The Art of Changing the World (#ACW2017): Recap

Almost 200 people from coast to coast to coast in Canada and from abroad participated in the action-packed, two and a half days of The Art of Changing the World (ACW) 2017, November 3-5, 2017 at Carleton University, Ottawa. It was a gathering of emerging and pioneering artists, senior and newer scholars in the field, educators, community organisations, government, and funders.

ACW brought together a rich collection of workshops, installations, dialogues, and opportunities for hands-on learning, networking, and knowledge exchange. From theatre to hip hop, partnerships to evaluation, conflict resolution to theory, the sessions reflected a broad range in mediums and approaches in community-engaged arts practice. >>> View the ACW Program, participants, and more >>>

"The first thing that comes to my mind is to tell you that by its richness and variety the conference proved that Art can change the world. It did it at least for the people who attended, and, also, for those who worked with them all over Canada and in other countries. It was quite clear as people were describing their different projects, the variety of techniques used, the results, the challenges, etc. that those involved in this work were going through rich, life enhancing experiences. This, of course, does give strength, skills and understanding to overcome the many difficulties we all face.” -- ACW participant

Participants came away buoyed by the level of energy, inspiration, insight, and the perspectives and ideas for future strategies and policy shared at ACW. There were also many questions that were explored around the complexity of bridging different branches and cultures of the art for social change field, for example: how do we honour different ways of knowing/learning; how do we approach intergenerational collaboration; how do we support/mentor new artists and practitioners; how do we sustain the work; how do we approach Truth and Reconciliation in our work now and into the future?

Other ACW participants’ responses:

Thanks so much for that experience! it was beautiful to be able to share with all those beautiful people, find so many people aligned with what we do, all pushing together towards the same place.”

“I met so many interesting artists, thinkers and funders at the conference – including new colleagues from the UK and old friends… and felt I got a really strong sense of the work in Canada and the important contribution you are making to its development...”

“Thank YOU for inviting me to partake in this inspiring gathering. You have mentored so many people in this field over the years and I can’t help but think how proud you must have been to see everyone gathered together, sharing research stories that in part would never have happened if it weren’t for you and this transformative grant you received.”  

 “The organization of the conference, the fact that we were asked many times to change places, to speak to people we didn’t know, to engage in exercises, to speak our minds, to ask questions, created a very lively atmosphere, in which we all participated in new ways and learnt and taught at the same time. Time passed very quickly, and I really wished we had more of it, or, that this encounter could be repeated, so that we could continue to share the work we do and grow stronger through exchanging experiences.”

You are right about the young leaders who are taking our places. I have known this, but never felt it until your conference.”

Stay tuned for the final ACW 2017 report to be published in late spring 2018.

ACW 2017 was the final public event of a five-year national research project supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), fifteen partner organizations and eighteen collaborators. The Art for Social Change (ASC!) research partnership, led by the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC) at Simon Fraser University, brought together an intergenerational, diverse group of artists, scholars, students and change makers from a broad range of public and private sectors.

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Photos courtesy of Christine Germano