A portion of a graphic recording from the gathering on art-based community tools by Jennifer Beavington, visual recorder, Threshold Arts.

Experiencing the Magic of Paint Blots - and Other Art Forms - for Cultivating Community
Gathering on arts-based community tools weaves new, deep possibilities

A creative brainstorm about new possibilities for reducing poverty in Alberta drew its inspiration from brightly coloured paint blots. Participants were shocked by the depth and vitality of the conversation as a result of weaving the arts into community development work in this way.

That’s just one story coming out of an Oct. 30 gathering centred on learning about and experiencing the possibilities in arts-based community development tools.

Among other experiences from the day, the story affirms for co-organizer Nora Smith that “we’re on the right path” with respect to exploring what the arts can bring to the work of cultivating community.

As a community worker with Delburne Family and Community Support Services in central Alberta, Nora has been on a fast learning journey over the past year and a half around what it means and looks like to enable community building. She’s experimented with some art forms – and caught a glimpse of just how powerful they can be – but this recent gathering shed a brighter light on the possibilities.

  The paint blot idea
was inspired by an
article by Desiree O
on creative brainstorming.

Existing community development work is not always necessarily producing desired results. The ongoing question is, how do we create the conditions for transformation to occur across a system?

Can part of the answer be as simple and elegant as weaving arts-based experiences, however small, into every gathering?

Is that a way to get to that, as Nora describes it, “deeper, agenda-breaking, emotional, bias-shifting thinking that will then allow new solutions and possibilities to come up, which will then percolate through the system and move it forward?”

After their experience with the gathering in Red Deer, Alberta, Nora, Glynis Wilson Boultbee (co-organizer and lead facilitator for day) and many of the more than 20 people who joined, have a deeper sense that the answer to that question is yes.

Much of the gathering included hands-on art-making that was intentionally simple to create, yet high in potential to be transformative.

A special kind of energy pulsed through the room as people focused on creating art alone or together – from the paint blots to poetry, theatrical performances and other artistic expressions.

 “People said they were shocked at how impactful the experiential piece was, and how they could see it being applied to their work and pulling out some really deep results,” Nora says, adding the idea all along has been that these experiences could be easily incorporated into engagement and development work in participants’ respective communities.

The next step includes inquiring into the interest around creating an ongoing space for co-learning and collaborating on arts-based community tools in the region,

“I’m deeply curious to know what those next things will be,” says Glynis. “We had our ideas going in (about what might happen afterward)… but all of your great ideas get better when they’re thrown in with other people’s ideas.”

The Oct. 30 gathering was made possible through the support of the City of Red Deer, West Central Region FCSS and the Village of Delburne.

Related Story: What’s Possible for Community through the Arts?

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