Purpose: To link research creation and public performance more fully with social activism through partnerships engaging universities with community-based and/or Art for Social Change (ASC) organizations. Encounters is a research creation project led by artist scholar Rachael Van Fossen. Building on two earlier projects, an ensemble of artists and students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, life experiences, and faiths are, through a series of workshops in both undergraduate and community settings, sharing personal stories and, through the act of performing another person across vastly different life experiences, building a performance.
Community collaborators advising research and participants include grassroots organizations promoting intercultural exchange and social equality across differences of racialization, immigration, gender, sexuality, age and other common marked and unmarked differences. This process provides an example of the utility of performance tools to build intercultural communication, and investigates aesthetic experience as a means to ‘understand’ and know difference and commonality. Data from this field study informs researchers on good practices for meaningful social engagement between university students, artists, and community organizations; and provides insights on partner capacity building, evaluation, and knowledge exchange. The data generated contributes to adaptable ASC processes and tools to continue a sustainable methodology in ASC intercultural and intergenerational communication into the future. This research draws on relevant discourses and practices in intercultural performance, and builds upon existing theorizing of engaged aesthetics. Partner Concordia University leads the collaboration with ASC organizations including Herencias, Teesri Duniya Theatre, and the MAI (Montreal, arts interculturels).