ArtsCan Circle

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ArtsCan Circle

$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ArtsCan Circle was inspired by the work of Mike Stevens, a multi-talented harmonica player who, since November 2000, has been traveling to isolated communities in Labrador and Northern Ontario to share his love for music with kids and to help them explore their own musical expression.
Founded in 2002 by Mike Stevens and other artists, ArtsCan Circle now sends teams of volunteer musicians and artists to remote Canadian Indigenous communities to link creative artists with Indigenous youth at risk. The teams conduct hands-on workshops in playing instruments, songwriting, singing, drama and visual arts to build self-esteem amongst Indigenous youth and encourage positive outlets for self-expression through the arts. The organization also collects donations of new and used musical instruments, recording equipment and music instruction materials to set up instrument lending libraries and recording studios in these communities, ensuring youth have access to instruments on an on-going basis.

Mike first became aware of the challenges and struggles of Indigenous youth in remote communities when he met Innu youth in Sheshatshiu, Labrador in 2000. Since that time he began collecting musical instruments to take to remote communities and teaching kids how to play. In 2002, ArtsCan Circle was founded to expand upon Mike's work and started sending teams of musicians and artists to participating Indigenous communities to provide opportunities for youth to learn new skills and explore creative expression.

We currently work regularly in 6 communities: Natuashish and Sheshatshiu in Labrador and Mishkeegogamang, Pikangikum, Wabaseemoong and Fort Hope (Eabametoong) in Ontario and send teams for one week twice per year to each community to continue to build relationships and facilitate creative expression. Through hands-on workshops the children and youth of each participating community write songs, play instruments, write plays, create visual art and practice performance skills.

ArtsCan Circle teams frequently include Indigenous artists bringing traditional crafts and teaching traditional culture and language skills. The ArtsCan team also invites local artists and musicians from the participating community to join the team artists in the workshops so youth can see and learn from artists from their own community. It is our hope to encourage ongoing mentoring of youth by local artists/musicians and provide validation and support for local community artists and musicians.

Youth in these communities have very few opportunities for recreational programs in music and art. ArtsCan works both within the school program and in various settings in the community for after school and evening workshops. The week usually culminates in a talent show/performance for the entire community and local bands and musicians often join in add to the performance.
As we build relationships in each community by returning twice annually we deepen the impact of the program. Communities are providing feedback that they find the program extremely valuable for their youth and many have hired art and/or music teachers for their school as a direct result of seeing the joy and excitement created in the youth from working with the ArtsCan Circle teams. The more reasons and inspiration youth have to come to school the more likely they are to stay in school and continue their education. We hope to inspire youth to possibly pursue careers in the arts if they are so inclined.

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ArtsCan Circle

About You, Your Group, or Your Organization

ArtsCan Circle


, ON

Please confirm that this project could benefit First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples


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What categories best describe who your group or organization serves (check all that apply)

First Nations people.

What best describes your group or organization

Non-profit organization.

How long have you, your group, or your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Define your idea / project in 1-2 short sentences

ArtsCan Circle sends teams of volunteer musicians and artists to remote Canadian Indigenous communities to link creative artists with Indigenous youth at risk.

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Established (it has been running for a while, has grown and know it is making a difference)

Social Impact
Please tell us about the social impact of your idea or proect

ArtsCan Circle facilitates the education, health and development of Indigenous youth by promoting self-esteem and self-expression honouring traditional culture and language; sharing and teaching musical, visual arts, recording and performance skills; facilitating the creative processes and the achievement of positive recognition; and bearing witness and bringing voice to the struggle and achievements of Indigenous youth and their communities.
Although the impact of our programming is sometimes difficult to quantify, our volunteers have witnessed the inspiration and joy that music and art can bring to youth in these isolated communities. You never know when you will be in the right place at the right time to provide that ray of sunshine to a young person who really needs it.

Your Future Goal(s): Tell us what you hope to achieve with your idea or project in the next year

Our goals include adding one new community this year and returning twice to all the communities we presently work in.

In 5 years, what will be different as a result of your idea/project?

Over the next five years ArtsCan Circle will continue inspiring the youth of remote First Nations communities with art and music. We hope that more schools will hire art and music teachers as a result of seeing the impact of ArtsCan artists on their students. We would like to see more students from these communities graduating from high school, and expose them to career opportunities in the arts and music. All of Canada needs to hear the songs and stories of our First Nations, needs to admire their paintings and sculptures, needs to watch their plays and read their novels. Empowering today’s youth to express themselves through the arts will strengthen the voices of tomorrow’s First Nations artists.

Tell us about the people/ partnerships that are already involved and why they are important to your idea or project.

Our partners are the participating First Nations communities. We feel it's extremely important that they are working with us to bring new opportunities to the youth of their community. They are investing in the future of their community by helping youth learn new skills and build confidence in their ability to try new things and experience success. The participating community provides the space for art and music workshops and assists with scheduling and transportation so youth can attend. As we build this relationship more input is requested from the community as to future workshop content. Local artists and elders are engaged to work with the ArtsCan Circle teams to create content that is relevant and incorporates the culture and traditions of the community.

If there are other people/partners that you will reach out to tell us who they are and why they will be important to your idea or project.

We have partnered with the Songwriters Association of Canada, the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals and the Canadian Folk Music Awards to gain support from their memberships and help us find volunteer trip artists. We will continue to reach out to these and others we feel have an interest in supporting the growth and development of Indigenous youth in Northern Canada. We have received past financial support from the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, the Mississaugas of Scugog and various corporations, all of which we hope will continue to support us in the future.

Describe the kinds of support you receive (other than money) or will need to support your idea or project (e.g.: donated, space, equipment and volunteers)

300+ volunteers have helped raise funds and awareness for ArtsCan Circle; 50+ artists and musicians have volunteered their time to provide programming in remote First Nations communities. Instruments have been donated by Godin Guitars and several music distribution companies. We receive many donated instruments from individuals that find new homes in the North; our drop-off points are Borealis Recording (Toronto), Ottawa Folklore Centre and the ArtsCan office in Newmarket. Transportation of instruments to remote communities has been supported by the Ontario Provincial Police and TST Overland Express. Transportation of artists to remote communities has been supported by Wasaya Airlines and Air Canada, who allows us to collect donated Airmiles which we can redeem for flights.

Do you currently have funding for your idea or project?

Yes (answer the next two questions)