Tag Archives: community

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” (http://muralarts.org/programs/porch-light-initiative-evaluation).

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.

this little light of mine

how is your light today? a warm glow? a small ember? a fiery fury?

whatever is going on, I send you this little note with tender loving care:



love is in the air

good morning monday!

love is in the air … and i have some serious love for you … another dance party brought to you care of Soul Train …

“people of the world, join in”!

light and love,


montreal is happenin

Oh my! I just discovered an on-line magazine based in Montreal and it is called Inspire Art – here is the pic from their main page! It is a place to find out what is happening in Montreal and beyond – filled with awesome resources, posts, and news …  and definitions … i love it and will definitely check it out regularly!

art in the streets


An Art Cart coming to your neighbourhood!  What an amazing, lovely idea …  and a way to build relationships, connection, and creation … and a showcase of the art all together is a wonderful way for others to become interested and engaged … this is a project out of California .. I wonder if anyone else is doing something like this in Canada …?

a different view

So these blogs talk about how social justice and art  in schools- in the US – has become simply a tool for the Obama administration to push its own political agenda …. and to push the concept of ‘social justice’ and violent revolution …  what do you think about that?


“A telling sign of the nature of this movement is the logo adopted by the NAEA for its 2010 convention, whose theme is “Art Education and Social Justice.” It is the raised-clenched-fist symbol commonly associated with radical, even violent, political activism. Nor should one be much comforted by the fact that this fist is holding a pair of paint brushes.”

National Art Education Association and “Social Justice” Propaganda

More inculcation and brain drain — stealing our nation’s youthful creativity to pound guilt, divisiveness, victimhood and racism into the cultural sewer.   A Blog Responder says :  “How much you want to bet that they teach the students to put graffiti around? After all, it’s “art”, and it can be used to harass and intimidate society into having “social justice” — in other words, the Obama / ACORN model.”


And here is another viewpoint ….

“Through art, we can challenge many of our society’s deepest-seated assumptions, such as the boundaries between self and other, “artist” and “non-artist,” present and past, male and female, young and old, “normal” and “abnormal.”

The community artist builds upon the power of artistic creation and expression to spark new ideas and elicit new actions, both from people who participate in the creative process and those who witness its results.

Art can catalyze critical thinking, inspire individuals to work together, create visions, heal. This energy, in turn, helps catalyze, inspire and heal the community artist who facilities its development.”

Art projects I love

1. Aurora – the felted snail

2.  The Sketchbook Project – thanks ben for this great link and awesome project!

3.  A current project of ARTivention. The first of 365 hand-knit miniature sweaters was placed in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 5, 2010 launching a yearlong collaborative project. Since the inception of the project, sweaters have been prominently placed in public areas across the United States. Attached to each sweater is a tag that asks the finders and collectors of these publicly placed sweaters to make a monetary contribution to the National Coalition for the Homeless.

4. Ernesto Neto – Brazilian artist talking about his fibre-wood art sculpture  -he also uses spices in his work — imagine going into a space where you explore and smell cinnamon,  clove, ginger, and pepper …  ohhh lovely .. wish i could experience this in person …

5.. Sâkêwêwak Artists’ Collective –  This week, this Regina-based artists collective is putting on performance art mini-festival .. I am going to check it out .. I will let you know what happens

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