We Walk, Listen, and Share
This ongoing arts based community action project brings together diverse stakeholders within community to re-frame, imagine, and honour lived experience of those at the heart of the toxic drug crisis that is affecting communities. A group of artist-researchers, front-line workers, and people with lived and living experience banded together in a spirit of solidarity, attempting to come to terms with the impact of the crisis on individuals and community. As a way of moving forward the project aims to:
- enable new ways of thinking about the toxic drug crisis as it is played out within these cities, and within small cities generally – leading to systemic forms of change
- explore the lived and felt reality of the crisis alongside statistical/empirical data, and in relation to official and more vernacular cartographic representations of place
- develop insights surrounding the crisis leading to the design of positive change and transformation
- create research and research models that are participatory and rooted in the local—produced through multi-level community agency
Using a practice of cultural mapping, communities impacted by the crisis are brought together to share stories and create drawings/photographs that speak to their experiences. These are made accessible through public presentations and ‘story-walks’ – guided audio journeys that bring participants through various outdoor ‘reflective spaces’. Communities and groups are invited to walk and listen, and to sit together – responding to the stories in a sharing circle. Through this process, communities are encouraged to find connectedness with the people and places at the heart of this crisis.
During the months of September and November 2020, the Comox Valley Art Gallery was the initial activation site. An exhibition and public story walks launched the ongoing arts-based community action project.
Since that time the project continues to expand it’s outreach to other communities on Vancouver Island and beyond. More about the project and current activities can be learned by checking out the following links:
Barb Whyte, Elder / Health Advocate + Traditional Knowledge Keeper
Sharon Karsten, Project Director + Community Engaged Researcher
Nadine Bariteau, Creative Director
Christopher Hauschildt, Research Administrative Coordinator
Sophia Katsanikakis, Communications Coordinator
Andrew Mark, MITACS Post-Doctoral Fellow
Walk With Me exists as part of a larger participatory action research project: Cultural Mapping the Opioid Crisis, developed by researchers in Comox Valley (Comox Valley Art Gallery) and Kamloops (Thompson Rivers University) – in partnership with AVI Health and Community Services and a network of community advisors.
Vancouver Foundation, AVI Health & Community Services, BC Arts Council, Island Health, Comox Valley Art Gallery, Thompson University