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.
In partnership with the Regina Food Bank, Time for Us was a video project that consisted of a collection of stories from grandmothers, many of whom were of First Nations background, to pass on to children and grandchildren. Started as somewhat of a “support group” for grandmothers to share their stories and wisdom, the group began to document their stories through video. The six-month process was mentored by filmmaker Marjorie Beaucage, providing time to meet together and reflect on their stories. The videos created were presented publicly at the Dunlop Art Gallery, located in the Regina Public Library in 1999. The Time for Us project presented opportunities for the women involved to have their voices heard in the community.
Street Culture Kidz produced a short arts video with artists Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew and Debra Piapot, which was then screened as part of an inner-city youth installation at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Subsequently with the Intercultural Grandmothers Group, youth worked with video producer/director, Susan Risk, in an effort to use video making as a tool to develop relationships between the young people and the grandmothers, while gaining skills and knowledge in techniques of this form.
This writing mentorship program was for male inmates at the federal minimum-security prison west of Prince Albert. Writer Mansel Robinson from the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild was the artistic mentor for this project, supporting the writers group throughout the program’s duration. Participants in the group learned valuable creative writing skills and were coached in expressing their own stories through their creative writing. The Riverbend Writers Group had two great public successes: the participants’ work and interviews were broadcast on CBC Radio’s Gallery in February 1999; and the group received official status as a writers’ group member of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild. This group continued to meet independently once Mansel’s residency was complete.
The Survivors Writers Group promoted a sense of community and belonging for Regina-based writers. The writing circle provided critical writing feedback and stimulation through guest artist workshops, participation in performance events, and development of individual writing works in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and prose for the publication. The group originally developed out a partnership with Street Workers Advocacy Project, but opened its membership while maintaining values of respect and honesty. Professional writer Brenda Niskala acted as a mentor for the group, while Tina Hannah Munns and later, Marianna Poloski coordinated the group.
The group has recorded a CD of their diverse spoken works, hosted multiple events, self-published a series of chapbooks, and participated in the broader writing community in Saskatchewan. Common Weal supported the programming and co-ordination of the group until 2007. The final portion of Common Weal programming took the group to St. Michael's in Lumsden for a writing retreat. Once again in the spirit of resilience, the group evolved, changed its name, and met for a few more years on its own.
A 50-minute play performed by and for youth, City Flats was a one-act version of the successful community play A North Side Story (or two). The cast numbered twenty, the majority of which were young actors, many with aboriginal heritage. Like A North Side Story (or two), City Flats focused on urban issues facing many youth such as poverty, racism, drug and alcohol abuse, vandalism, petty crime, and prostitution. Though the play offered no easy solution to these problems, it gave hope and belief in the potential for change.
City Flats was first created as the featured entertainment for a national conference of the Canadian Council for Inner City Education. As requests for further performances of the production started to mount, the cast of City Flats toured high schools in Victoria, British Columbia in 1996 and then across Saskatchewan later in 1997.