When given the opportunity to work as a student research assistant on this study in 2011, I was very excited. While I would not have been able to tell you exactly what civic engagement meant at the time, the opportunity to work on this project has since shaped the way I perceive my own community.
In the beginning of my work term, I spent time combing through numerous scholarly articles so to obtain a better understanding of civic engagement. While doing that, I soon came across a concept that fascinated me to great lengths: Community Art. According to the Halifax Regional Municipality:
Community Art is any art form which focuses on involving community members, who contribute a variety of talents, to design and create a public art piece. (source)
While reading about this concept, a community art project I’d read about recently came to mind. It was titled “Before I die” by Candy Chang. Chang is an American artist whose focus is to better communities and neighbourhoods with thoughtful and interactive art installations. At that time she had recently installed a large chalk board on a decrepit home destined for demolition in New Orleans. Buckets of chalk were provided and passer-bys were invited to disclose one thing, serious or funny, they’d like to do in their lives. You can read more about the project here.
Doesn’t it make sense that engaging pieces of public art, like the one mentioned above, would have a positive effect on our community?
It’s been two years since my time as student research assistant and I’ve since graduated from CBU, moved away and moved home. Now that I’m residing in Sydney again, this concept still crosses my mind. As I spend countless hours walking my dog through Sydney’s downtown core and waterfront, I see blank canvases on every bare wall space and abandoned building. While many bare walls in our community are already tagged with thoughtless graffiti, it’s important to note that a community art project would be both meaningful and legal.
It may be true that many young people are still leaving Cape Breton to pursue further opportunities in bigger urban centres, but I feel we are also in a state of revival. Young people are making efforts to stay in Cape Breton and make the CBRM a better place. People are talking about why they love it here and what they would like to see here for the future. Wouldn’t it be awesome to work together as a community to install a piece of public art that captured this new and hopeful perspective?
Is anyone else interested or fascinated with the concept of community art? Let’s start the conversation!
Entry submitted by Grace MacNeil, 25, from Sydney, Nova Scotia. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.