  Some crazy dance music attached so … be prepared to turn it down or dance!

family time

i am so inspired  ..  i want to learn more so i can be part of amazing programs like this!

i love that this project incorporates leadership, all kinds of families, so many different types of art making, and culminates in a public exhibit!

you can find more information about this program here

hope you are inspired to be creative with your loved ones today


World Community Arts Day! Today!

Don’t forget — today is World Community Arts Day – Art as a Catalyst for Caring and Sharing.

Make some art!  Share it with your friends, family, and community!  Send some love out to the universe and eachother.

Today, I stood outside with a group of awesome and committed individuals concerned about social justice and homelessness in Saskatchewan and specifically Regina.

1% Home Sweet Home,  a collaborative effort by individuals and over seven organizations, was created to raise awareness about the low vacancy rate in Regina (1%)  and the cost of housing in relation to our wages.  It was freezing!!  And, in a way, the weather kicked it up a notch to really prove the point – everyone needs a warm, dry safe place to live – don’t they?

Photo credit:  Prairie Dog Mag

The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $802.  If you are on social assistance, that is 93% of your cheque!  If you work at a minimum wage job, 73% of your income will go towards that $802 apartment and food.

Creator and photo credit: Gerry Ruecker

As a teenager,  I was both kicked out of and voluntarily left my parent’s house (a few times).  I always had a place to stay and have always been grateful to those people who let me stay with them.  I never thought of myself as homeless but I guess that couchsurfing is a form of homelessness.  My experience has given me an understanding of how it can happen and compassion for those who are experiencing it right now. But do you have to experience it or know someone who has to have compassion?

There are so many stories.  As part of the installation, there were also videos playing that Dr. Marc Spooner recorded as part of his study on homelessness in Regina.  He spoke with the experts – those who are homeless.

Today, someone stopped and asked me .. are the homeless just people who don’t work?   It wasn’t really a question.  Even though I have personal experience and a heart for the issue, it is really so complex, I wasn’t really sure what to say.  I tried to say a few things but I don’t feel I said the things that will bring this man to a deeper understanding.  Maybe the media coverage will help to bring the message across – CBC, Prairie Dog, Leader Post, radio stations like MBC all came out to interview and take pictures.

I don’t know.  I still have a lot to learn – so do we all.

i am my own home

I find it so inspiring to search out and discover what others are working on in the area of art and social change.   Lately I have joined a few groups that are talking about art therapy and arts for social change and am excited to learn and share with these new folks  (I will post links and ideas as they emerge).

Connecting with others encourages me to keep expanding my circles – understanding my local and global community – and also pushes me to focus in on what really makes my own heart sing.    Many of my posts have focused on what others are doing so today I thought I would share a bit about what I am up to.

Right now, I am involved in community-based art for social change project in Regina focused on homelessness for World Community Arts Day – Art as a Catalyst for Caring and Sharing (February 17).  I will blog about it more as the day arrives.

I am also creating my own work – focusing on the process of creating as a healing and meditative practice as well as exploring particular sociocultural issues that are embedded in my mind and body.

… the human-animal .. gender … sexuality…  created by me. no name

… emotion-body… the way our bodies process,  hold, and  emotion and experience…

created by me.  this is what grief looks like.

Today on the radio,  I heard someone say that “creativity is the common ground”  and I think that is part of the reason I am drawn to art.  Yes, we have constructed systems around art –   “high” and “low”, “art” and “craft” – and this may have merit in some circumstances and in some circles but when it comes down to it  …

creativity and expression, however manifested, is a dynamic way to share a bit of our souls and come to a deeper understanding of each other and ourselves .. and it can be a whole lot of fun too.

Special Feature: Winnipeg!

After a bit of an absence from the world of the artsandcraftscollective, I am back with a special feature on a pretty groovy city – Winnipeg!   So, what’s up with Winnipeg?  Well …

1. It has a pretty neat satellite image … reminds me of the Nazca lines found in Peru.

The City of Winnipeg has a few stats – Cultural Capital of Canada in 2010. over 100 languages spoken in the area.  And Winnipeg Pride’s website tell me that Winnipeg has  over 40 ethnic cultures with the largest Aboriginal population in Canada.

2.  i have never been there but I have met a few Winnipeggers over the years  – people with a sense of justice, creativity, and a certain prairie feel that warms my heart …

3. its a hotbed of community art projects, programs, and activities!   let’s go check it out ….



Finger in the Dyke:   Last summer, I met this fantastic performance artist named Shawna Dempsey – who works out of Winnipeg with her creative partner Lorri Millan – at a conference organized by Common Weal.  One of my favourites (cause I am a big fan of Wonder Woman and I own a few of the 1970’s episodes and I love her kickass attitude)  – is this video:   about Super Feminist …  feminism has and continues to play a huge role in my own life and I am grateful to the women that forged paths before me … and continue to do so all around me right now.. in small and big ways …

Shawna is also the Co-Executive Director for Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art – an amazing organization that offers an array of   programs and activities – like discussion groups, special topic-workshops, structured mentoring programs (intensive, long-term, and for Aboriginal artists) …and crafts!  The picture is from the website … just to get you inspired to follow the link and learn more about their organization .. is there an organization like this where you live?





This picture is taken from ArtCity’s image gallery —  it inspires me to make things and continue to learn more about what other people are doing!   Art City is a non-profit community arts organization that offers art classes for all ages  – including digital photography, open studio times, and pottery.  I have taken pottery classes off and on for years and absolutely love it!  There is something about connecting with the earth, watching the clay form into a sculpture or a bowl and then using that peice of pottery for the rest of my life knowing I made it with my own two hands…..  makes me feel pretty special.

This is the ArtCity building .. even from the outside it looks like a creative, energetic, inspiring, and safe place – notice the bikes outside!!  and no snow … must be summer 🙂

As I was researching this feature, I found out that ArtCity has a partnership with ” The Institute of Urban Studies with the broader community in Winnipeg and Saskatoon for the purpose of participating in the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, the theme of which is “Better City, Better Life.” Using a community learning framework, the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies, Art City and the Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming Inc. (SCYAP) will collaborate to visualize and document a prairie perspective on the themes of Expo 2010.”   Found on the Living Prairie City Blog.    You can read more about the project and see pictures by following the links.

There are so many more things happen but I think that is a long enough post for tonight ..  I will continue to post links on the side so you can browse to your hearts content .. if you find something interesting .. let me know!   I think my next feature will be about some of the tough issues that can be addressed through community-based art …

Thanks for sharing and learning …


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