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).
Stemming from the Survivors Writers Group, present and former sex trade workers developed A Proz Anthology: a video notebook by sex workers. This was a collection of vignettes of self-produced film surrounding realities and myths of the sex trade. The films addressed the stigma, stereotyping and misrepresentation of sex workers in the mainstream media, seeking to collectively and artistically challenge the status quo. The participants were provided basic skills training through a series of workshops in audio, video, script writing and editing throughout the year.
The video was a compilation of three vignettes: Prairie Passions, a documentary style format sharing the lives of women working for a Regina brothel; Death’s Alley, a dramatic and surreal music-video-like poem; and Star, an experimental style autobiography. The vignettes premiered the Screen Femmes Film Festival at the Sask FilmPool to a full audience of family, friends and film enthusiasts. This video project created a voice for the group, while sharing their perspectives and stories. Editing facilities for this project were provided through partnerships with the Sask FilmPool Co-op and Indian Communications Arts (INCA) at the University of Regina.
Have Fun with Art was a hands-on art program for North Central and Core area children. It was held at the Albert Public Library Branch and the Regina Friendship Centre/Carmichael Outreach Centre. The program incorporated a range of technical and creative instruction. It included both contemporary art as well as traditional arts and crafts. The program was coordinated by artists Stephanie Messner, Marion Otter, and Kristy Obrigewitch, in partnership with Albert Public Library Branch and the Regina Friendship Centre.
Common Weal facilitated the development of youth-produced video work, Our Stories, Our Lives. Healthy mentorships developed between video artist, Elwood Jimmy, and the young people involved in the program. This was a core youth program of the City of Regina in which they recognized the potential for arts to affect young people’s engagement as a tool for self-expression.
Mike Josza was the first Common Weal Artist in Residence, a program hosted by the Core Community Group and sponsored by the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Mike has a strong artistic practice as a visual artist in printmaking and sculpture. Mike brought his artistic vision and friendly approach to communities, working specifically with marginalized groups and emerging artists who may not have otherwise had access to the arts or mentorship offered by the program. The Artist in Residence collaborated witha variety of groups such as the Core Community Group, the Four Directions Community Health Centre, and Transition House Women’s Shelter. The Four Directions Artist’s Co-op developed at a local health centre. Another element of the Artist in Residence Program was the provision of time and space for Mike to develop his practice as a working artist. His studio was located at Sâkêwêwak First Nations Collective, providing both access to, and visibility for, a working artist in the community. Time spent with this community strengthened Common Weal’s partnership with Sâkêwêwak and Four Directions for future collaborations.
An inner-city theatre group, SKIT wrote and developed their own stories to perform. SKIT’s focus was on issues facing Regina youth such as violence, street crime, and drug abuse. The group’s production, Beauty within the Beast, was performed several times in Regina. Monica Fogel facilitated the group as a writer/director and was supported by Common Weal in learning organizational development.