Concordia University students give back to the community, creatively

On December 3rd, students from Concordia University’s The Right to the City project will present a theatre and art showcase at various locations in Pointe-Saint-Charles after spending their Fall semester working for community organizations in the area. The neighbourhood will be lively with the students presenting their experiences through exhibits and performances.

The Right to the City project is a group of three classes at Concordia, for students in Art History, Art Education and Theatre. Ted Little teaches the participating theatre course, called The Neighbourhood Theatre, which provides students with the experience of being an artist-in-residence.

“The Neighbourhood Theatre course is for students to look at the advantages and challenges of being an artist-in-residence,” said Ted. “Students are paired with a community organization in the Pointe-Saint-Charles area. The priority for the courses is reciprocity for the student and the community organization. Our students bring creative imagination and youthful energy to the organizations to assist with the existing programming and employees. They bring an artist’s sensibility to the mix.”

Students have been paired with organizations like the YMCA, Share the Warmth, and St-Columba House. They have been able to help with things like programming, children’s activities, and adding workshops to the program schedule. “Our students are learning from experienced programmers and employees of these organizations,” said Ted. “They are learning about a social economy model, and hopefully at the same time bringing in fresh ideas and helping with the workload of existing employees.”

The project was titled after the right to the city concept by Henri Lefebvre. “The concept is that we have the power to change the city from the inside out, and render it more inclusive,” said Ted. The university funded the project for a three year period, and this is the program’s final year. The last group of students will be presenting a showcase in the Pointe-Saint-Charles community about their experiences throughout the semester.

“The day will start at 2:00 pm with performances at Share the Warmth, where we will also unveil stained glass works created with local participants using materials reclaimed during the building’s current window replacement project,” said Ted. “Afterward, there will be a curated walk featuring a tour of neighbourhood art. The day will finish at Salon Laurette with an art exhibition and further performances. There will be food and hot beverages for everyone in attendance, as well.”

Although the first three years of funding are now complete, Ted stresses that the program is far from being finished. “The university is very keen on the results of this program so far, but we want to take this time to reflect and evaluate what we’ve done over the past three years,” he said. “We’re going to have a study session to assess the impact on the university and the neighbourhood and present the results publicly. We fully expect it to continue in the future.”

Some of the lasting impacts from this program are already clear. “We don’t just leave the neighbourhoods when this program is over. Many students are taking supervised internship courses and continuing to work at the organization they were paired with. Some students remain as volunteers, and some are even finding employment there,” said Ted. “For those of us running the program and for those participating, it has been hard work but it has been marvelous, rewarding work and we hope to see the echoes of the students remaining in the community for a long time to come.”

For more information and the full schedule of events of The Right to the City showcase, click here.

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