Throughout the organization’s 13-year history, 4elements Living Arts has developed complex community-engaged projects with multiple community partners. 4e integrates many elements into this work, such as arts/culture/food/land-use history. 4e has learned that a critical aspect of capacity and resilience is the development of the social fabric – the social ecology of our relationships. Previous collaborators include Sheshegwaning First Nation, Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates, Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute, Manitoulin Nordik Ski Club, the Rainbow District School Board, and others. Upcoming in 2016 we have year 2 of Elemental Festival, an Institute of Walking, artist residencies, emerging artist exhibitions, workshops with local plant expert Joe Pitawanikwat, and further development of the nascent Billings Sculpture trail. Some of our more complex programs are outlined below. Names of the programs link to more information or photo galleries:
2014 – Ongoing – Get Active With the Arts, followed by Elemental Excursions: These innovative programs take youth and older adults onto lesser-known trails on Manitoulin Island to make art and hike. Outings have included snow-shoe, bicycling and hiking paired with land-art sculpture, painting, drawing. Outings are led by an outdoor guide, a special topics expert (plant identification, orienteering, river ecology etc.) and an artist. The goal of the program is to facilitate arts-based engagement with the land and encourage participants’ confidence to return to the trails without a guide.
Oct 2015 – Elemental Festival, Season 1; Rivers: An annual ‘themed’ celebration of all forms of contemporary art in our particular landscape, this year our 3-day festival included performance art, music, outdoor sculptural installations, poetry and prose, sound walks, artist talks, and workshops (kids and adult) with visiting and local artists. Majority of the programming was free. Art works, community discussions, and workshops explored the curatorial theme of rivers, and our relations to river ecosystems.
Summer 2015 – Billings Sculpture Trail – Michael Belmore artist residency, Replenishment Installation: Through an innovative partnership with Manitoulin Streams, 4e hosted internationally known artist, Michael Belmore for an Artist Residency this summer. In conjunction with MS’s river restoration project 4e was able to install Belmore’s three granite sculptures permanently along the Kagawong River; the works respond to environmental and colonial history. To bring a permanent work by an important contemporary artist to our isolated and small community was a career achievement for 4elements. We plan to build on this success to install more permanent works by significant artists to create a Billings Township sculpture trail.
June and July 2015 – River School – Community Engaged Arts Education: To support work being done by Manitoulin Streams to rehabilitate the Kagawong River, 4e’s River School engaged participants (including 20 students from M’Chigeeng FN) to learn about the river and make responsive work that was hung in embroidery hoops along the River. A summer series, offered in partnership with Manitoulin Streams, brought kids to the River to learn about river ecosystems through the arts.
July 2015 – Paddle Lab – Youth Reconciliation Lab in canoes: In partnership with NORDIK Institute, and with guidance from local elder Josh Eshkokagan and Stephanie Recollet of Wahnapitae FN, 24 participants participated in dynamic team, trust and relationship building between indigenous and settler youth. The role of art and creative methods in reconciliation was a key discussion.
2014/2015 -Telling Trails with Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS): In partnership with Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA), 4e engaged local community members and a Grade 7/8 class in a process to collaboratively design a sculpture that responded to a series of cycling outings. Participants went deep into design process over several months. 4e garnered Municipal support making it possible to build what was originally just a design project: an amazing graduation gift.
2014 – May 2015 – Animating the Archives and Traces – An Exhibition of Archival Interventions: This project offered the opportunity for a smaller group than in Bonnie Blink (see below) to grapple with questions of land-use history, production of place, the connection between the island’s colonial history and Scotland as well as the way archives function, narrating certain histories while erasing others. It brought together: Michael Belmore (Thunder Bay), Amanda Thomson (Glasgow), Elizabeth Reeder (Glasgow/U.S.), Heather Thoma (Manitoulin) and Sophie A. Edwards (Manitoulin artist) to the Centennial Museum archives. Traces: An Exhibition of Archival Interventions resulted from the research.
2009-2014 – Bonnie Blink – Land Use History Project: The Bonnie Blink project brought together 20 physical and human geography students and 2 professors from Queen’s University to Sheguiandah to work with 7 artists and community members. Engaging in multi-disciplinary research, participants conducted field research to learn about land-use history (pre-contact to the contemporary time frame).
2013 – Ongoing – Inquiry and Land Based early Learning: Since 2012 4e has been contracted by the Rainbow District School Board to deliver inquiry-based learning to early years classrooms on Manitoulin and Sudbury; artists spend time with students to learn about their curiosities, and create art engagements that draw out that line of inquiry. Students work in teams or as individuals to answer questions such as ‘why do leaves change colour in the fall’, or ‘why do these milkweed pods have seeds’.
2012/2013 – The Art of Being Billings Project: A Sustainability Planning Process in the Township of Billings illuminated several community priorities, two of which were to honour and highlight the township’s rich past, and to support the arts and artists in the community. 4e was invited to engage the community in a process to articulate community members’ relationships to special places in the township, people’s relationship to each other and to the land, which together create the dynamic environment of a resilient, sustainable community. The project included visioning sessions and community workshops in storytelling, land art, story mapping, a community exhibition and catalogue.
2006-Ongoing – Land Art Creation: The link between social, cultural (as well as linguistic), physical health and the land is becoming increasingly clear. In response 4e has developed land-based, educational, and outdoor excursions that link children, families and older adults to the land, local trails, and ecosystems using art-making. They have become some of 4e’s most popular programs, linking people to many communities and trails such as those at Sheshegwaning First Nation. These programs build awareness of environmental art, and make art-making accessible, as environmental art needs neither a studio, nor expensive arts materials, even if it engages all the principles of sculptural practice.
2006 – Little Current Public School, Visioning Project: LCPS was struggling with a deeply divisive and racist school culture. 4elements responded by leading a visioning project. Students, parents, administration and teachers were led through a consultation process using creative methods. The process occurred over a full school year, and resulted in an agreement on 7 aspects important to children; these were integrated into two collectively designed murals representing the process.
2005 – 2007 – Stone Inquiries – International Art Programs (Malta and Tuscany), Bay of Islands: 4e designed a ‘stone inquiries’ series that engaged participants in experimental art programs focused on site-specific art-making through an inquiry approach, taught by 4e and artist educators.
2005 – Movement Manitoulin: This project, the first in 4e’s experiments in inquiry-based programs, brought together 5 dance companies from different cultural backgrounds, from organizations in urban and rural locations around the province (COBA, Danny Grossman Dance, Chhandam Dance, Number 11 Theatre etc). Offered in partnership with DanceOntario this project engaged participants in questions about the relations between dance as performance and cultural practice.
2002-2005 – The Early Years: 4e responded to the lack of professional spaces on the island by opening an interdisciplinary space where artists and performers could gather, teach, create, and show work. They started their early learning program, ran professional development sessions, supported emerging artists, and worked to create fair-wage jobs for cultural sector workers. They acted as presenters bringing off-island dance and theatre companies to the island to make contemporary art locally accessible.