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The Ontario Shebang Edition

See this wonderful community engagement project in action!

What? (The Project)

We had the pleasure of speaking with Andrea Nann, artistic director of Dreamwalker Dance Company about her extensive community engagement project, The Ontario Shebang for this edition of the Arts Engage Canada newsletter.

The Ontario Shebang is a multi year, inter-arts, inter-cultural journey into a process that brought together artists and individuals from diverse backgrounds to be supported in a space for creative discoveries, and to explore collaboration and shared experiences. (Taken from The Ontario Shebang website). 

Who? (The Host Communities)

The Ontario Shebang took place in 4 communities across Southern Ontario: 


The time frame of each Shebang ranged from twenty-two months to four years.

How? (The Process)

The process in each community evolved over an extended period of time to allow participants to develop meaningful relationships, and to allow Andrea to adapt the process in response to feedback and reflection from participants. As a result, the Ontario Shebang uniquely manifested itself in each host community, creating an environment and process for discovery, exchange, collaboration and bridging. Each process concluded in a public, participatory, multi-arts presentation that featured people from various walks of life and lived experience. 

There were a number of different methods that the host presenters adopted to identify and connect with community partners and local artists. Guelph, for example, brought together programming directors from 5 local arts organizations, representing a wide range of art forms, and they each nominated an individual to form the core group of participating artists.  This collaborative nomination process expanded the community of support for the Guelph Shebang from it’s very start.

The Shebang's discovery process began with the commitment to do something that had never been done before and everyone had to be a part of the learning and exploration. Andrea explains, “Much of our journey was focused on getting to know one another, cultivating trust, and discovering new ways of maintaining a strong sense of self while being together.  Every individual was asked to make choices that would further the evolution of the group.  As the process deepened and the core artists entered unfamiliar territory, we observed amazing changes, amazing outcomes.  We started measuring the impact of people’s experiences, and looked for ways of translating what the process was and how the impacts might ripple out. How they would translate into the community and have impact on an artistic level".

The process demanded another layer of observer to become involved in the form of translators, who tracked the artistic process with the ability to see the Shebang through the eyes of the community. 

Reflection was a built-in and crucial aspect throughout the Shebang process. Reflection guided the shape of each project, allowing the translation of the project into the community to be an authentic and meaningful bridging experience. 


The nature of the final public performances varied. Some coincided with celebrations of the opening of new community hubs like The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines and the re-opening of The Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning in Kingston while others were celebrations in and of themselves in which the community could gather, connect and participate. 

For the artists involved, The Ontario Shebang created an opportunity to grow their artistic practices in ways that they couldn't have achieved while working in isolation. The process also allowed for the artists involved to discover new aspects of themselves while exploring different artistic mediums in a non-judgemental space. 

Andrea  attributes the success of The Ontario Shebang to the overwhelming generosity from the core participants, partners, guest artists, supporting organizations, and hosting communities; to all those who said “yes” and dedicated their time, energy and imagination to the project.

Ontario Shebang Photographers: 

Vickie Fagan, Jessa Agilo, Lisa Emmons, Mark Bergin, Eve Schifman, Dave Pijuan-Nomura.

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Dreamwalker Dance Company fosters and celebrates connections between artists, between how we live and how we feel, and between art and those on the margins. The Whole Shebang is our signature.
Read more on the Niagara Shebang
The Guelph Shebang
The Burlington Shebang
The Kingston Shebang

Arts Engage Canada Updates

Matters of the Heart project in Sioux Lookout

“Matters of the Heart” is a pilot community arts engagement project in Sioux Lookout designed to work with indigenous and non-indigenous youth and adults to improve relationships and the physical and mental wellbeing of young people in the community.

The project has been ongoing since it was uploaded onto the Arts Engage Canada website, read the full update on


MARCH 2017 - Arts Engage Canada Workshops

Want to know more about how to start an arts engagement project in your community?  We have the solution!

Learn some innovative and inspiring tips, ideas, and starting points to help you kick start your community engagement projects - utilizing the information, examples and suggested processes found on Work together on creating a bespoke project ideal for your venue and community.

Join Gail Ferrin, community engagement specialist and Jane Marsland at one of the ArtsEngageCanada Workshops listed below.

Each workshop will be happening from 10 am to 4 pm, light refreshments will be provided throughout the day:

Monday March 20th - Chatham (Chatham Capitol Theatre)
Tuesday March 21st - Brantford (Sanderson Centre)
Thursday March 23rd - Ottawa (Hosted by: Shenkman Arts Centre)

Monday March 27th - Oakville (Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts) 
Tuesday March 28th - Barrie (The Mady Centre)
Wednesday March 29th - Peterborough (Market Hall Performing Arts Centre)
Sign up for an Arts Engage Canada workshop here
Ontario Presents gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the development of Arts Engage Canada: 

Ontario Presents gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the following funders: 

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