2023 Congress: Art for Social Change

Living a Creative Life Congress colour graphic

The 2023 Living a Creative Life Congress focuses on Art for Social Change as we explore the question: How might artists lead the way to a more equitable, inclusive, and accessible city where everyone belongs? 

Get inspired, hear about some of the amazing work being done by Calgary artists, exchange ideas, enjoy good food and possibly find new collaborators for future projects. We also have an online option available for those who can’t attend in person.

The congress opens on the evening of Tuesday, November 14, 2023 with a keynote address by arts activist and spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, VP of Social Impact at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C., followed by a panel discussion. The Congress continues all day on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, including a presentation and panel discussion in the morning, followed by a break for lunch, then an afternoon of learning labs (you’ll find a detailed schedule and list of speakers below).

2023 Congress: Schedule

When: November 14 & 15, 2023
Location: Central Public Library (online option available)
Cost: Free with registration
ASL interpretation is provided

Reserve a ticket for Tuesday, November 14 here
Reserve a ticket for Wednesday, November 15 here

Tuesday, November 14

  • 6:30pm: Doors open
  • 7pm: Welcome
  • 7:15pm: Keynote Address
  • 8:15pm: Panel Discussion

Wednesday, November 15 

  • 8:30am: Doors open, registration and light breakfast snacks
  • 9am: Welcome and Group Agreements
  • 9:30am: 7 X 7 Presentation
  • 10:45am: Break
  • 11am: Panel Discussion: 11am
  • 12 noon: Lunch
  • 1pm: Learning Labs (choose a 90-minute session)
  • 2:45pm: Break 
  • 3pm: Reporting back 
  • 3:30pm: Art for Social Change grant information
  • 4pm: Artistic Response and wrap-up
  • 4:30 – 5:30pm: Networking reception

Tuesday, November 14
Doors open: 6:30pm
Welcome: 7pm
Speaker Marc Bamuthi Joseph: 7:15pm

Arts activist and spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, VP of Social Impact at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C., kicks off the congress with insights on art, community development and social impact.

Photograph of March Mamuthi Joseph | Photo by Bethanie Hines
Panel Discussion: 8:15pm 

Naheed Nenshi hosts a panel discussion about the role of artists in making our city a more equitable, inclusive and accessible place where everyone belongs. 

Naheed K. Nenshi, Karen Youngberg, Patti Pon, Tamara Lee-Cardinal and Wunmi Idowu

Wednesday, November 15
Doors Open and Registration: 8:30am

Register, make a name tag, participate in a community art-making project led by The Alcove Centre for the Arts, and get settled in for the morning sessions. Coffee, tea, juice and some light breakfast snacks will be available. 

Welcome and Group Agreements: 9am

Calgary Arts Development President & CEO Patti Pon welcomes Blackfoot Elder Saa’kokoto to start us off in a good way before sharing our group agreements and setting the context for the day.  

7 X 7 Presentation: 9:30am

Host Sally Njoroge, program lead for the Trico Changemakers Studio and lead for the Art for Social Change hub, starts us off with the question What is Art for Social Change? Then 7 artists each get 7 minutes each to share a slide show with us about their work in the realm of Art for Social Change.  

Panel Discussion: 11am

Community activist Cesar Cala hosts a conversation with four Calgary artists whose work has brought communities together, shaped lives and celebrated what it means to be human. 

A montage of headshots for panelists including: Cesar Cala, Sharon Stevens, Jennifer Buchanan, Cheryl Foggo and Dwight Farahat

Lunch: 12 noon 

Free lunch is provided. Over the lunch hour we hope you’ll also have time to contribute to the community art-making project, explore the library, or chat with old and new friends. 

Learning Labs: 1pm

Choose which one of the following 90-minute sessions you want to attend:  

1. Inspiring Youth Voices through Storytelling and other Art Forms

led by Karen Youngberg and Chantal Chagnon  

Stories are powerful tools that make connections, build empathy and compassion, and encourage understanding of other points of view. This engaging, hands-on workshop will help you discover your story and voice and the different ways you can share it. 

Photo montage of Karen Youngberg and Chantal Chagnon

2. Black Art is Our Resistance

led by Wunmi Idowu and Priscille Bukasa 

A cultural dynamic that uses the creative and transformative power of the arts as a tool to amplify Black identity, challenge systemic injustices, and unite communities in a vibrant tapestry of resilience and empowerment. 

Considering a Black Aesthetics viewpoint and envisioning a future where resistance is fertile, we will be exploring how Black artists can use their creative abilities as a catalyst to inspire social change.  

Join facilitators Wunmi Idowu and Priscille Bukasa as you learn how to problem solve through Arts and Cultural Strategies to build collective capacity for equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. 

Recurring themes: 

  • Longing to be heard, recognized, respected, and have our work seen in a critical manner. 
  • Racist culture and behaviours from local arts organizations and the arts ecosystem. 
  • Financial barriers and lack of investment in Black creators. 
  • Industry professionals unable to reach their career goals due to systemic racism, economic and educational disparities. 
Photo montage of Wunmi Idowu and Priscille Bukasa

3. Reimagining the Identity of the City

led by Bethel Afework and Dennis Lee 

Is Calgary a city that reflects you or your community? Do you feel like something is missing? 

Join the Founders of The Alcove Centre for the Arts, Bethel Afework and Dennis Lee, as they lead a participatory brainstorming session to re-imagine the future of Calgary. 

Photo montage of Bethel Afework and Dennis Lee

4. Brave spaces – increasing our capacity for uncomfortable feelings

led by JD Derbyshire 

Photo headshot of JD Derbyshire

JD Derbyshire is a writer, comedian, mad, activist, performer, playwright, theatre maker, inclusive educator and innovator. In their playwriting, performance and essays, they have tackled some deeply personal and complicated subjects like queerness, gender, confusion, institutionalization, addiction, disability culture and abuse with humility, grace and humour. Learn how to navigate tough feelings and use them to your advantage in your work and life.

5. Building Confidence to Tell Our Stories

led by Gayathri Shukla 

Photograph of Gayathri Shukla

Our stories are powerful. It shapes the way
we see ourselves in relation to the world
around us. It also solidifies our sense of
belonging with others. This experiential workshop blends discussion and practice to help participants
reflect and share their lived experiences while creating a safe space for others through an equity lens. Participants will walk away with a renewed understanding of how to tell their stories with confidence, strengthen self-compassion, increase inclusion and reduce discrimination in everyday situations. 

The method used in this workshop is called guided autobiography, which is a unique way to be invited into the lives of others, to experience through the medium of their stories, the ties that bind us all — the challenges, wins and hopes that constitute their lives, as well as our own. The workshop will be hosted by Gayathri Shukla, a certified instructor, who will provide writing and discussion prompts. Please note, prior writing experience is not necessary, and you may share only what you are comfortable with within the group discussion. Come as you are to experience connection and community! 

6. Online Participants Learning Lab

led by Stacey Perlin

Photograph of Stacey Perlin

Online participants will have their own Learning lab led by Stacey Perlin. Through group conversations in small breakout rooms you can get to know other participants, share your ideas about how Art for Social Change affects your living a creative life, and explore the question: how might artists lead the way to a more equitable, inclusive, and accessible city where everyone belongs? Lastly, the whole cohort will regroup to share the wisdom that came from the small group chats.  

Reporting back: 3pm

You could only attend one Learning Lab, but this is your chance to hear back from each group about the key takeaways from their session. There are also notetakers in each session who will write a short report that will be available a few weeks after the congress.  

Art for Social Change Grant Information: 3:30pm

Calgary Arts Development Community Investment Manager Allan Rosales will share information about a new Art for Social Change grant currently in design for 2024. 

Professional Poetic Interpretation™️: 4pm

Calgary Poet Laureate Wakefield Brewster will offer an artistic response. 

Wakefield Brewster | Photo: Tamara Becker, Empire Images

Networking reception: 4:30 – 5:30pm

The event will remain open for those of you who want to continue the conversation, check out the community art piece, make connections with potential collaborators or just hang out a bit longer. At 5:30pm, it’s a wrap — thank you for attending. We hope to see you next year! 

2023 Congress Planning Committee 

Allan Rosales 
Cherie McMaster  
Helen Moore-Parkhouse 
Priscille Bukasa 
Sayonara Cunha  
Stacey Perlin 
Wunmi Idowu 

With the assistance of Lena Soots and Sally Njoroge of the Trico Changemaker Studio

Digital producer Savanna Harvey 

Calgary Congress 2016

Living a Creative Life Congress 2017

Art and Social Change Congress 2018

2022 Congress: Imagining the Future Together