Take one modest storefront on a street in a working-class neighbourhood; fill it with donations of paints, fabrics and other recyclables; throw open the doors to the community to come make art. What do you get? A community art hive. Or, in French, a ruche d’art.
Art hives are the research focus of Janis Timm-Bottos, an art therapy professor with Concordia’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies. While open to everyone, this social-inclusion initiative especially welcomes those living on society’s margins. There are no instructors; participants learn from and teach each other and, in the process, share ideas about local social and cultural issues. These studios “provide opportunities to share abilities and develop leadership skills while giving back to the community,” Timm-Bottos says.
They provide other opportunities, too. Timm-Bottos teaches one of her university courses at La Ruche d’Art Community Studio and Science Shop in Montreal’s St-Henri district. Several Concordia graduate students are involved as re- search assistants, volunteers and art therapy interns. “The storefront studio provides an outlet and access to learning directly in the community,” she says.
Timm-Bottos is now focused on helping plant the seeds of a nation- al network of neighbourhood art hives. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation has given a $300,000 grant to help her spread the word across Canada; trips are scheduled from Corner Brook, N.L., to Vancouver Island.
“For these partners — the university, the private funders and the community — to come together to create free spaces for people to inquire about themselves, about their neighbourhoods, about each other, is wonderful,” Timm- Bottos says.