The Chataqua Project Overview

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The Chataqua Project is a series of hands-on workshops and dialogues. The project is designed to build new relationships between innovators working in different sectors: including economic development, business, social innovation, and the justice system; with those working on inter-cultural and inter-generational issues; in education; and on sustainability and environmental issues.

The Chataqua Project provides opportunities for exchange and networking that will enable participants to better understand the languages, methods and challenges of related work both inside and outside of their own sector. The project also introduces them to the methods of arts-based facilitation, specialized practices that are increasingly used in Canada and around the world to promote new understanding, fresh ideas and on-the-ground action for positive change. Those who may not know much about the field of arts for social change work and its potential applications in their sector will gain hands-on experience of the field, learning about how these forms can enrich and improve their own strategies.

The Chataqua Project addresses challenges faced by change leaders and innovators who are searching for new ways to solve complex problems, both within their own workplaces and in their work with others. The existence of professional silos, creates a disconnection between changemakers working in a variety of sectors. In addition, there are limited opportunities for knowledge-exchange between the private sector (CSR businesses, social entrepreneurs, foundations, other funders and individuals) and service providers, artists, policymakers, community members and not-for-profits. The Chataqua Project facilitates the learning of each others’ languages and perspectives, and the development of informed and sustainable initiatives focused on the well-being of our communities across BC.

New forms of dialogue, including artistic processes, are finding their way into industry, education, government and many other sectors of our societies. As we tackle complex and sometimes overwhelming local and global issues, more and more people recognize the need for imaginative, outside-of-the-box approaches to problem-solving with strategies that engage both the head and the heart. Not only can these practices lead to effective engagement with complex issues, these processes help many to develop models that integrate and celebrate imaginative thinking. In short, they help people to find new ways to see the world.

Whether the work creates employment, develops new products and services, creates healthier workplaces, explores issues of racism, facilitates conflict-resolution, empowers women and children, builds resiliency and leadership capacity in youth, strengthens marginalized communities, celebrates local histories, or simply provides new opportunities for expression and dialogue, art processes are highly effective tools for expanding and deepening knowledge and insight, for the creation of imaginative empathy and engagement, and – perhaps most important – for engaging with the issues themselves.

The pilot year of the Chataqua Project (2012-13) had excellent participation from a very diverse and lively assortment of seasoned and emerging social change leaders who are interested in integrating arts-based approaches into their work. During this pilot series, the Chataqua Project focused on immigrant and intercultural issues. Our sessions were rich with dialogue, laughter, insight and creative thinking. Each session began with participants getting to know each other over a light dinner followed by dialogue enriched by a variety of arts-based processes – from movement and theatre games and storytelling, to working with objects, visual art-making, and music exploration. This process is designed to clarify perspectives, issues, and inspire creative thinking.

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