Warrior Women: Street Life and the Arts

Reports on the Project

Introduction and Background

A primary aim of community-based adult education is to work with the most marginalized in society (Freire, 1970, Walters & Manicom, 1996). In the city of Victoria, B.C. this most marginalized of population is homeless/street involved women.

In spring 2006, the Open Door Society responded to the needs of these women by developing the Community Arts-Based Learning Project for Street-Involved Women. Funded by the B.C. Ministry of Community Services, the project was built around the belief that arts/crafts were compelling tools of community adult education, public learning, community building, and knowledge dissemination when working with vulnerable groups (Clover, 2006).

Phase One: Warrior Women and the Garden of Arts

Individual and collective arts/crafts were the medium through which the homeless/street-involved women came together to discuss complex and often divisive issues of health, violence and identity and while not limited to Aboriginal Women, two thirds of the participants identified as Status, Metis or of Aboriginal Ancestry. 

This community arts-based education initiative aimed to strengthen women’s voices around activities within the Open Door organization, provide an opportunity for the women to develop their own knowledge, skills and capacities, and help them to creatively explore inter-woven issues of violence and health through arts/crafts media.

A key aspect of this project was a participatory evaluation. Through focus group discussions, one-to-one interviews and learning journals, women discussed what this project and the arts mean to them in terms of their own personal development, but also, in terms of the larger social sphere.

The project also aimed to build partnerships and collaboration by engaging with other community organizations working with the poor and homeless as well as the general public. To meet this objective, a public exhibition was curated of the women’s individual and collective arts in August 2006. Approximately 150 people attended this exhibition, titled “Busted but not Broken”, opening a space for dialogue and reflection around the perceptions of the creative abilities of homeless/street-involved women. The collective artworks included a mural, masks, a quilt and a life-sized marionette.

Phase Two: Phoenix Rising

We are currently engaged in the second phase of the project. Titled by the women, Phoenix Rising, the aim is to build on Phase One. Women will again come together and collectively develop mosaics and other visual or written artworks such as poetry. 

We will have further information on this phase by April 2007.

Thank-you List

This project would not have been completed without the help and contribution from the folllowing individuals and institutions:

Adult Education Knowledge Centre;

Vancouver Island Health Authority;

Board of Directors of Our Place Society;
Dr. Darlene Clover, University of Victoria;
Elaine Jones;
Candace McKivett;

Sharon Li;
Shylene Schlackl, Mosaic the City;
Paulette Francoeur;
Karen Cooper of On Canvas;
St. John the Divine Church for studio space;

The Project Arts Community;
Silk Road Tea Company;
Chandra and Neahla Moffat for catering.

We would also like to express our gratitute to Munro’s Books, Lance Glover, Marcia Sprangers, Karin Scarth, W. Christobel Macdonald, Corrina Craig, Deborah Norton, Margaret Huggett, Val Grotten, Ton Duy Nguyen, Jill Cater, Karen Cooper, and Tim Burroughs, for their generous donation to our Silent Auction.