WINTER 2015 Newsletter
Judith Marcuse Projects / ICASC / ASC! Project
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Art for Social Change!





Greetings from Judith Marcuse

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
For those of us living in Canada, the results of our recent federal election and the promises of our new representatives bring measured optimism to many hearts. These promises include doubling the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts; restoration of our national public broadcaster’s funding; and the creation and implementation of more enlightened environmental policies. After ten years of fear-mongering, anti-democratic and anti-human policies, there is a new sense of hope that doors are opening for more progressive, inclusive leadership and policy.

At the same time, after the most recent attacks on civilians in Paris, Beirut and Nigeria; thousands of new civilian casualties in wars around the world; and the plight of fleeing refugees, we see the escalation of fear and racism, including calls for exclusionary domestic policies in many countries, the rise of militarism and the abrogation of civil rights in the name of security. There are no simple solutions.

How do we find balance? What would the world be like if we were better able to engage in dialogue with people with whom we disagree? Art for social change (ASC) practices surface what matters to us and help us to engage in dialogue across difference. Seeing the world through the lenses of the arts can help us to envision the changes we want to see and discover ways to make these changes happen. If we are to see the realization of ASC’s potential, I believe we should advocate vigorously for support and inclusion of art for social change practices in the development of better public policy. As we enter the darkest days of winter and anticipate the spring that will come, I know that we can also provide light and energy for renewal… and, in this dynamic process, help discover creative and empathetic ways to engage more humanly with the many challenges we face.
All of us from ASC! and ICASC send our very best wishes for the holiday season.

Judith Marcuse, LL.D
ASC! Project Director


Upcoming Events


First in Canada!
M.Ed in Arts for Social Change at Simon Fraser University, Fall 2016

The M.Ed. in Arts for Social Change (ASC) is designed for artists, educators, change-makers and others who wish to integrate arts-based practices and insights into their work for social change.

In this interdisciplinary program, students will develop and refine skills in arts-infused group facilitation techniques and the integration of ASC processes into diverse agendas for change. Students will have the opportunity to intern with local organizations engaged in arts-based community projects.

>>> Click here for more information and to register
M.Ed in Art for Social Change

Rencontres/Encounters (R/E) presents Tracks/Des Traces, starting January 20th, 2016 in Montreal

Rencontres/EncountersYou are invited!
ASC! Co-Investigator Rachael Van Fossen’s experimental research creation project Rencontres/Encounters (R/E) will run a series of five public performances, called Tracks/Des Traces, at the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels). The "show" will lead audiences through the Montreal metro of another universe!
For more information about this series and R/E, please contact Lisa Ndejuru, or Rachael Van Fossen.

>>> You can find out more about this series and Rencontres/Encounters online on facebook. Also, stay tuned for the launch of their new website coming soon at


Creative Publics: art making and the federal election

by Tara Mahoney

Ahead of the 2015 Canadian federal election, some of us on the ASC! research project team started to think about how we could do a project that used art as a form of voter engagement, particularly, but not exclusively, youth. We were interested in the question: can the art-making process make politics more engaging and effect voter behaviour?
In order to explore this question, we partnered with the mobile art studio Tin Can Studio and Creative Publics got under way. We traveled to four sites to set up mix-media collaging workshops where anybody passing by had the opportunity to explore election issues that were most important to them while engaging in a creative, tactile activity.
Creative Publics at SFU Surrey Campus 
Creative Publics took inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street movement and its ability to create temporary political zones in public space where informal political discussions were supported and encouraged. As such, we wanted to created porous spaces where people could engage in political expression through the making of art. The act of making offered both a social and introspective opportunity to reflect on issues that matter to participants. The space attracted people who might not have otherwise talked to each other and who found themselves side-by-side weighing issues and assembling political priorities while cutting, gluing and coloring. The project culminated in an interactive, public art installation that was on display in front of the Belzberg Library at SFU Harbour Centre campus in downtown Vancouver during the week before the Canadian federal election. 
Our survey results revealed that participants enjoyed the unique opportunity to interact with fellow community members and the majority of participants reported that the art-making activities increased the likelihood that they would vote. Beyond the data, we were exposed to the latent beauty and thoughtful nature of the people within our community.
We look forward to analyzing the rest of the data from Creative Publics and finishing the project report and paper, which will be available on the ASC! Project website in the coming months.
Creative Publics is part of the PhD research of Tara Mahoney and the Art for Social Change (ASC!) research project. Supported by contributions from: ASC! Project, Tin Can Studio, Gen Why Media, Woodshop Cooperative, Civic Renewal Lab, SFU Community Engagement Grant, SFU School of Communications, SFU Faculty of Communications Arts and Technology, SFU Institute for the Humanities, SFU Graduate Student Society, SFU Student Society.

Tara Mahoney

Tara Mahoney, Simon Fraser University
ASC! Project Research Assistant

Read her ASC! Project biography


Social Circus and Buen Vivir: An international mixed-methods study of an arts-for-social-change program in Ecuador

by Dr. Jennifer Spiegel

Following a successful planning mission (see ICASC Newsletter Fall, 2013), a grant was obtained from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study the social circus program in Ecuador. The interdisciplinary international team is using a variety of quantitative, qualitative and arts-based research methods: ranging from surveys, in-depth interviews and participant observation, to workshops using image theatre and a photo-facilitated focus group. Social Circus in Ecuador

We are examining impacts at the individual and community level, as well as the challenges and tensions in operationalizing social circus programs in a manner that promotes “buen vivir”. The Quechua concept of sumak kawsay — or, in Spanish, buen vivir —loosely translates into English as "good living" or "wellbeing"; although, neither term sits well with scholars on the subject, as buen vivir does not relate to the individual, but rather to “individuals in the social context of their community and in a unique environmental situation”. Such thinking inspired the launch of the social circus program in Ecuador and links to social movements across Latin America that have incorporated aspects of indigenous belief systems. Social Circus in EcuadorScholars of buen vivir, such as Eduardo Gudynas, stress that the concept of buen vivir is rooted not only in indigenous cosmology, but also links to Western critiques of capitalism over the last 30 years in ways that are now inspiring a wave of Latin American, and especially Andean, social policies. Sensitive to this worldview, the study is exploring the history of these large government-funded social circus programs, hosted by the Government of Ecuador, and various municipalities within Ecuador. Building on existing scholarship in arts-for-health, arts-for-social-change, and cultural studies, this study is the first to analyze issues of equity and community health and wellbeing outcomes of social circus programs — with the interdisciplinary insight that such an undertaking merits. We are currently uncovering a fascinating web of successes and challenges that promise to provide rich panoply of guides, lessons and words of caution to social circus and art for social change practitioners internationally.

Dr. Jennifer Spiegel Dr. Jennifer Spiegel, Simon Fraser University
ASC! Project Post Doctorate / Research Associate

Lead in the Social Circus Field Study
Read her ASC! Project biography


Rencontres/Encounters: six characters tell their stories

by Lisa Ndejuru and Rachael Van Fossen

If you are in Montreal this coming January, you are invited to partake!
Starting January 20, 2016, ASC! Project Co-Investigator Rachael Van Fossen’s experimental research creation project Rencontres/Encounters (R/E) will hold a series of public performances at the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) called Tracks/Des Traces. Saul Garcia Lopez, Co-Artistic Director of the performance collective La Pocha Nostra, will direct an audience interactive production with the R/E ensemble of performers. The "show" will lead audiences through the Montreal metro of another universe!

Rencontres/Encounters is about cooking up and working with ever more challenging creative constraints to explore and examine ways of othering and being othered. Verbatim and public texts create a vehicle, or container, for in-the-moment improvisation engaging actors and audience members in investigation of what relationship across differences could mean.
EncountersAlthough some have referenced Six characters in search of an author (Pirandello, 1921), R/E’s research - creation work could not be more different. In the Pirandello play six characters each have powerful stories inside of them, but their play is not yet written as they walk into the rehearsal room insisting upon playing out the life they believe they should have had. R/E also features six ensemble members (well seven if one counts a late addition to the cast) but the point of the work is for each to offer stories as well as individual talents as musicians, dancers, drag performers, writers, directors etc. to a larger tale. Performers play their own and each other's words, not so much to “give life” to a character competing with them to establish who is more “real”, but to engage the audience, and to support and do justice to each other's stories. 
While R/E's performance text, titled Tracks/Des Traces, also plays with fragmented texts, in our case this fragmentation serves to destabilize notions of fixed identity, and disrupt the idea that a strongly held belief is necessarily entrenched. Politicians, scholars, activists, journalists and artists, pulled from the public domain, contextualize personal experiences of ensemble members with reference to larger socio-political influences via texts.
R/E offers audiences an invitation crafted out of fragments of day-to-day lives, and conversations from the ordinary to the extraordinary. We aim for this experience to leverage the power of art to create “out of the ordinary” moments and bring people, who may not usually go to see theatre, to engage and share with the actors and each other. 
In 2016 and 2017, and well into the future, R/E will continue its work by adapting our relationship-building processes in diverse community contexts. Our inspiring community partner Respecting Elders: Communities Against Abuse (RECAA), joins us in these efforts.
For more information about the January 2016 Tracks/Des Traces performances at MAI or about R/E methods and processes please contact Lisa Ndejuru or Rachael Van Fossen.

>>> You can find out more about this series and Rencontres/Encounters online on facebook. Also, stay tuned for the launch of their new website coming soon at
Lisa Ndejuru

Lisa Ndejuru, Concordia University
ASC! Project Research Assistant

Read her ASC! Project biography
Rachael Van Fossen

Rachael Van Fossen, Concordia University
ASC! Project Co-Investigator
Lead in the Research Creation Field Study

Read her ASC! Project biography


Latest from Judith Marcuse

Judith and the entire team have been very active since we sent out our last newsletter. In June, Judith gave a keynote address at the Creative Catalyst conference organized by Ryerson University in Toronto. This gathering brought together artists, designers and change-makers from diverse sectors in a series of presentations about engagement in the arts. Judith’s keynote and related videos can be viewed at
Also in June, Ashoka Canada hosted and co-facilitated a cross-sector Chataqua dialogue in Toronto, a gathering designed to explore collaboration between the arts and social innovation sectors, the first of some six such gatherings planned across Canada as part of our major arts for social change research project. In January 2016, more Chataquas are scheduled for Montreal (hosted by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation) and Winnipeg (hosted by The Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba). Vancouver Chataquas are scheduled to commence in March 2016. We will post full information about these evening dialogues online.
Major work on Judith Marcuse Projects' (JMP) archiving project was completed in July. Some 40 years of video and audio tapes (in every possible format imaginable!), as well as print and photographic materials, are digitized and annotated. The archives include materials from JMP’s touring repertory dance company over its fifteen years of operation and the eighteen years of work focused on the youth-centred ICE, FIRE and EARTH projects; the six annual KISS Project festivals that were staged on Vancouver’s Granville Island; and an assortment of correspondence and creation notes. Once completed, this wide-ranging archive will be donated to the Special Collections Library at Simon Fraser University and will be available online. 
In early July, Judith and ASC! Research Assistant Nicole Armos, in collaboration with West End (WE) Arts (a group committed to animating Vancouver's West End through the arts), completed an arts and culture plan for the neighbourhood. In a four month-process, Judith and two invited artists, Laura Barron and Avril Orloff, engaged with 350 residents – including artists, educators, families, and representatives of businesses and NGO’s – in art-making and dialogue to identify visions and actions for a more vibrant and arts-infused West End community. WE Arts is now working to implement these proposals.

>>> You can learn more about this project by visiting

Copyright © 2015 Judith Marcuse Projects / Int'l Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), All rights reserved.

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