A collaborative performance that fused emerging hip hop artists with aspiring actors honouring Saskatchewan’s urban and rural landscapes, Bringin' Culture and Colour to tha’ Core was commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards held annually. The performance by Heather Abbey, Eekwol, Def3 and directed by Mark Dieter engaged the audience with poetic rhythms and thought provoking words that celebrated the province’s culture and diversity. Developed for the event, this piece incorporated original compositions of rap lyrics, music and monologues. Working with established and emerging Saskatchewan artists, a high-calibre, theatrically-staged production was accomplished. This production utilized three large stages in an airplane hanger, with performers surrounding the audience seated at tables from three directions. This brought the audience into the middle of the performance; a unique way of presenting.
This site-specific collaborative dance project was an outdoor celebratory performance based on and inspired by native prairie grasslands and local culture. This part of the prairies was experiencing drastic change, with the US border recently closed due to the Mad Cow disease and other challenges to rural life, ranchers feared losing their family farms and there was increased urban migration from young people in the area. However, local residents and businesses came together to share their culture and landscape with the artists to help tell their stories. Hosted by the town of Val Marie, population 140, the project celebrated the community surrounding the Grasslands National Park in South Western Saskatchewan.
Common Weal facilitated collaborative community-based art projects and the creative vision of Bill Coleman that culminated in an outdoor site-specific multi-disciplinary performance in the Grasslands National Park and the village of Val Marie. Leading up to the event, there were a series of contemporary music and dance workshops in Val Marie and Shaunavon; kite-making in the schools, coordinated by the Art Gallery of Swift Current; the creation of banners by 12 southwest Saskatchewan visual artists; the recording of quilters’ stories for an art exhibit in the Prairie Wind and Silver Sage Museum; and the construction of corral-style fencing along Val Marie’s main street as a symbol of a community drawn together in farming life.
The project linked professional dance artists from across the country with people who live in this area, engaging the community to look at who and where they are. The final performance of Grasslands coincided with centennial community celebrations, performances, and conferences in Val Marie and Swift Current. Over 700 visitors attended the event including the site-specific dance in the national park and the street performances by Margie Gillis, dancers on horses and local jazz dancers in collaboration with New Dance Horizons. Artists and coordinators involved included: Bill Coleman, Margie Gillis, Edward Poitras, Gordon Monahan, Robin Poitras, David Earle, David Tuttle, Ian Black, Karin Fargey, Kim Houghtaling, and Ray Gowan. This project had many partners, including Coleman Lemieux et Compaigne, Art Gallery of Swift Current, Village of Val Marie, Grassland National Park, Friends of the Grasslands National Park (Silver Sage and Prairie Wind) Val Marie School, and Mankota Painting Group.
This collaborative community arts performance was concieved by Judy McNaughton and the Prince Albert Community School coordinators as part of the Midtown Artist in Residence program. It engaged five professional artists from across Saskatchewan (Mike Jozsa, visual; Joseph Naytowhow, traditional storytelling and song; Erroll Kinistino, theatre; Michelle Sereda, performance; and Reona Brass, performance). They were hosted as artist residences in Prince Albert schools and community organizations for two weeks. These residencies supported the development and creation of a large-scale site-specific and stage performance event in May 2003. This was an opportunity for Prince Albert families and children to be a part of the opening of the new performance arts venue: The A.E. Rawlison Centre.
Focusing on themes of culture, land, ownership, and community, the project was inspired by and located on the riverbank of the North Saskatchewan River. The final performances were truly inspiring: hundreds of individuals and families promenading by drumbeat and song with handmade candles lit up along the riverbank at dusk. Large red canoe sculptures moved along the waterway at sunset before the parade returned to the arts centre. Inside, gypsy-style dance and song, a flag parade, and potent performance art and video projection captivated the audience. The high artistic merit and level of community engagement of this project was used as a model for the development of an Artist in Schools program. It was also the inaugural event for following youth arts festivals that now take place annually in Prince Albert.
Sound-based artists from a variety of Saskatchewan communities developed these collaborative works for collective expression, exchange and showcase in 2003. The sound-based artists (Oin Nicholson, Maureen Bradley, Darryl Miller, Neal McLeod, and Thomas Roussin) worked across of a variety of locations: the town of Cupar, inner city Regina, James Smith First Nation, and the village of Gerald, Saskatchewan.
The goal of Prairie Echo was to share a diverse understanding of Saskatchewan people and communities by promoting collective voice in a new way. Oin Nicholson was hired as a youth media intern to develop the project. The projects shared the stories of urban youth, life on the reserve, people living with depression, and the voices of older and rural people. Each sound art piece was a unique expression: spoken word, documentary style, story telling, hip hop, and urban and rural experimental soundscapes. After months of engagement between artists and their situated communities, these works were disseminated through a double CD; introduced by a curatorial overview by Charlie Fox, sound artist and academic.
A group of seven women from the queer community in Regina collaborated with professional artists and video producers to create a series of vignettes. I Can See Queerly Now was the product of collaboration between professional artists Susan Risk, Gary Varro, Theresa Cuthand, Elwood Jimmy, Maria Campbell, Wendy Anderson, Maureen Bradley, and Dianne Ouellette, and emerging video artists from the queer community. Participants included Tracy Kydd, Brita Lind, Lori Reid, Ingrid Alesich, Jean Hillabold, Tania Wolk and Mirtha Rivera. There were many professional development workshops in writing, directing and editing, and finally, video screenings and panel discussions. Issues of identity were explored through varied themes and stories of family connections, body image, drag king culture, and relationships to pets.
Together, the series of vignettes created a powerful dialogue about identity, gender, and representation. The vignettes that were produced were strung together to create a 34-minute video compilation focusing on the change, history, and misrepresentation of the community in the media. The video brought each woman’s story to the forefront and was told in her own voice. The production was able to show human experiences behind the representations of queer culture while creatively and artistically challenging societal stereotypes of queer culture. I Can See Queerly Now premiered in June 2003 as part of Nation 54, the Independent Film and Video Alliance (IFVA) conference held in Regina.
Following Up Against the Wall, a previous public discussion on the aesthetics of graffiti style art and the law, this two part series continued to examine the impact of artists on communities. As a partnership with CARFAC Sask, this forum brought the community together to discuss community development through the arts, with a keynote speaker discussing how artists impact on communities' economic and social structures. A panel of artists then responded with their own creative and personal accounts of experience of arts engagement within communities. The intent of these discussions was to spark creative ideas between artists, arts organizations, community people and professionals from other sectors like justice and social development.
Artists as Agents of Social Change considered the role of artist in stimulating cultural shifts. This panel was hosted at the Cultural Exchange (SCES), including artists and community members: Rachael Van Fossen, Neal McLeod, Fred Clipsham, Oin Nicholson, and Sherry Farrell Racette. Not Just a Hero on a Horse: a discussion about public art in your community, was a partnership with Common Weal, CARFAC Sask. and the Al Ritchie Community Association. Panelists and community shared thoughts about public art as objects of beauty, social commentary, or community legacy. Speakers included Kim Morgan, Marissa Desjardins, Bob Boyer, and Christine LaVoie.
This public program encouraged open discussion about graffiti art, in direct response to growing tensions reported in the media between street artists and police services. This series of panel discussions organized by CARFAC Sask and Common Weal, Up Against the Wall was held in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert. Attendees included artists, youth organizations, police officers, and community members. The purpose of this panel was to promote dialogue and understanding between these communities of people including artists and justice. The discussion focused on the features of mark making traditions as art making and its different qualities from criminal activity typically deemed as vandalism and graffiti. The speakers at these discussions included Michel Boutin, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Mike Sayese, Kris Moffat, Josh Goff, and local members of each city’s Police Services.
The midtown community of Prince Albert hosted Judy McNaughton, an installation-based ceramic artist, to provide intergenerational and intercultural opportunities for residents to participate in community arts programs. They mounted collaborative ceramic mosaics and public art initiatives. The residency included community-based initiatives and guest artist collaboration for the Midtown Outdoor Beautification Project, encouraging community aesthetic and animated gathering spaces.
The Aboriginal Youth Playwrights Festival was inspired through 4DYTG programming. It originated as a pilot project that linked professional theatre playwrights with emerging young First Nations writers and actors. These professional mentors worked closely with the youth as they learned aspects of playwriting from initial story concept to full first draft one act plays. The eight-week intensive program culminated in an evening of staged readings at Scott Collegiate where scripts were read in front of a packed house by local budding actors. The goal of the festival was to give the province's aboriginal youth a creative outlet while producing entertaining, locally relevant, and socially conscious plays.
This event was held three times across 2001, 2002, and 2004,during which it was deemed as one of the City of Regina’s Top 100 events. Through the years, the young playwrights had mentorship from an eclectic and high quality pool of professional writers, actors and directors including Pam Bustin, Ian Black, Gary Farmer, Valerie Kinistino, Erroll Kinistino, Mark Dieter, and many others. The Aboriginal Youth Playwrights Festival is now produced through the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre as the Aboriginal Playwrights Circle.
Pine Grove Writing Circles was a weekly creative program for the female inmates at the Prince Albert Correctional Facility. Métis elder and writer Maria Campbell mentored the women in storytelling and taught the basics of creative writing. The environment created for the participants was one of fun, learning, ensemble sensibility, and encouragement. They were encouraged to take risks in a safe environment and to share their personal ideas. Together, the group would work on story telling within traditional and non-traditional narrative forms while focusing on skill development and alternative creative modes of expression. Painter, Joseph Gaudry, also worked with the women for two years on a visual arts program acting as a positive male role model. A large body of stories and paintings were produced during this time.
4DYTG came about through a series of theatre workshops and projects aimed at aboriginal teenagers. As an on-going partnership with Four Directions Community Health Centre in North Central, Regina, 4DYTG’s mandate was to engage young people by providing theatre-arts based information, skills, and healthy choices and opportunities. The First Nations youth involved in 4DYTG programming became role models to their peers and other youth, and some workshops inspired other aboriginal theatre projects and participants acted in leadership roles (see the Aboriginal Youth Playwrights Festival).