Common Weal Community Arts was pleased to host the national conference, Connect: towards a socially-engaged aesthetic, May 14th to 16th, 2010 at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. This conference brought together artists and activists to network and explore methodologies that engage communities and the arts. It featured keynote speaker, Suzanne Lacy, author of "New Genre Public Art" (California) and other presenters and panelists from across Canada. Panels included "Art is not Peace: Challenging Perceptions," "Art in Place," and "Transmit and Receive: New Practices."
Presenters included: Rachael Van Fossen, Ruth Howard, Beni Malone, Kathleen Irwin, Paula Jardine, Elwood Jimmy, Annie Roy, Allison Hayford, Shawna Dempsey, Terrance Houle, Daniel Mach, Devora Neumark, Sara Bessin, Leah Morris, Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Glenn Alteen, Caffyn Kelley, Aleyna May Stene, Cindy Baker, Robin Elliott, and Judith Marcuse.
The presentations and panels varied from highly scholarly to extremely personal, and revealed projects focusing on individual performance, intra-community dialogue and community development and change. One of the challenges that thread through the panels and discussions - was the manner in which these art practices fit into the aesthetic of traditional art, and the resulting need for a new framework for critiquing community-based art. Due to the success of the conference, Canada Council is supporting a Common Weal publication, as a response to the conference. It will host an internal logic beyond transcribing the rich materials presented, bringing together the ideas and text of the conference thematically, with editorial writing by the two principle writers, Rachael Van Fossen, theatre artist and founding artistic director of Common Weal and Brenda Niskala, writer and rapporteur for the conference.