11 Days Left to Apply to Host the 2020 Symposium

The SPARC Symposium is a biennial gathering that brings together SPARC members as well as other creators, presenters, producers, community animators and funders involved in the performing arts in rural and remote communities across Ontario. The symposium provides an opportunity for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, networking, and laying the groundwork for future collaborations.

This is one of our favourite activities. There’s an energy in the air at SPARC symposia that’s hard to describe…an electricity, if you will, generated by the excited, thoughtful, inspiring conversations between attendees as they share their passion for animating their communities, and learn more about what others are doing to animate theirs. We are especially excited that the symposium is now moving around the province; after two years in Haliburton, the 2018 symposium was held in Cobalt, Ontario – a tremendous success. Where will it go next? What community will we have the opportunity to work with, learn about, and become immersed in during the 2020 symposium? Could it be yours?

Organizations interested in hosting the 2020 symposium in their community are encouraged to submit a letter of interest by February 25th, 2019.

For more information about what is required of the host community, how they work with the SPARC Network, and what the symposium entails, download the call for proposals here



To read some reflections on the 2018 symposium in Cobalt, check out these blog posts:

Leaping into Rural Arts – A reflection on the 2018 SPARC Symposium by youth bursary attendee Katy Grabstas

Personal and Interconnected: On Remembering, Keeping Busy, and the SPARC Symposium 2018, Cobalt  – A reflection written by Felicity Buckell, Symposium Coordinator 



Alchemy Artist Residency

By Claire M Tallarico, Founder | Alchemy Residency

Alchemy provides a safe and vibrant community for artists to live, work and share space, time, food and ideas. Long after they leave our Residency, artists create and participate in collaborative opportunities to make and exhibit work. Making art is often a solitary practice. In contrast, Alchemy’s participants and guest artists connect and become part of the fabric of the rural Ontario community Alchemy calls home. Alchemy’s community roots grow annually through the thoughtful participation of working artists in:

  • Art making
  • Food sharing
  • Garden and land exploration
  • Community engagement

The best way to share the thinking behind Alchemy is to share our story.

Eight summers ago I was at a self directed writer’s residency. To get over what I thought was a case of temporary writer’s block, I flipped through a colourful pile of old magazines in hopes of finding the inspiration to finish a languishing short story. Instead, what began to emerge from that day (and those that followed) was a passion for collage making, mono printing, abstract painting and eco dying. At that same time, I also found a creative outlet as a volunteer on Toronto Island at the Artscape Gibraltar Point‘s (AGP) vegetable garden. The AGP garden, as well as my own small but mighty city-side plot, fed another side of my soul — I am also a trained cook. I began to explore how visual and culinary arts could coexist or, pardon the pun, feed each other.

Combining these interests and sharing them with other like-minded artists, cooks and makers was a most rewarding creative experience.

This evolved into Alchemy: An artist run residency devoted to exploring the synergy between artistic practice and the cooking and sharing of locally cultivated food in a community setting. Participating artists in a variety of mediums (visual arts, sculpture, photography, performance art, writing or video) are inspired by their surroundings and share food, work and ideas in a communal and creative space.

Creating this residency is satisfying and enriching on so many levels; from meeting artists from Canada and abroad and seeing their desire to share ideas about this topic, to being part of some kick ass dinners and discussions.

In five years Alchemy has grown from an eight-day residency for seven artists on Toronto Island to two separate sessions for 2019. We are going back to our Island roots and offering our first spring residency April 15-22 (one spot left as of this writing!) And then our third summer (August 9-20) in Hillier, a town of 100 in a quiet corner of Prince Edward. Our summer home in Hillier is Chef Jamie Kennedy’s farm as well as two adjoining farmhouses. One of the original 2015 alchemists –Tonia di Risio a visual artist from Red Head Gallery is my collaborator, co conspirator and co facilitator.

We are now exploring alternative funding to lower the cost for artists to participate in Alchemy. You will find information about our first bursary this year – for an Ontario based artist in any form of practice. Alchemy is a labour of love — it costs money to house and feed everyone and offer stipends to those who contribute programming. Exploring other ways to finance our hard costs could allow us to offer more artists/ chefs/makers the ability to participate in this unique residency.

By finding new ways to share Alchemy, we hope to also find a way to contribute to a growing body of new creative thought in Canada and beyond about the intersection of food and art in community settings.

Claire M Tallarico is the founder of Alchemy. She is a Toronto based mixed media visual artist and cook. For more information about Alchemy please visit www.makealchemy.com or Alchemy Residency on Instagram


Bridge & Falls Creative Residency

TINY STUDIOS making a big splash on the eastern shores of Lake of the Woods, in the small communities of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls: for artists & idea professionals – residents & visitors, too!

by Denise Lysak, Cultural Officer | Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls

It is fitting to start by raising a glass, to every artist that simply dares to be an artist. To the painters, the writers, the storytellers, the potters, the felters, and the puppet-makers – the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency is for you. Make no mistake about it…

With the full support of Mayor & Council, the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls continues to support a framework that bridges our natural environs with tiny “built”, dedicated cultural spaces, designed to create connections to nature, a shared history and heritage, and the greater artistic community in rural and remote northwestern Ontario. Since 2016,

The Bridge & Falls Creative Residency has piqued the curiosity of artists, from near and far away. In all four seasons, northwestern Ontario is one of the most beautiful and geographically interesting places on earth. The perfect place for any creative person to get inspired, the rural and remote Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls hosts a programme for artists-in-residence that affords them the time and space to take a deep dive into their artistic practices. The self-directed residency program is open to a variety of artistic and creative disciplines. A small honorarium and stipend are offered to each participant.

What makes the creative residency local and unique to the communities of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls are three fundamental aspects:

  1.  Tiny day-use studios, purpose-built to be creative spaces: each with their own set of design/build elements that connect the user to nature and vice versa;
  2. Synergistic partnerships that serve to craft a distinctive platform for the residency program;
  3. A juried process with an open call for applications that asks the “artist” how the residency in the wilds of northwestern Ontario will help shapeshift their particular work.

Residencies happen absolutely everywhere. For the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency in Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls we have taken our inspiration from: Fogo Island, Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Ucross Foundation – just to name a few. And, in communities that surround the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, one can find artist-in-residency programs. There is a specific hope that we can develop a loop: an artist-in-residency trail that promotes and advocates for each and every residency program in this region. So, pull out a map and look up a few of these creative spaces and you will see that the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency is in very good company indeed: Lighthouse Artist in Residence Program in Thunder Bay; Quetico Artist in Residence Program (Quetico Provincial Park); Artist in Residency at the Experimental Lakes Area; and Artist in Residency in Falcon Lake, MB. In the not so distant future, another residency will be offered in the City of Kenora when the construction of the new Arts Centre is complete, later in 2019!

If you are thinking about starting a residency and wondering, “who will care”? Or “am I all alone in the universe?” It is safe to say, you are not. Let’s circle back to the early days of the residency. Our process began with a community consultation to seek out ideas and common interests. From the very beginning – the idea of a residency and “what it might look like” and “how it would shapeshift the communities of Nestor Falls and Sioux Narrows” were big questions with evolving narratives. Narrowing down the potential and the impact was one of our greatest hurdles. For the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency…the three arching goals are: a) to afford the artist the time and space to create; b) to support interactions between visiting artists and the greater artistic community in our region; c) to blaze a trail, for the visiting artist, with a direct roadmap, by land or by water to the natural environs that truly define the eastern shores of Lake of the Woods.

With the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency (BFCR), we have many people to thank including the artists, the sponsors, the supporting partners, and the brave & bold leaders in our community who stepped up to make it all happen. In the first year, the artists certainly took a chance on an unknown residency and are we ever glad that they did. Since 2016, we have invited 15 artists to jump into their artistic practice and they have come from as far south as North Carolina, as far west as Vancouver, BC and as far east as Brooklyn, New York.

The artists have engaged with the artistic community in the Township by hosting artist talkbacks, by opening the doors to the tiny studios for “open houses”, and by sharing conversations by the campfire, on starbright summer nights with people from near and far away.

If it is fitting to start by saluting the artist, then that is where this blog should end. Here is what Terri Gillis, a playwright and author said about her residency in the summer of 2018: On the Rock allowed me the time, space, and opportunity to put bundles of notes, pages, and thoughts in order. While I was there I was able to see what my writing project is and will become and I had hours of solitude to put words on the page. This is an amazing place where silence exists allowing artists to open their voices and hear the story.”

#air #tinystudios #artandarchitecture #livethelakelife #siouxnarrowsnestorfalls

To learn more about the BFCR, please visit createinsnnf.ca

Harriston Mini SPARC Symposium: An Attendee’s Report

The following post was written by Catherine Frid about her experience at the Mini SPARC Symposium in Harriston. This Mini-Symposium received support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program last June. 

The next deadline to apply for support from the Collaborative Community Initiatives Program is Thursday, February 28th. For more information about the program email rebecca@sparcperformingarts.com . 

The SPARC Mini-Symposium in Harrison was held on Saturday October 20, 2018.

It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for arts creators, managers, presenters and organizations in the area to meet each other, hear presentations on a wide range of topics and, last but never least, enjoy great food!

After most hospitable greetings from host Gordon Duff (Town of Minto, Minto Arts Council, and Minto Cultural Roundtable) and George Bridge (Mayor, Town of Minto), we dove into our full agenda.

Marilyn Lawrie, digital Media Manager of the Stirling Festival Theatre, spoke about the pros and cons of radio, print and social media advertising, complete with fascinating statistics on demographic usage of various media and their costs. Bottom line: Facebook ‘boosts’ are very cost-effective.

This was followed by a SPARC update by Eric Goudie, including a reminder about the support available through SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives program.

Then Heather Watterworth of Creative Worth Communications and Design gave an entertaining and thorough presentation on branding – what it is, how it works, and how to know if your brand needs a refresh. She also included a detailed Brand Checklist to help assess how a brand is working.

We paused for a gourmet lunch of salmon medallions, Thai chicken and absolutely delicious vegetarian and even vegan options. And of course irresistible desserts.

After this feast we could have all probably napped for half an hour, so it was lucky that Taylor Keunen and Megan Raftis, members of the Minto Youth Action Council, and youth members of the Grey Wellington Theatre Guild were our next presenters on engaging youth volunteers. They divided us into groups and each group made a ‘pitch’ to recruit for a youth volunteer!

Linda Albright of Arts Network for Children & Youth continued the youth theme, with a compelling talk about the need for strategic co-creations as creating places for youth to belong, to be creative, and to work with people who believe in them. She also highlighted the Toronto Spiral Garden, an ongoing youth co-creation.

Next up, Kate Russell of the Municipality of South Huron made a high-energy and detailed presentation on grant writing that included a comprehensive handout on grants that are available in the area. She emphasized that “the story’s the thing” – you need to tell your story effectively in a grant application.

Sandy Irvin, Arts Communicator and Administrator, focused on Promoting the Performing Arts in Rural Areas in yet another excellent presentation. She spoke of the importance of knowing your local market and yourself, and on building a team and partnerships. And she closed with this excellent quote:

“In my opinion, Minto is among the very few rural communities who understands the importance of the creative economy” — Mark Cassidy, Rural Ontario Institute

The day’s closing presenter was Jane Marsland, from Strategic Arts Management, who spoke to audience development.

Thank you Gordon Duff and SPARC for organizing such a great day!


Save Picton Town Hall

The following post was written by Sarah Moran about the work being done by the Prince Edward County Arts Council and a grassroots coalition called ‘Save Picton Town Hall‘. This group (and their many collaborators) received support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program to complete a strategic plan for a proposal to keep their Town Hall in the hands of the community. 

The next deadline to apply for support from the Collaborative Community Initiatives Program is Thursday, February 28th. For more information about the program email rebecca@sparcperformingarts.com . 


A story of loss?

credit: Tim Snyder & Wellington Times

This story starts when our community heard that council was thinking of selling our Town Hall, in Picton, Prince Edward County. Its sale would be a huge loss to all the people using it: art exhibitors, dancers, musicians and theatre groups as well as community groups.  It’s an outstanding public space. The heritage property was built on land donated to the community in 1866 for a hall and farmers’ market. The hall is a precious, publicly owned asset: downtown, affordable accessible space. As such, it was also coveted by developers in this newly valuable real estate market of Prince Edward County..

It would be a battle to save our town hall from developers; many believed it to be a lost cause.

But could this be a story of opportunity?

We knew, from a SPARC symposium held in Prince Edward County in 2016, that local performing artists considered space a top priority for the performing arts to thrive. And we knew from council deputations that there was a strong voice in the broader community to save Picton Town Hall. People were excited to learn of its long history, to discover that the upstairs auditorium had been an opera house, a theatre, a concert hall, a dance hall; the downstairs area was recently vacated, with the possibility of more uses for the community.

A coalition of county citizens started on the job. Called “Save Picton Town Hall”, we’re a diverse group of volunteers: ex-councillor, heritage expert and artist, small business owner, community activists, arts council director, entrepreneur consultant, engineers. We all rolled up our sleeves for what turned out to be many, many months of work.

Save Picton Town Hall Headquarters

With no money and not even a space to meet in, headquarters for all this work has been a hair salon, kindly offered by local business owner, Margaret Watson.

It was clear that no single, not-for-profit or arts sector player in a small rural community like ours could go it alone. In order to keep and enhance the space we’d have to build a viable proposal to council that was multi-stakeholder and multi-use. For that complicated beast, we needed a good strategic plan.

With money from SPARC we forged a strategic plan

Strategic plan you say? Yawn you might think. But building the plan has been at the heart of the effort. All important, and hugely inspiring was the community consultation, with 50 people brimming with ideas for creating a vision of the best possible Town Hall. Local artists volunteered to bring these ideas to life with drawings of the many visions. People had so many ideas for arts presentations of all kinds as well as community events and a farmers’ market. There were suggestions for income generating ideas to support the vision like a food co-op and pop-up businesses such as cafes and other tenant options.

Community consultation in Picton Town Hall

Out of our community consultation came the focus: “To preserve this outstanding public space for arts, farmers’ market and multi-use”. This clear focus was key when so many different groups needed to be engaged: council, downtown businesses, potential partners, likely stakeholders, performing arts groups, other arts groups, community groups, local media and county residents at large.

Our lead strategist, (engaged through the assistance of SPARC funding for a strategic plan,) consultant Duncan Moore, set about equipping us with learning from others. Early on it became very clear that for this project to be viable in the eyes of the community and council, the hall would need to be self sustaining, covering its operating costs independently.

We read up on similar projects. We visited the Tett Centre. We created a communications plan. We detailed an activity timeline. Because of our strategic consultant’s expertise in partnership building, as well as his local connections with businesses, …collaborations began to form.

Pulling the plan together with many collaborators

With our priorities front and centre we set about finding partners who could help turn the vision into a reality. By dint of engaging a host of collaborators the strategic plan was developed. In essence, the upstairs auditorium area would deliver enhanced arts activities and community events, downstairs would offer new space for rental and community use and outside would serve the farmers’ market.

Community vision guiding the strategic plan

Upstairs auditorium

Groove Tonic dancing at the Picton Town Hall. Photo: Graham Davies

The upstairs level was envisaged as a space to enhance and grow current uses, in arts activities and community events. Many organizations in the performing arts are already interested in the initiative. For example, The Regent Theatre is keen on renting space in the Town Hall auditorium because it will enable them to work with more artists; they are also offering to share equipment.  PEC Jazz can see the opportunity for their young jazz musician programme using the space in future. A key part of the plan is to install a digitized booking system. This will enable more people to use the space and assist in driving more revenue while keeping the current affordability in place. Also stepping up with letters of support is a great line-up of County Pop Festival, Comedy Country and Sandbanks Music Festival. Staying in the space will be the Scottish Country Dancers, the Pipe Band, Groove Tonic Dance, Line Dancing, Fire Light Lantern Festival and so much more. The Picton Library, the BIA, the Wine Growers’ Association and others want to be involved now.

Ground floor level

The downstairs, vacated of fire engines, will be renovated and provide an opportunity for income to cover operating costs and for expanded community benefit; a key potential tenant with a high level of commitment is an educational organization for adults who want to share co-located working/meeting areas. Arts groups and entrepreneurs need cost efficient space for occasional use and students enrolled here can benefit from work experience with small businesses renting space. There is a strong market for pop-up spaces for incubating businesses, such as artisanal producers and arts entrepreneurs who want to “test” business ideas in a downtown location at low overhead cost. The County Food Hub, for example has expressed interest as it has a farmers’ co-op.


A farmer’s market proposal is in place for a seasonal market planned in the very space where land was donated for that express purpose in 1866. In addition, plans are stirring for outdoor performance possibilities.

This mix directly reflects the community wishes and also the cultural heritage of this space.

But what about cost?

In order to complete the strategic plan, a business plan was built. We were fortunate to have an ex-councillor on the team with a finance background. Existing operating costs for the Town Hall were audited. Rental rates in the municipality were audited. Tenants were sounded out. Ways to increase uses were created. This enabled the team to put together a financial plan to demonstrate that operating costs could be covered. The intention is that the municipality retain ownership of the building with community management in place and sufficient income generated to cover operating costs.

The last step in building capacity for our community

The last step was to take the draft strategic plan back to the community for a final consultation,

Making lanterns in the Picton Town Hall for for the annual “Firelight Lantern Festival”. Photo: Ramesh Pooran

which we did in September. This meeting was shortly before municipal elections. We had a great turn out from the general public, including many councillors and council candidates. There was a strong endorsement for the plan and excitement grew about the possibility of a busy arts and community hub at the Picton Town Hall. More people stepped up to support and help.

We used that strategic plan for a proposal to council which was submitted in November. We await their decision anxiously! But we are now feeling much more positive about the likely outcome. Little did we imagine we were going to be able to make it this far. Our various performing arts groups and the broader community are hoping for the best…to keep a thriving life of arts and community growing.  

We await the decision of the municipality. You can find out more on our facebook page, @SavePictonTownHall or on our website http://savepictontownhall.ca/

“It has cultural capital that is priceless. As our public spaces, …our community gathering spaces become rare, as our lives becomes more secular, more withdrawn and less public, we’ll need buildings like the Town Hall with its beauty and its history to act as a cornerstone for our community. …My child has just begun to build memories like that: the first Firelight Lantern Festival, plays, dancing, food not bombs dinners, rehearsals for musicalsA quote from a supporter.

And thank you to the many supporters, too many to name, without whom we would not be where we are.


Some discoveries and tips:

  • Viability was all important.

This is where the strategic plan really rocked! We discovered that as we made our case stronger and demonstrated the project’s viability people began to realize we had our act together. Then it was amazing how much they were prepared to help. In effect, they’re not going to waste their time on something they think is going nowhere. So it’s simple. Be really well prepared when you go looking for support.

  • Expect things to take longer than expected.

If you’re working with other partners, anyone with their own internal structures to manage, (especially councils,) expect everything to take longer than expected. Fortunately, slower than we thought usually had its benefits!

  • There’s lots of technology that is helpful…go hunting!

Free apps. Lots of free stuff on Google enabling you to share work. Harvest, enabling you to capture volunteer hours easily. Canva, enabling you to make brochures, posters, invites. It also helps to have people on the team who understand the technology and are patient enough to help those who don’t.

  • Communication, communication.

It’s an effort but worth it. There’s no substitute for community support and we all need it, even if it’s a niche community you need. Find out what they’re thinking and be sure to make a connection with your community; in our case through local radio, local media, social media, town hall meetings, one on one interviews. And it’s inspiring to hear back, it really is, creating lots more energy for your project.

SPARC Shares… Spotlight On: Bruce Naokwegijig

Ontario Presents‘  ‘Spotlight On’ series, conceived of and supported by Denise Bolduc, features an Indigenous artist each month in Ontario Presents’ e-newsletter and blog.

This week we have chosen to share their profile of Bruce Naokwegijig: an actor, director, and Artistic Director of Debajehmujig Creation Centre. Bruce was also a panelist on the ‘Compensation Conversations’ panel at our 2018 Symposium in Cobalt (an archival filming of which was posted on our Facebook page yesterday!).

Read the profile here: https://ontariopresents.ca/blog/spotlight-bruce-naokwegijig

Join the SPARC Team!


The SPARC Network’s purpose is to ignite and help sustain performing arts communities in rural and remote Ontario. The Network aims to connect creators, presenters, producers and community animators working in rural and remote communities across the province, and encourage discussion, collaborative brainstorming, and the sharing of knowledge, resources, challenges and success stories. To learn more about SPARC visit https://www.sparcperformingarts.com/.

The job of the Northern Outreach Coordinator is to work with the Network Coordinator and SPARC Network Steering Committee to continue:

  • Building an active online network and creating opportunities for in-person networking
  • Connecting with likeminded organizations, networks, and community groups and pursuing possible collaborations and partnerships
  • Researching and developing services and resources needed to build the capacity of performing arts communities in rural and remote areas

The Northern Outreach Coordinator will be focused primarily on supporting rural and remote communities in Northern Ontario.

The successful candidate will be based in Northern Ontario** and will be bilingual (English and French). They will have an interest in the performing arts, strong communication and organizational skills, social media expertise (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and a working knowledge of community engagement. We are looking for a creative self-starter and leader who is able to balance working with project stakeholders, communities, the Network Coordinator, and the SPARC Network Steering Committee.

This is an 11-month contract position with the possibility of extension.

Key responsibilities:

  • Foster sharing and the development of a connected province-wide performing arts community
  • Consult with performing arts communities in rural and remote Northern Ontario
  • Engage a broad range of artists including those working in different performing arts disciplines (music, theatre, dance, media arts) and those supporting the arts in their communities, as well as Francophone, youth and Indigenous artists
  • With the Network Coordinator, use social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and other on-line tools (SPARC website, blog, Facebook live videos etc.) to encourage the exchange of information and networking related to the performing arts in rural and remote communities
  • Coordinate and/or assist the Network Coordinator with the development of new resources and services, and the translation of existing resources and services into the Northern context
  • Work with the Network Coordinator to provide strategic and operational support for the SPARC Network Steering Committee Working Groups
  • Attend community gatherings, conferences and other meetings to support the development of the network
  • Plan, maintain and report on budgets associated with this position
  • Identify and share with the Network Coordinator strategies for the long term sustainability of SPARC in Northern Ontario
  • Create, present, and begin implementing a plan for the SPARC Network to become fully bilingual. This may include researching and applying for specific funding to support this process.
  • Communicate with the Network Coordinator regularly, by phone or Zoom video conferencing
  • Attend monthly SPARC Network Steering Committee Meetings either in person or by video conference

$23.50/hour, 14 hours/week (flexible hours)

Some provincial travel required (including occasional meetings in Haliburton); vehicle required – travel allowance provided.

Computer required; access to SPARC Dropbox account will be provided for file storage. Cell phone required; subsidy for phone plan will be provided. 

To Apply

Please send cover letter and resume (including two references) to:

Rebecca Ballarin, SPARC Network Coordinator


Application Deadline: January 23, 2019


SPARC is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to fair and accessible employment practices. If you require an accommodation at any point in the hiring process please let us know and we will work to meet your needs.

SPARC is committed to reflecting our province’s diversity. We encourage Ontarians of all backgrounds, including those who identify as queer, Indigenous, or people of colour, as well as those with diverse abilities to apply.


**SPARC uses the Ontario Arts Council’s definition of Northern Ontario, which includes the Far North, Northwest, and Northeast regions of the province. This includes the Manitoulin, Parry Sound and Nipissing districts and all regions north of these districts. To view a map outlining these regions, click here: http://www.arts.on.ca/oac/media/oac/OAC-Geographic-Regions-Maps_Cartes-des-regions-geographiques-du-CAO.pdf

Skwachàys Lodge

by Olivia Davies, Program Manager, Skwachàys Lodge

Actors, animators, beaders, carvers, clothing designers, conceptual artists, filmmakers, event producers, and jewelers; these are the roles held by the artists in residence currently residing here at Skwachàys Lodge. We are a unique cultural hub for Indigenous artists from across North America seeking to immerse themselves in Northwest Coast community. The Artists in Residence program is supported through the profits of social enterprise of Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel and Gallery and receives no additional funding from governmental agencies. Managed and maintained by Vancouver Native Housing Society, the concept for the Artists in Residence Program came about in 2012 when the society took over the aging building and turned it around from the inside out: developing the ground level Urban Aboriginal Fairtrade Gallery, inviting local Indigenous artist to design the 18 boutique hotel suites, and completing renovation of 24 bachelor suites and shared Artist Studio space. The hotel has attracted guests from around the world for the unique Aboriginal experience; while the residency program attracts applicants at all levels of artistic career development that seek to reach their goals and contribute to the vibrant community of artists living here.

Our model is one of reciprocal responsibility grounded in right relations. Residents who successfully apply to the program are required to provide volunteer work in exchange for the housing subsidy provided. This can include working in the Gallery and providing assistance to Lodge events and activities, putting on a skills exchange workshop for fellow residents, facilitating an artist demonstration or public workshop, or helping in other ways that benefit the Lodge operations. Our programming includes professional development opportunities for residents to ameliorate their business skills, gain financial literacy, understand funding models, access higher education, and develop themselves professionally by taking part in high profile conferences and events. Alliances made with organizations and companies in Vancouver have provided our residents with access to subsidized gym memberships, discounted tickets to events, and even deals for free business cards and website development.

In 2016, our residency program was re-designed by Indigenous artist Olivia Davies, who brought her business acumen and professional artistic experience to the management of the program. A graduate of the Banff Centre for Indigenous Leadership and the Executive Administration program at Vancouver Community College, and an Indigenous choreographer with over two decades of performance and event management, Davies was able to take the vision of the residency into the future. By first overhauling the program admission requirements, Davies then began the process of coordinating professional development programming for artists that would provide lasting benefits for participants and encourage their own agency by facilitating skills exchange workshops for fellow artists and hosting live demonstrations of their work.

The talents of the artists in residence have been showcased locally, nationally, and even on the international stage. Artists living at the Lodge have had their works exhibited in Germany, Korea, the United States, and Mexico and have been recognized by their professional industries as leaders in their fields. Alumni have gone on to build their careers in Hollywood, New York City, Toronto, and other major city centres where Indigenous arts and culture are promoted. Emerging artists and scholars attending institutions such as the Emily Carr University of Art and Design or Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts are living in the Lodge and thriving by surrounding themselves with other Indigenous artists. Shared experiences foster the possibilities for connections, collaborations, and even informal mentorship. Cross-pollination of ideas and talents occurs naturally. The Lodge provides safe, secure housing and 24/7 access to a shared artist studio where artists can work independently and gain support through shared resources. To our knowledge, no other artist residency like this exists in North America.

The Lodge was named in a traditional ceremony by Chief Ian Campbell, the Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation on whose territory the Lodge was built. The Chief tells the story that “Skwachàys” is the traditional name of this area, which is located at the head of False Creek. It refers to the spring waters that once covered the area. The area was rich in elk, bog cranberries, wild rice, sturgeon, and salmon. The Squamish people believe that these waters are a portal into the spirit realm and are sacred. Retaining this name supports the ancient history and connection to the area.

The Skwachàys Lodge logo is derived from an original work created by Eric Parnell, A Haida artist living in Vancouver. The original work was created for the ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’, a story catching project that looked at Vancouver’s Eastside through the eyes of Indigenous artists. Eric chose to represent the idea of forward and back reflection with duplicate Ravens looking inwards and facing each other. The Ravens rest within a circle containing two human hands beneath a stylized sun, giving one a sense of holding the reflection in the light of these two views.The Artists in Residence opportunity at Skwachàys Lodge is a unique and life-changing housing program for practicing Indigenous artists. This includes subsidized housing in clean, unfurnished bachelor suites, 24/7 access to shared artist workshop, and access to programming opportunities for personal and professional development that help artists develop their craft and move into the next phase of their careers. Maximum three-year stay is dependent on successful program participation and achievement of self-defined career goals. Emerging, mid-career, and senior artists are welcome to apply.  Apply today for openings in 2019! Click Here!



Recent public event hosted by artist in residence, Taran Kootenayhoo on December 12, 2018

“Rough Draft” invited Indigenous spoken word artists, stand-up comics, musicians (Gillian Thomson featured in this video), and filmmakers to present their unfinished works in development for an evening of free entertainment held at the Lodge.


Recent public event hosted by Artists in Residence at the Lodge on November 2, 2018

HOT A.I.R. presented artist talks and demonstrations by current artists in residence including Whess Harman (featured in this clip)


Time Magazine 2018 Greatest Places to Stay





SPARC Shares… Why Faith and the Arts should Cohabitate

Today on our blog we want to share a post written by Kendra Fry – a Regeneration Works advisor working on the Regeneration Works: Places of Faith project (a partnership between Faith and the Common Good and the National Trust). This project offers consulting services, workshops, and self assessment resources to communities interested in ‘regenerating’ a place of faith to create a viable community space. To learn more (and to read through the profiles of ‘successfully regenerated places of faith’) visit http://www.placesoffaith.ca/

By Kendra Fry, Regeneration Works Advisor (Dec 4, 2017)

Playwright Marcus Youssef, upon accepting this year’s Siminovitch Prize for playwriting, gave a speech that clarified for me why I am interested in the intersection of faith communities with the broader community. Youssef wrote about his interest in points of intersection and the space between people, spoken and unspoken. He wrote about moments of unexpected connection between people, across culture and groups and about learning from these liminal explorations and the richness that comes from these moments.

Photo Gary Beecher of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church

That, in a nutshell is what I have been trying to express since taking on the position of the General Manager of Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts. Theatre, where I spent the majority of my previous professional life, often lacks in diversity of age, culture and ability, in both audiences and practitioners. Life, more generally speaking, does not encourage us to explore those outside of our experience. Young parents gather with other young parents, seniors with those of an age, professional spaces often have a narrow band of generational and cultural diversity.

From the moment that I entered Trinity-St. Paul’s, I felt the difference that this community centre offered. Babies were being fed by young mothers, the daycare was filled with children, many mid life and elderly people were attending classes or meetings, teens were playing dodgeball. More than that, groups occupying the space, like Dancing with Parkinsons, Viva Youth Singers, Japanese moms and tots, twelve step groups and Community Living Toronto ensured that we saw all walks of life in all stages, ages and abilities; all the time.

This for me was an entirely new expression of community. It was messy and slow. It required patience. I had to learn to connect with people where they were at and how they were best able to express themselves. It was and is a glorious collision of amateur and professional, expert and explorer. Those tenants, like Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, who are world renowned and at the apex of their profession are balanced and reminded of their journey by the baby in the room next door with the bloody loud drum! The child just learning to sing with Viva Youth Singers is encouraged to pursue mastery by walking past Brent Carvers’ rehearsal. In the age of social media where we retreat ever more into our inner circles, where else do we regularly encounter “the other”, those who are NOT us? Meanwhile, the two congregations of faith resident in the building provide a strong backdrop of social justice and an awareness of our requirement to act with kindness and charity and care for the other; wherever they come from.

Knowing that Trinity-St. Paul’s is far from the only community of faith pushing these boundaries, I began to explore the further dimensions possible when faith buildings chose to broadly open their doors to a cross section of the community. As faith congregation numbers dwindle, there is inevitably a real estate problem; too much space and not nearly enough people to occupy it. While faith leaders wrestle with reintroducing the relevance of faith to this age, I felt that my job was to share and expand this vision of how faith buildings can provide a home to overlapping groups of humanity, living and growing in community together.

And so, when the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation offered an opportunity for a Leading and Learning grant, I requested funds for a couple of exploratory trips to other places to see how the general community works with and within faith communities. Travelling with ArtsBuild Ontario and the Toronto Arts Council and wearing both my Trinity-St. Paul and Faith & the Common Good hat (for whom I’m an advisor), we set out to explore what might be and how we might enable it in Toronto and beyond. We visited synagogues and churches, former churches and community centres that house multiple congregations.

Over the coming weeks I (and my colleagues) will report back on the wonderful tales of other groups walking this road, culminating in a public presentation in the spring. I hope that you will share with me your stories of these types of spaces as well.

Welcome to the journey. Welcome to community collisions. Let’s see what happens next.

SPARC Shares… SpiderWebShow: Thought Residencies

This week for our blog post, I want to share SpiderWebShow’s “Thought Residencies”.

If you are unfamiliar with SpiderWebShow, it is “the first and only nationally-driven performing arts website of its kind in Canada. It is a practice-based network where cultural change is captured and examined. SpiderWebShow began as a dramaturgical inquiry. The question that led the charge was straight up and complex: What defines Canadian Theatre now?”

SWS runs foldA a festival of live digital art, hosts the ‘CdnStudio‘ – an online room that brings together collaborators from across Canada, launched the Performance Wiki project, and hosts ‘Thought Residencies’. These residencies provide a platform for creators across the country to share their thoughts on creation, the arts, work/life balance – whatever is on their mind!

I love visiting this page of SWS’s website and letting someone else’s thoughts and perspectives roll around in my mind and interact with my own every once in a while. Enjoy!


— Rebecca (Network Coordinator)