So what can these tools look like?

In my first blog, Art as a Tool for Social Engagement and Energizing Communities Towards a Sustainable, Collaborative Future, I touched on my belief in the strength of these tools. Here, I’m addressing in brief, truly what these tools can look like.

In the Spring, during our Great Art for Great Lakes Event in Kingston, it looked like 175 people drawn in by five unique chefs giving away free food samples in the Malting Tower inside the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning.

Chefs from Chez Piggy serve up local treats at the Tett Centre, Kingston. Photo Credit: Liz Cooper.


Guests swap water stories with Kevin Riley, Utilities Kingston. Photo Credit: Liz Cooper.


The sound of clinking glasses as guests enjoyed refreshing MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co. Ale, also free, of course. This, all while Kevin Riley, Director of Water and Waste Water Operations at Utilities Kingston, sat on an ultra-high efficient toilet giveway station, swapping tails with the attending 175 people.

A local farmer, spoke intimately with guests at a table with samples of his crop, sharing stories of food and water. Music filled the room from a single acoustic guitar, while Geof Hall of the Beaty Water Research Centre, spoke freely with guests enjoying the fresh food while discussing Lake Ontario and our reliance on it.

Families gathered and participated in the Greatness interactive wall, attempting to identity our great lakes, and sharing their own position to it. Members of the Kingston community came together not only to simply enjoy the gourmet samples, rather they joined to find common ground in their relationship with Lake Ontario.

Artist Julieanne Steedman collects Lake Huron Stories. Photo Credit: Kierstin Zoratto.


Stories collected by Artist Julieanne Steedman for her final piece, Stories of the Lake. Photo Credit: Julieanne Steedman.


In Manitoulin Island in Providence Bay, these tools of social engagement looked like artist Julieanne Steedman sitting in the Mutchmore Café frantically recording the history, tales, and stories of Lake Huron gathered from members from the community of all ages. These words, culled from many points around the island, working together to form a sculpture to be mounted permanently in the Providence Bay Village Square. With Lake Huron in their view, participants sat with Julieanne to conjure memories so vividly connected to the water, that 20 minutes pass easily during the encounter.

These are a few examples of what socially engaged art can look like. More importantly though, is what it feels like. And you can only find this out, by showing up and joining in.

So I encourage you, join in.

Participant names his Great Lake. Photo Credit: Kierstin Zoratto.


Artist Vanessa Logan works with participants drawing Lake Ontario memories to be transferred onto sea glass for her community artwork piece, Mi Lake. Photo Credit: Nakita Krucker.

Written by Christopher McLeod