The transformative potential of community and collective arts pedagogies in Thunder Bay, Canada
Stock, R. Varainja
Doctor of Philosophy
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This dissertation presents the transformative potential of community art collectives and outlines the pedagogical practices and decisions that contribute to their impact in the community. The research took place in Thunder Bay, a small urban community of roughly 110 000 people in Northwestern Ontario. Building on existing literature and research on critical civic praxis I explored the relevance of this concept in collective community arts settings. My research found artists engaged in praxis (the interplay of critical reflection and practice), their actions informed by an understanding of systemic oppression affecting their lives as they engaged in re-creating the world in order to transform it. This is an arts-informed qualitative research study. Research data includes interviews with 17 members of the artist community, enriched by my own experiences with the arts and artist community in Thunder Bay. At the intersection of collective space, public space, and art I developed an understanding of the relationship between arts and collective organizing in supporting critical civic praxis as everyday politics. The transformation discussed by participants is connected to their worldviews and their social, political, and geographic location. In order to understand this transformative work I have described the space these artists inhabit, the forms of oppression they encounter, and the practices that transformed their community. The pedagogical roots that feed participants’ work are authenticity, trust, humility, relationship (love), and critical reflection.