Creating Together explores an emerging approach to research that combines arts practices and scholarship in participatory, community-based, and collaborative contexts in Canada across multiple disciplines. Looking at a variety of art forms, from photography and mural painting to performance art and poetry, the contributors explore how the process of creating together generates and disseminates collective knowledge. The artistic processes and works in an arts-based approach to scholarship make use of aesthetic, experiential, embodied, and emotional ways of knowing and creating knowledge in addition to traditional intellectual ways. The anthology also addresses the growing trend in arts-based research that takes a participatory, community-based, or collaborative focus, and encourages scholars to work together, with other professionals, and with community groups to explore questions, create knowledge, and express shared understandings. The collection highlights three forms of research: participatory arts-based research that engages participants in all stages of the inquiry and aims to produce practical knowing to benefit the community; community-based arts research that has community/public space at the heart of practice; and collaborative arts approaches involving multi-levelled, multi-layered, and interdisciplinary collaboration from diverse perspectives. To illustrate how such innovative work is being accomplished in Canada, the collection includes examples from British Columbia to Newfoundland and across disciplines, including the fine arts, education, the health sciences, and social work.
When you put your knowledge in a circle, it's not yours any more-it's shared by everyone.
Douglas Cardinal, Leader-Post
November 28, 1995
Over the last three decades arts research has evolved through a myriad of incarnations, taking momentous strides forward by carving out creative spaces within scholarly contexts. From the groundbreaking work of art educator Elliot Eisner, much has been written about what constitutes arts practices as research, when such practices become research, and how the arts offer alternate ways of thinking, doing, and rendering interpretations and understandings (see among an array of emergent works: Barone & Eisner, 2011; Cahnamann-Taylor & Siegesmund, 2008; Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Knowles & Cole, 2008; Leavy, 2009; Liamputtong & Rumbold, 2008). Today these movements continue to expand with increasing flexibility for customary methods and methodologies that involve a host of aspects, dispositions, and elements of the arts.
Canadian scholars have been among the leaders of arts-infused research, extending the aesthetic disposition and artistic energy of practice-led discourses in the process. For example, as Wiebe, Fels, Snowber, Margolin, and Guiney Yallop point out in this volume: "The editors of Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice, Cahnmann-Taylor and Siegesmund (2008) have noted that Canada is a place 'where arts-based research is more widespread'" (p. 53). Moreover, arts research happening in our locales is often framed as partnerships, set within community contexts, and involves deeply collaborative work, frequently residing on the academic margins as fertile yet sometimes suspect sites of inquiry, which begs key questions: How might we begin to understand what we sense to be different in the fluid, sometimes contradictory, even provocative demonstrations of intimate, embodied, and often messy expressions of scholarship? In what ways do the arts as research support new forms of creating collaborative understandings? Why does arts research matter across disciplines and within diverse communities of practice? What is our responsibility as arts researchers to create those very spaces that we know are needed to foster the scope, depth, and breadth of scholarship, which Rita Irwin (2004) so aptly describes as the arts with, in, and through our research?
At the forefront of this anthology, we situate multidisciplinary arts research practices as sites for critical conversations central to defining, exploring, and investigating current practices. The innovative research and experimental scholarly endeavours in this collection introduce readers to a host of issues related to the arts, including what constitutes expression and how to define the merits of creative scholarship to advance conceptual development and facilitate the maturation of creative research design. The nature of these many different forms of arts expression brings forward theoretical, methodological, and practical considerations in ways that help highlight the conditions, as well as the emotional and embodied qualities of creating knowledge through the arts.
In the course of this collection, we have striven to profile paradigms of thought about arts research that are defining this time and place in Canadian academic scholarship. This premise underlies our clustering of chapters that involve participatory, community-based, and collaborative arts practices as "through-lines" for the anthology. The authors for this collection include faculty, graduate students, community artists, and service providers engaged in many fields: the arts and humanities, social sciences, and health sciences, education (Indigenous education, counselling psychology, visual arts and drama education, and second language education), nursing, community and public health, mental health and psychiatry, sociology, social work, the fine arts, design, drama therapy, religious studies, applied human sciences, and interdisciplinary studies. All are actively researching and publishing in their areas of study. Artworks explored include applied theatre, digital storytelling, photography, mural painting, performance art, and poetry from scholars across Canada-British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland-and some scholars from beyond our borders who are collaborating with teams in Canadian contexts. While many of the studies are rooted in distinct regional Canadian landscapes, these localized projects are nevertheless translatable to broader audiences through the collaborative arts processes they model and the prevailing issues they address.
Perspectives on Contemporary Practices
With a specific interest in participatory, community-based, and collaborative arts research today, we begin by tracing the genealogy of our ideas, concepts, and orientations to earlier work of Canadian artists and scholars interested in creativity, from which the uptake of arts research across disciplines in Canada has, arguably, been profound. In this way we offer some tentative answers to the question of why this work, still in the process of emerging, is particularly vibrant within the current Canadian scholarly context.
Approaches such as Ted Aoki's "curriculum as a lived experience," offer a legacy that has inspired generations of curriculum scholars to reshape perceptions of learning and teaching through creative forms of expression, like life writing, which now flourishes in many academic realms. Perhaps by extension, arts research has met with more acceptance in Canada than elsewhere as a result of such innovative thinking. The first doctoral dissertation in the form of a novel, by Rishma Dunlop, was accepted at the University of British Columbia in 1999-a watershed moment that marked the beginning of a profound change in notions of research in Canada and beyond. Given this foregrounding of creativity in scholarship, it is not surprising that movements like a/r/tography emerged from communities of practice at the University of British Columbia (see Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Springgay, Irwin, Leggo, & Gouzouasis, 2008); arts-informed research at the University of Toronto (see Knowles and Cole, 2008); and narrative inquiry at the University of Alberta (see Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), to note just three of the numerous examples from across the academic landscape that have established a strong presence within scholarship in Canada. Such approaches have continued to inspire new ways of doing research nationally, and all continue to grow on an international scale.
It might be argued too that Canada has a propensity towards openness and diversity in many areas, including what counts as research. Canada prides itself on its progressive ideology, as demonstrated by the piloting of a funding category by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2005 for "research-creation" in the fine arts. Research-creation denotes an area of practice-as-study that has spurred deliberations on the equality of art and science in research funding, as well as the articulation of arts research as theory and methodology in graduate student research and across the academy. SSHRC acknowledges creative process as contributing to research activity and accepts creative outputs as evidence of expertise for purposes of evaluation, making research-creation a valid form of inquiry through artistic expression. Funding in this category is identified as primarily for fine arts disciplines, whereas arts research is thriving across disciplines. Alongside this new funding category, practice-led or practice-based research in the fine arts is a growing area of interest in Canada; the approach is exemplified in several chapters in this collection.
The Tri-Council Agencies, including the major Canadian funding bodies in the natural sciences and engineering (NSERC), health and medicine (CIHR), as well as the SSHRC, are emphasizing the need for greater public access to research through knowledge translation and knowledge mobilization. Arts research offers fertile ground for knowledge translation, especially in ways that meet the demands of research activities as community-centred and accessible to the wider society. This is evidenced in the diverse chapters included in this anthology. Certainly the arts, and, as we advocate, the arts as research, can be a way to produce knowledge, to contribute to human understanding, and to represent the complexities of human experience. A large and growing contingent of researchers in Canada is demonstrating the effectiveness of using alternative media and arts genres in communicating research findings and for interdisciplinary collaboration. Arts scholarship, then, is another way to communicate research results, with the potential to engage more varied audiences than traditional forms of research dissemination might, in ways that are emotional, empathetic, and embodied, as well as intellectual.
The arts, as a form and forum for knowledge dissemination through inter-disciplinarity, is another popular theme emerging in the Canadian academy that reflects funding structures. Arts practices have offered some flexible space for working across disciplinary divides, and, consistent with the academic foci on knowledge translation, participatory, community-based, and collaborative arts practices and scholarship also address a growing discussion within the Canadian government and within community organizations about research for social innovation. According to Government of Canada Policy...