"The Power of Expression” at Arts Court offers an artistic outlet to individuals experiencing homelessness

Since December of 2023, the City’s Recreation, Culture and Facility Services team at Arts Court has been running bi-monthly free 2-hour art workshops for individuals experiencing homelessness. These “Power of Expression” workshops facilitated by the Arts Court resident partners focus on the participants' interests in a variety of artistic disciplines.  

This pilot project is a collaboration between Arts Court and the Social Services Community Engagement Team and aims to cultivate a safe space to allow participants to freely express themselves, amplify their voices, and nurture and develop their skills. Throughout the months that the program has run, it has connected with over 40 individuals of different ages, backgrounds and experiences. 

Ron is a regular participant who found out about the program through word of mouth. “I’ve been trying to make it faithfully,” he says, “and have been coming since January.” It is clear that he enjoys his time as part of the art community as he talks fondly of his experiences. When asked about his favourite project to work on, he mentions doing stop-motion animation, a filmmaking technique where objects are physically manipulated and photographed in small increments to create motion when played back. He recalls animating a UFO, initially facing frustration and crumpling up his work. However, his instructor's suggestion to incorporate the crumpled paper into his film proved to be a creative breakthrough. Following the workshop, his film and others were featured on screens on Rideau Street, courtesy of the Rideau Street BIA - a proud moment for any artist.  

Despite Ron's initial hesitation about his computer skills, he was able to manipulate sounds and beats to create a soundtrack during the music production workshop. He stuck with it and learned a new skill. Participants have also been able to try out painting, dancing, and screen printing on t-shirts among many other things. Some come regularly, while others only come once; they can attend as little or as often as they like. “I wish I could attend every workshop,” Ron says, “but being unhoused makes it harder to attend every one.”

The act of creating art can be a vulnerable thing, especially for those who are naturally guarded. From the beginning, these workshops have been aimed at providing unhoused members with a space that is psychologically safe and open. Repeated attendance has resulted in the nurturing of friendships and connections that extend beyond the creation of art. The art they create is beautiful, celebrated, and valid, and it is something that they have full control of and artistic license over. When individuals attend these workshops, they are artists first and are seen as such.

Support the artists

On Saturday, June 1, join us in celebrating the strength and talent of these artists at the Arts Court Open House(link is external). Visitors will be able to admire the art up close and support the participants of the Power of Expression workshops by purchasing t-shirts featuring their creations. As part of Doors Open Ottawa, this event is guaranteed to feature something that the whole family can enjoy, while giving back to the community at the same time.

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