Digital Access to the Arts: A Direct[Message] to Older Adults in Southern Ontario  

By Rana El Kadi, Direct[Message] Research Lead & TJ Charlton, Direct[Message] Project Manager

Direct[Message] is a collaborative community arts project based out of Southern Ontario and generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund. The project was born in 2019 after a group of artists, researchers, and engineers decided to address the gap in accessible, inclusive artistic programming for older adults from under-served communities.

The Project

Before the pandemic started, studies showed that one third of Canadian seniors were at risk of experiencing social isolation, which negatively impacts health. And although participating in artistic programs is known to dramatically improve seniors’ social connection and wellbeing, research shows that Canadians who belong to the senior, visible minority, and disability communities have lower arts participation rates than others. So how can we use the arts to decrease seniors’ social isolation and improve their wellbeing, especially during times of pandemic?

The Direct[Message] team believes in the power of intergenerational collaboration, reciprocal learning and knowledge exchange. That is why we’re reaching out to community members in Hamilton, Guelph and London. We need your help to research and co-design digital applications and physical devices that would make it easier for older adults to access and participate in interactive artistic programs. Our initial focus was on live video streaming technology, and how galleries, museums and other arts organizations can use this technology to reach audiences beyond their physical spaces. Now with social distancing measures in place, there seems to be an even greater urgency to develop and test innovative online platforms that can provide virtual artistic programming to the community. We have also expanded our definition of the “arts” to include any activity that seniors consider creative (such as gardening, cooking, chair yoga, virtual reality experiences, etc.).

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Physically distanced Zoom interviews with the project's Community Consultants: Maggie Perquin (top left), Kathy Smith (top right), Richard Claus (middle left), Rana El Kadi (middle right), Suad Badri (bottom left), and Wilamina McGrimmond (bottom right)

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What you Need to Know About Phase 3 in the Guelph Arts Scene: Community, Resiliance, and Innovation

By Ahmri Vandeborne

As spaces begin to re-open for the first time since the initial closures in March, we reached out to local arts hubs to collect all the information you need to know about how they’re adapting while re-opening, and asked the big burning question, How do you think the arts community will grow through the challenges of COVID-19?

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Artists come together at Silence’s first Music Monday since March


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Guelph Emerging Artist Mentorship Project 2020

Guelph Arts Council is relaunching the Guelph Emerging Artist Mentorship Project (GEAMP) this Fall, a highly successful program that has run for six previous rounds. This project supports emerging artists in the critical transition to professional life, thanks to the support of the RBC Emerging Artists Project.

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Summer 2019 GEAMP Round Culminating Performance at Boarding House Gallery

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Digital Doors Open: D.O.G. Tales – In the Making

By Ahmri Vandeborne

The Arts Industry has always been one full of flexibility and changing landscapes. In mid-March, Guelph’s annual Doors Open was in full swing and ready to roll out but like everyone else in the world, the Arts Industry was forced to re-shift their focus. This year’s Doors Open Guelph (D.O.G.) is moving a Guelph favourite of touring historically and culturally significant buildings in-person, to digital storytelling. It might be a little different than anyone expected, but Guelph Arts Council and a dedicated production team are working hard to make sure it is just as captivating as the in-person event.

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