Arts and Culture at the SPCO

Supporting arts and culture as a means for residents to live healthy, connected lives, to nurture social and economic well-being, to increase belonging and understanding and to explore new or challenging issues.


building culture through Art and Music

Youth Lens.
This unique photography and visual story-telling project took place with 72 young refugees and new immigrants in Ottawa.  Over several months, in a train-the-trainer model, young people enriched their lives through virtual get-tegethers, producing and sharing their own photos.  This was a collaboration with U Shine Movement thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.  See the virtual exhibition.

Youth Leadership Through Photovoice. Through partnership with the Association of South Sudanese Languages Institute, this photovoice project was launched to ring youth together and create a space fo inclusivity.  This project provided the young people with a fun opportunity to explore belonging, mental wellness, dealing with challenges of living between two cultures and community concerns like safety, poverty, under-employment and racism.  Funding from a SHINE grant from Crime Prevention Ottawa.

In the Wind Art Collective.  Among other activities, In the Wind provides lessons on a digital art software useful for personal and professional visual and audio activities.  The artists and participants bring diverse skills and experience and create a robust network > Visit the website

Youth Active Media. Youth Active Media (YAM) is a videography initiative that gives youth the training and tools they need to create short films about topics that matter to them, including bullying, the environment, community safety, mental health and more. Through the art of filmmaking, youth are able to tell their stories, express themselves and have an impact on the issues.  The main goal is to empower youth to effect positive social change in their local communities on key issues and to build connections between participants and the broader community.  Youth Active Media is a collaboration of the SPCO and Youth Ottawa.  Visit the Youth Active Media Youtube channel.

Arts for Wellbeing. This was an arts-based project for young racialized adults to reduce isolation and promote mental well-being through visual arts, dance, photography and sports.  Activities allowed for conversations about youths’ self-confidence and life challenges and empowered them to use their feelings creatively.  Funding from a SPARK grant from United Way East Ontario.

Creative Well Theatre. This project offers adults living with mental illness a chance to participate in intensive arts programming, gain new theatre skills, access creative outlets to express personal stories and build communty through working together as a growing theatre ensemble.

Sharing Dance. Over 400 seniors in our partner organization, the Ottawa Ethno-cultural Seniors Network, participated in 2021 in this virtual dance program to increase physical activity.  More than 60 senior volunteers hosted online group or on-demand sessions in multiple langauges.  This a collaboraiton with Canda’s National Ballet School with Funding from the Government of Canada New Horizons for Seniors Program)

Anti-Racism Video Project.  This was a youth-led project in collaboration with SPCO and the Catholic Centre for Immigrants.  A group of youth leaders facilitated an anti-racism and discrimination photovoice project that included 10 racialized youth.  The project described the realities of their experience of racism, communicated their perspective and identified some paths forward that could engage diverse people to improve the situation in their local communities.  Funding from a SHINE grant from Crime Prevention Ottawa.  See the video here.

Together as One:  A Newcomer Youth Wellness Project.  Shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 30 newcomer youth collaborated with the Social Planning Council of Ottawa and Catholic Centre for Immigrants Ottawa on a photography and advocacy program for newcomer youth.  The project helped the participants overcome social isolation and stress in the times of COVID-19 and learn new skills for well-being.  Funding was from Bell Let’s Talk.  See the eBook.  


building culture through Social Connection and Sport

Ottawa Ethno-cultural Seniors Network. The Network is comprised of over 25 grassroots ethno-cultural groups supporting seniors from diverse backgrounds.  The leaders and members of the groups support emotional, social, health and cultural needs, as well as hold steadfast their traditions, values and language.  Among other activities, they provide regular social activities, many arts-focused and all strongly rooted in their respective cultures.  In 2022, they held their first joint cultural festival.  Find our more here.

YouVoice: Mental Wellness for Youth. This project was a participatory research project using photovoice to explore mental wellness among racialized young adults.  Among the key recommendations from the participating youth, was for more social activities for young adults, particularly arts- and sports-based activities.  Download the YouVoice-Ottawa-Report_version1 or view a video snapshot of the research.

Coping Mental Health Through Soccer. GIThrough the Active Newcomer Youth Ottawa program, SPCO organizes a free summer soccer league to address social isolatoin and mental health.  The participants, who are mainly racialized youth, learn to tackle mental health issues and foster mental wellness through sport and recreation.  Visit the website.

Mino Miikanan.  Mino Miikanan (translation:  good trails /pathways) ran two projects in 2020-21.  The first was land-based activities for Indigenous men, including walks in nature, building of small sheds, sharing food, and healing circles.  The men also built an Inuit traditional sleigh (qamutiik) from scratch.  The second project provided traditional wellness activities (including land-based activities) for Indigenous people and families, during a time where many were experiencing isolation and added stress from disruptions due to COVID-19.  Activities included get-togethers to make medicine bags, soap stone carvings, traditional leather belts, and walking sticks.  They visited a wellness camp and participated in various traditional land-based activities including but not limited to building a sweat lodge, making toboggans, and roasting marshmallows and storytelling on the land. Many of the activities encouraged being in nature and in relation with other Indigenous people and elders.  Participants benefitted from culturally appropriate wellness supports and the grounding that comes from access to activities on the land.  The project was sponsored by the SPCO, with funding was from the Ottawa Community Foundation.


building culture through Education, Training and Learning

Supporting Cultural Industries through SPCO’s Youth Employment Program. Creativity and cultural industries are pillars to healthy communities and a strategic factor for sustainable urban development with an equity lens (as per UNESCO Creative Cities).  Through our youth employment program, the SPCO subsidizes the employment of skilled young creatives who have supported cultural industries in Ottawa and the Valley.  The creativity and skills of the young peole are helping local museums and cultural businesses to develop new program, implement marketing and communications, and re-imagine serivces.  See an example here.

Mapping Ottawa’s Music Industry. This project is supporting the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition’s action planning to expand the music industry in Ottawa, beginning in 2022.  The SPCO will provide a quick environmental scan to identify where music happens in Ottawa.  This project builds on SPCO’s community economic development approach of growing the supply and demand side of strategic local economic sectors that create good local jobs to meet important local needs.

Hot Shoe Productions. Hot Shoe Productions is a youth videography company run by the Social Planning Council of Ottawa.  This social enterprise is run by talented young people who create compelling video products for clients while growing their own careers in the arts.  Visit the website.

Gotta Go! Campaign. “Our Ottawa Needs Public Toilets” was a partnership between Gotta Go! and the Art House, with funding from the Ottawa Community Foundation and sponsorship by the SPCO.  Local artists were solicited for art works that raise awareness about the need for public toilets.  This project provided a unique opportunity for the artists and the public to use creative ways to advocate for better public toilet access in Ottawa.  Check out the art here.

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