Blog

Community arts create a world where everyone is valued and belongs

Photo: Community art project made by seniors with and without disabilities, from the Sage and Time art project of L'Arche Sudbury.

By John Guido

Across Canada and around the world, the community arts movement is flourishing. In community and senior centres, in pop-ups and street fairs, and in theatres, galleries, and studios, people are coming together to make art. This creative work can be self-directed, facilitated, or collaborative. The art created can be in a single media such as painting, theatre, dance, video, and music, or combined in multi-disciplinary works. Community arts are leading the way to a more vibrant, just, and inclusive society.

Community art serves different purposes for different groups, yet there are values and objectives common to most community arts groups:

  • Creativity is an essential human activity and every person has a capacity – and a right – to create that must be nurtured;
  • Making art unleashes individual creative expression that may benefit the artist and viewers alike;
  • Working in shared, community spaces promotes conversations, a pathway to mutual understanding and bridging differences;
  • This leads to a meaningful experience of belonging and inclusion for persons who are excluded or isolated;
  • Social change comes about when every person and community is valued and able to contribute their unique perspectives, gifts, and abilities.

There is a valued role for the professional artist within community arts. Individuals who develop their artistic abilities and insights have many skills to teach community artists and introduce them to different ways of seeing the world. In larger, collaborative projects, they play an important role in cultivating the contributions of each individual to serve the whole.

Art Hives: “Building communities by making art”

At their 2017 meeting, L’Arche Community Leaders from across Canada were inspired by a presentation made by Janis Timm-Bottos, an art therapist and associate professor in the Department of Creative Art Therapies at Concordia University. Timm-Bottos’s passion for community art-making is contagious. She has helped found six Art Hives in different cities and does research on how these spaces impact the lives of individuals and their communities.

Art Hives is a network of community art studios in Canada, the United States, and a number of other countries. They are accessible community spaces that welcome people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities – free of charge – to make art, connect with others, learn skills, and build community together. These spaces are not programmed so individuals can explore their creativity and develop skills however they like. This creative environment generates fresh ideas and perspectives. As stated on their website http://arthives.org/, “At its heart, an Art Hive is about inclusion, respect, and learning.”

L’Arche is taking part in the Community Arts movement

The Art Hives experience is deeply affirming of the new directions being taken by performance and visual arts groups within L’Arche. While art-making has been an important component of day programs for many years, the integration of community arts practices is re-energizing our communities. L’Arche members making art or performing together experience valued belonging in L’Arche and true inclusion in the broader community.

In L’Arche art spaces across Canada, there is an increased emphasis on making art with others in the wider community such as seniors and children. They are working with professional artists in a variety of disciplines to improve skills and explore new ways of seeing and working. More and more, our art groups are participating in projects with other groups and performing and exhibiting works for the public.

We’re not looking to join the debate about what is art? Rather, we embrace the community arts movement, firmly believing that creativity builds a more human society. Over the next year, we will continue to reflect on the role of community and disability arts, and put a spotlight on the artists, art programs and spaces in our communities as we Celebrate the Gift of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

Visit the L’Arche Canada Art Exhibition celebrating the unique voice of artists from across Canada.


Jean Vanier: Remembering an Icon, Not an Idol

Jean was uncomfortable (being called a saint) if a saint was a model of inaccessible perfection alone on a pedestal, but if the word was used as a member of the Christian community, he was happy to be part of the community of saints, living and dead.

Silent encounter with the “man who repairs women”

Denis Mukwege begs us empathetically to remain attentive, to listen deeply to what is inherent in our human condition: our sensitivity and vulnerability.

Companions on the Journey: Part Two

The road of transformation has its breakthrough moments, yet it takes many twists and turns along the way. That’s why we need to nourish ourselves and the fellowship we share.

Companions on the Journey: Part One

John and Greg talk about how their friendship took root and has grown through mutual support for over thirty years.

Creative Connections

Creative Connections is a space for making art with persons with intellectual disabilities. It promotes belonging, diversity, and inclusion while extending the impact of L’Arche in the city of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Continuing the Journey in Unity and Hope

With people around the world, the family of L’Arche mourned the death and celebrated the life of our founder, Jean Vanier. We are called to stay on his path.

L’Arche Joliette’s Zoom Media

This team of creators, designers and technicians offers full sound, image and video services to make their collaborators shine!

The important work of the Vanier Institute of the Family is a call to L’Arche

Today, L’Arche’s relationship with families is changing as we support more persons with disabilities living with their families and welcome them and their family members into our community life.

Sage and Time

Making community art unleashes creativity and builds bridges between seniors and the wider Sudbury community.

Inclusion Begins With Me

A conference on inclusion organized by L’Arche Agapè was an occasion to deepen understanding and recognize that “change will be achieved by breaking down barriers and creating awareness among people”.

Birds Make Me Think About Freedom

A play inspired by the stories of persons institutionalized for having intellectual disabilities, their families, and friends.

Journey to the Greatest Gift

In a Gala celebration, L’Arche Daybreak celebrated 50 years of creating the Beloved Community, discovering the sacred in the ordinary stuff of daily life – albeit with magic and space travel thrown in.

From Presence to Citizenship to Community

In order to promote meaningful inclusion, we need to build communities that welcome the gifts and contributions of all their members.

Give People their Place

As we celebrate the 50th of L’Arche in Canada, we’re amplifying the voices of persons with lived experience, sharing insights on creating belonging, diversity and inclusion in Canada.

Building a model of Inclusive Housing in Elmira, Ontario

Over the past decade, L’Arche has been connecting with the Elmira Developmental Support Corporation to learn how they are building “supportive affordable housing” for persons with intellectual disabilities, and to share our vision and experience.

Building Community through Art Discovering our Creative Potential

Hearts and Hands, the creative arts space of L’Arche Antigonish, is promoting creative expression, belonging, and inclusion in Nova Scotia through community arts.

Building Inclusive Housing

Innovative housing options that promote choice, autonomy, and inclusion are changing the landscape of disability supports in Canada and offer L’Arche an opportunity for greater impact.

What belonging, diversity, and inclusion mean to me

L’Arche Canada is launching an online reflection to Celebrate the Gift of belonging, diversity, and inclusion by listening to the voices of persons with lived-experience and those who share life with them.

An Innovative Model of Life-Sharing in the Comox Valley

Innovative housing options that promote choice, autonomy, and inclusion are changing the landscape of disability supports in Canada. The Vanier Suites of L’Arche Comox Valley are a new model of shared living renewing the vision of L’Arche.

Presenting… Ross!

Now we’re delighted to introduce you to Ross Moncrieff, the second of the two individuals with intellectual disabilities selected for a session with a professional photographer.

Measuring Impact in the Movement for Inclusion

L’Arche delegates reflect on their experience and learning from the December 3rd Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion titled “What Gets Measured Gets Done.”

“Painting is the song of the heart”

This artwork embodies the innate human desire to create a personal, physical mark which holds our fragile identity in the strength of an intentional creative gesture.

Presenting… Tiana!

Our friend Gil invited us to think about the importance of being “in the camera,” and inspired us to invite others to take their turn. We are delighted to introduce you to Tiana!

Community arts create a world where everyone is valued and belongs

The community arts movement and organizations like Art Hives build stronger communities and a more human society. L’Arche celebrates the unique gifts of artists and the community creative spaces where they thrive.

Celebrate the Gift

In October 2019, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and of L’Arche In Canada. We will take time in the next 12 months to share our stories in many creative ways. L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, celebrating the gifts of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

L’Arche Tova Café promotes Belonging and Inclusion in Winnipeg

Social purpose businesses or enterprises focused on food and hospitality are vibrant and innovative ways to promote belonging and inclusion. For over 6 years, L’Arche Tova Café has led the way not only for the city of Winnipeg, but also for L’Arche in Canada.

Storytelling “with”

L’Arche storytelling puts belonging, diversity, and inclusion at the centre to help us “imagine the world differently.”

Where is happiness, where is it…?

Happiness is a trendy topic. There are as many definitions of happiness as there are individuals, yet never has a civilization developed such precise models and ideas of what happiness should be.

Institutional life – a bit of context

Raphael Amato offers some background on the role of institutions in the 20th century

Listening to and amplifying the voices of marginalized people

Each message pays tribute first to a person’s story, highlighting and sharing the richness and diversity of these heartfelt testimonies.

L’Arche International Family Day

The first Saturday of October is L’Arche International Family Day. Discover the gift of L’Arche around the world and celebrate our solidarity with one another.

Setting our course for the next 50 years

Looking forward to an era where L’Arche people with and without disabilities join with others of like spirit to advocate and change society – making it more inclusive for everyone.

L’Arche London’s Gathering Place

One example of the increased impact L’Arche communities are having across Canada

Celebrating Jean Vanier at 90

Jean Vanier is 90. L’Arche in Canada extends sincere gratitude and best wishes to our founder, guide, and companion in the journey, our friend Jean.

Investing in Justice for Institutional Survivors

Patricia Seth, an institutional survivor, put it this way, “It was like living in a prison. The only thing is, we didn't know when we would even get out.” Inspired by the founding story of L’Arche, L’Arche in Ontario is engaging in Investing in Justice, a series of projects promoting healing and belonging, truth and reconciliation for survivors.

L’Arche Beloeil Art Workshop “Le Pot-en-Ciel”

Le Pot-en-Ciel is an art workshop that would not be if it weren’t for one member of L’Arche Beloeil who dreamed of a place where he and fellow artists could draw and paint together in a spirit of sharing and mutual teaching. Photography by Jonathan Boulet-Groulx.

Summer in the Forest: One L’Arche Perspective

Summer in the Forest is an extraordinary film – a feature-length documentary by British filmmaker Randal Wright beautifully shot and scored. The subjects of the film are Jean Vanier and several members of his community of L’Arche Trosly in France and of the L’Arche community in Bethlehem. (Vanier speaks in English with dialogue in French and Arabic with English subtitles.)

Holocaust Education Week: Remembering Aktion T4, the Nazi Euthanasia Program

A few years ago, I went with Mel Kirzner, a man with an intellectual disability who welcomed me to L’Arche in 1985, to visit the Maxwell and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Remembrance Garden at the Reena Community Residence in Vaughan.

Social Inclusion Cannot Exist without True Community and Friendship

L’Arche Canada is participating in a series of round tables on the theme of “Living Together” – sharing life with and including persons who are vulnerable and marginalized in the heart of our communities.

L’Arche Canada’s monthly e-mail review of news, stories, and commentary about what is happening in L’Arche, with our partners, and within Canadian society.