ImprovEnabled in Canada includes the following projects:
‘We’re all Living in our Imaginations’: Exploring the FASD Experience through Improvised Expression
This socially-engaged project lead by Dr. Rebecca Caines and Dr. Michelle Stewart from the University of Regina, Canada, with a mix of community-based partners, blends art, art-based research methods and applied social sciences to better understand disability and social isolation.
For example, when looking at Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the project focused on the difficulties and opportunities inherent in this complex disability, including an enormous creative potential. Developed in 2015, the research project started with the premise that people with disabilities like FASD are experts, and can hold the artistic and imaginative potential needed for improvisation such as, impulse, imaginative narrative, and spontaneity.
This is a strengths-based approach to understanding disability and social isolation through evidence-based practices that demonstrate the strength of interdisciplinary engagement between applied social sciences and community-based arts.
Pilot Stage (2015-2016):
In the pilot stage, we worked with a support group and a diagnostic centre, that both had programming for FASD, and were both located in Saskatchewan. We ran improvisation workshops testing theatre, music, visual art, and interdisciplinary games in an open and flexible structure. We saw a strong creative potential and high levels of social engagement. These improv workshops held potential to create a space for new kinds of communication, storytelling, life-skills, and community building. We could see that the workshops were an entry point to explore story and experience while supporting creative capacity.
Feasibility Stage (2016-2017):
In this stage, we hired two experienced community-engaged improvising artists, Jayden Pfeifer and Johanna Bundon, who then ran another series of workshops with a partner agency that they had done previous work with. We gathered information from the facilitators throughout. Again, we saw strong potential for improv to be useful for agencies, community groups, individuals and families, especially when delivered in a way that leaves room for a range of different kinds of improvisation and involvement to take place.
Improvise and mobilize: addressing social isolation through applied research and arts practice
This project mobilizes findings from our initial research projects, to demonstrate how applied community-based arts combined with social science interventions can assist those who struggle with social isolation. There are three main activities:
1. An international research event featuring experts in the area of community-based arts and applied research. Situated within the “Improvisation and Mobility” conference that was held at the University of Regina in May 2017, this cluster of workshops and events brought together keynote speakers, researchers, artists and graduate students to highlight current projects and the role of improvisation in addressing social barriers. See http://improvmobility.blogspot.com/
2. Outreach activities (2018-2019) focuses on trips to Northern Canada, Northern Ireland and Australia. Workshops on complex needs and social isolation will be held with community and campus partners to discuss research findings and facilitate local implementation of similar projects focused on local challenges in the area of social isolation.
Our main Canadian site for this project is Whitehorse, Yukon, where we are partnering with FASSY (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon) and a number of arts and community partners to embed improvisation into existing programming. There have been a number of successful research trips to demonstrate, support, and collaborate on improvisation initiatives.
We are delighted that Yukon Art Centre and FASSY have been co-delivering ongoing community improv sessions in Whitehorse.
Wider Playing to Our Strengths Project:
As part of this connection project, we have developed an easy to use toolkit for community agencies. Click here to learn about the “Playing to Our Strengths Toolkit.” This has enabled us to partner with a large range of agencies, support groups and other organizations across Canada, and internationally, who are all using the toolkit in front-line work.
Michelle Stewart has partnered with the FASD Network of Saskatchewan to develop a new, improvisation-based resource kit for families. Contact us for more information.