Campbell River residency intersects art, environmentalism and social justice


Back in August I had the pleasure of speaking with Ken Blackburn, Executive Director of the Campbell River Arts Council and Director of Public Programs of the Museum at Campbell River.


He brought me up to speed on this community’s fantastic array of interconnected arts programming, such as Art in the Hospital. This project integrates a wide spectrum of arts and culture into the supportive, therapeutic and healing processes within the hospital, with insights contribute to ongoing research/studies in this area.


I also learned about the Arts Council’s exciting new artist residency program that brings together art, health and environmental activism. This program is an innovative response to a pressing need for programs in Campbell River that address community health, wellness and climate change - a need that existed before the pandemic, and grew exponentially during the pandemic. Like all communities throughout Vancouver Island, issues stemming from poverty, homelessness and addiction are ever present.


Ken’s team wanted to design an artist residency that would extend into the community and create space for active engagement and community development. The intent was to utilize the arts to foster a deeper understanding of the complexity of community social (or environmental) challenges.


Enter - Shawn Decaire.


Shawn is member of the Laxwaxdaxw people, born in Campbell River and for the past 20 years has worked as a singer, carver and helper to others. His work looks at the connections between the challenges of homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, while exploring creative solutions.


Funded by the BC Arts Council Pivot Program, and guided by Shawn’s vision, this new residency is bridging the gaps between art and social environments.Spanning four months (June-October), Shawn’s work is raising awareness not only of the challenges people face in the community, but his work is also highlighting the individuals involved. Street engaged individuals are assisting Shawn in his work within the residency, learning new skills and discovering the ability of the arts to express their stories in new and profound ways.


You can learn more about Shawn’s experience on Sunday, September 25, 7pm at the Tidemark Theatre. Shawn will be joining Jenelle Pasiechnik, Curator of the CR Art Gallery in an Art+Earth Lecture: n̓əmy̓ut: Connection to One Another.


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