Prince Albert branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association requested a journaling project with writer Lynda Monahan. In this program, Lynda meets regularly with a writing group at The Nest, a drop-in center run by the Prince Albert branch of Canadian Mental Health Association. The participants learn journaling techniques, a manner of writing about their own life experiences in a way that is both a self-exploration and an avenue of sharing these experiences with their community and wider public. The participants have the opportunity to work with guest writers and artists throughout the program, and share their writing in publications, readings and public events. This project takes place between January 2012 and the spring of 2013. It is funded through the SaskLotteries Community Grant Program and the Community Initiative Fund.
Common Weal has been working with Pine Grove Women’s Correctional Centre for about 7 years. The Pine Grove Creative Circles Program originated in 2004, since that time the program has included artists of various disciplines. In 2008 and 2009 singer, songwriter and performance artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle spent a week with the women in an intensive songwriting experience, which produced collaboratively written songs, The Beauty Within and The Journey Home recorded with the women themselves singing
We have received funding through the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Leadership grant (SaskCulture) to bring Cheryl and a music producer to Pine Grove in 2011/12 to do week-long songwriting intensives with a group of inmates taking part in the institution’s Literacy Program. Each session results in a collaboratively written song that is professionally recorded. These songs will ultimately become part of a CD being produced as part of Prison Songs: why the caged bird sings, a collaborative songwriting and album creation project by Cheryl L’Hirondelle taking place in a number of correctional facilities in Canada. The songs that have been recorded so far are quite beautiful.
Common Weal hopes that by bringing a professional artist to help this highly marginalized group (incarcerated women) express their circumstances, hopes, fears and desires will allow these perspectives to be heard, perhaps effecting community perceptions.
Saskatoon visual artist Michèle Mackasey has established a history of community involvement and a personal art practice that addresses issues of social justice, with particular interest in single parenthood and adequate housing. Her recent solo exhibition of local family portraits face à nous at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon garnered a great deal of attention.
Between January 15 and April 30, 2012 Common Weal received a Saskatchewan Arts Board, Partnership Exploration Grant to investigate the potential of an artist residency at the Saskatoon YWCA. Michèle Mackasey coordinated with staff at the Saskatoon YWCA, introducing workshops for women and youth in the shelter to help determine whether there is a need or desire for a resident artist in the facility.
Responses from staff and participants in the Partnership Exploration phase led to the conclusion that a resident artist would indeed be effective in the facility. Subsequently Common Weal received a Saskatchewan Arts Board, Partnership Innovations Grant to bring visual artist Michèle Mackasey as a resident artist into the Saskatoon YWCA beginning September 2012. The residency will engage single mothers and their families, through a lens of visual art, story telling and portraiture.
In August and September 2011, the teen participants created ceramic sculptures exploring issues important to their lives, working under the mentorship of Saskatoon ceramic artist Carole Epp. In February and March 2012, writer Lynda Monahan met with a group of young mothers at the YWCA Rendalyn Home residence for a month-long journaling project. They created individual handmade books with Big River artist Jan Woods, in which they entered some of the writing pieces developed during their writing workshops. The Shelter Project: Little Stories was funded through SaskLotteries’ Community Grant, and delivered in partnership with the Prince Albert YWCA. The participants were youth living in residence with the Prince Albert YWCA, through Program Coordinator Tammy Burns who has been a valued partner for a number of years.
Common Weal’s first contribution to the Regina Public Library’s Living Pictures event was a great success, with our installation based on the film ‘Marwencol’, about the highly unusual and unforgettable efforts of a mentally damaged individual’s efforts at personal trauma therapy after his medical benefits had expired.
Our second annual collaboration with the Regina Folk Festival, again a very well received project. Under the direction of Project Artist, Dr. Rebecca Caines, of the University of Regina, the installation centred around exploring fears, anxieties and dreams for a future that includes technologies and bodies growing together. This installation was a tree shape constructed from old parts attached onto the dividing wall. Participants at the festival were invited to write their hopes, dreams, fears, visions for the future on individual leaves with markers and then attach them to the tree themselves.
Common Weal participated in the 2012 Cathedral Village Arts Fair with this interactive art project, in which festival-goers were invited to write their desires for their neighborhood on 3”x4” stickers, with which to attach to their clothing, thus announcing their hopes. The intent of the installation was to offer an unmistakable opportunity for community members to voice their desires for their community.
Due to the success of the 2010 Through Our Eyes photo project; a partnership with Regina Open Door Society, in which ten newcomer youth were taught photography and journalism under the direction of Project Artist Gerry Ruecker, Common Weal produced a book documenting and celebrating the project. The book was very well received, with over 40 in attendance, including numerous participants of the family members, and interested community members.
A great day of meeting, networking, and sharing community art projects and practices involving over forty artists, professionals and interested individuals. Eight artists actively engaged in community related work, including Ruth Howard of Toronto’s Jumblies Theatre, gave presentations on their work. As well, there was a performance by the Listen to Dis: Voice group. There was a noticeable joy experienced by all participants from the ability to meet and share with peers. State of the Arts was a prequel for the Arts For All Essentials workshop, scheduled in Regina in October 2012.
A year-long project in partnership with Street Culture Kidz and Sask Filmpool Coop, working with ten young women, ages 15-18, who live in Street Culture group homes, due to poor home situations. The two-part program consists of 5 months of instruction in the art of photography under the direction of Gerry Ruecker, and 5 months of training in the art of video creation, with Leslie Farley. Kelly Ann Reiss coached participants in writing and journaling skills, which were then paired with the photographs and videos. The intent of the program is to provide an artistic means for these young women to give voice to their lives and circumstances, as well as offer awareness of alternative career options.
This festival, much like the COMMUNITY4CONNECTION, was an attempt to inform and offer assistance to people facing circumstances of poverty in Regina. Common Weal participated in the Antipoverty Arts Festival with ‘Before I Die’ and a presentation of ‘North Side Story or Two’.