In every community, there are gaps of need where it is assumed governments step in to fix things. But if you’re marginalized or you’ve done activism/mutual aid work- you know it’s not so simple. On the whole, there ought to be more giving and helping one another. It sounds like an obvious sentiment, but it’s harder to put into practice when you are but one individual and don’t know where to start.
A tricky element of offering community care is knowing when it’s wanted. To offer without being invasive, and having knowledge on what is helpful so as not to be incidentally harmful. Especially when offering to groups that you are not a part of, on issues you have not personally faced.
Since Naeco Studio believes in the power of artistic modalities as a way of expressing, healing, and coming together; the community care typically carried out is arts-based. Sometimes it’s as simple as allocating or collecting donations of artistic supplies to get the ball rolling, or calling attention to other locals towards a cause that needs intervention. Sometimes it’s homemade zines, personalized letters, or making crafts with someone.
Community care, and mutual aid in particular, is rooted in anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, racial justice, gender justice, and disability justice. The history of doing things For The People, and helping one another, has been sustained by marginalized groups as a means of survival. This legacy and its practices are unfortunately still required due to the inequity present today, but the rich history ought to be credited to those groups, and is not to be confused with charity. Community care looks like giving without the expectation of receiving, and liberating people to be able to participate with their own autonomy. It is a matter of filling gaps of need, for each other.
Below are several instances of community care that Naeco Studio has spearheaded. The hope is that sharing these will inspire additional ideas of community care from those who have the means to do so. If you have any leads or ideas about community care projects that you’d like to collaborate on, especially arts-based opportunities, please get in touch.
Naeco Studio (in collaboration with Outlet Collective) was contacted to spearhead four murals in the new Maplewoods Centre at UoG. We orchestrated the project from planning, calls for community muralists, designing collaborative workshops, cultivating supplies, etc. Here are a few highlights from our interview with Guelph Arts Council:
They launched a call for submissions on January 17, seeking to prioritize spaces for individuals who self-identify as: Indigenous, Black, POC, LGBTQ2I+, individuals with mental health conditions, including addictions, and people with visible and/or invisible disabilities. “We are committed to making this project accessible for all participants,” they emphasized.
“Murals in spaces that provide mental health resources to community members have the power to not only express care and make the space feel lighter, but they’re also an opportunity for representation (…) fostering understanding and belonging.”https://guelpharts.ca/general/bridging-worlds-and-nurturing-connections-the-mural-project-at-the-maplewoods-centre-for-family-therapy-and-child-psychology/
Naeco Studio, in collaboration with Outlet Collective, facilitated a community-engaging event of art-making as a response to a pre-existing initiative. The evening involved guided art warmups leading to collaborative abstract mark-making on 30+ canvases. These canvases were donated to the Grace Gardens Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative in Guelph, which provided permanent homes and living supports for 30+ folks in the community to alleviate them from the housing crisis and the over-crowded, short-term shelter support alternatives. By inviting community to make mindful, collaborative art for these spaces, it was our hope that individuals would find their new homes to feel less clinical and more warm/encouraging A photo montage of finished paintings can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CmO-c1VjRL7/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Call for Action: 2020, onwards
Writing Letters to Elderly in Isolation
In 2020, Naeco Studio compiled a list of Canadian organizations who were accepting letter submissions to the elderly in isolation as a result of COVID-19. This was one of the first times Naeco Studio had pushed for a call to action, but it was far from the last.
Naeco Studio continued giving art, letters, and cards to the elderly throughout the pandemic, as well as collecting these sorts of donations from locals who wanted to contribute. Many of these gestures began with an Instagram call for action.
On one occasion, a community member made a public post in a local Guelph group asking for a few letters or art made by kiddos for elderly folks at their place of work. Naeco Studio got in touch with them and organized many artists to make hundreds of works, letters from community members, and works from kids as well.
Housing safety is a human right. So is joy, and the autonomy to express.
Naeco Studio got in touch with a wonderful community member going above and beyond during the COVID pandemic, fillings gaps due to closures. Whether someone’s transition into housing, amid lots of isolation, turns out to be a good experience is largely dependent upon the resources and materials they have access to in the process.
Encampment Support Network (Toronto) does incredible work with the houseless population to get them supplies as well as assist in media coverage and funding redistribution in efforts for community-oriented mindsets, especially when it comes to precarious housing.
I noticed the effects that signage had on their media coverage, how encampment residents found short expressions of love and resilience to get their messages across to press. They were also quite decorative, and I figured between the right to communicate and the need for creative solace, art supplies would be a worthy offering. I reached out to ESN and they confirmed it indeed was. This call for donations was Naeco Studio’s contribution.
MAKING PEOPLE FEEL SEEN MAKES PEOPLE FEEL LOVED.
Asking strangers if I can take their portrait is a process with many layers. First- the hurdle of embarrassment that comes from speaking to someone you don’t know, then the blushing smiles of those I’m trying to capture, and most of all, an exchange. Whether it be a story to listen to, a laugh, or just the witnessing of growth in front of a lens. I don’t have people pose, I have them tell me about themselves, just where I found them. There’s something about this process that’s raw and manages to connect me to my community. I think people feel seen, heard, and out of that comes some new sense of belonging.