Nurturing an arts community where everyone belongs

Nurturing an arts community where everyone belongs

Nurturing an arts community where everyone belongs

How working with community connectors helps to shape an arts centre that's truly for everyone

Guided by an unshakeable belief in the power of the arts and creativity to transform lives, we take our role as a community arts centre to heart; helping artists of all ages, backgrounds and abilities uncover their creative potential, explore their passions, and share their talents with the people they care about.

Our goal at artsPlace is to continuously cultivate a space in which everyone feels safe, inspired, and included—a place where everyone belongs. We believe that Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) are more than just words, they are practices we need to engage in on a daily basis. With that in mind, inclusivity has been a part of our mandate since the vision for artsPlace started taking shape.

Since 2020, artsPlace has undergone different stages of training in DEI, Indigenous Awareness, cultural sensitivity, and more.

“We understood that a true diversity, equity and inclusion process starts from the inside out,” says artsPlace programs director Nicole Fougère. “That meant we wanted to do a lot of training for our staff, Board and artist educators at the beginning steps of our process, so that we could have a common understanding of what it means.”
“artsPlace responded with a strong desire and commitment to this process,” adds Becky Lipton Fournier, artsPlace director of fund development and strategic initiatives. “I feel grateful that there is such a genuine interest and dedication to doing this work.” 

Our aspiration is for IDEA to be a responsive process, always evolving based on feedback from the many diverse voices in our community. We knew that at the heart of this journey would be an act of deep listening to our community.

To understand how we can better serve each individual and the many communities that make up the Bow Valley, address the barriers they face, and become a truly welcoming and inclusive organization, we engaged SLD Consulting to complete a comprehensive IDEA Audit between November 2022 and June 2023.

The IDEA Audit included Listening Circles where diverse community members gathered to share their honest experiences with our consultants. Community Connectors helped us bring together participants newly settled in Canmore, those from the disability and neurodiverse community, Stoney Nakoda community members, as well as other underrepresented communities. We also held Listening Circles with our Board and staff, and sent out a survey to artsPlace community members, including volunteers, teaching artists, performers, and other partners.

We wanted to hear not only from artsPlace patrons but also from folks who were experiencing a variety of barriers to accessing the centre.

“The community kept saying over and over again; please keep going with your Truth & Reconciliation work, please make more equitable access to programs, please continue to diversify the community that enjoys this centre,” says Nicole. “It was that call from the community that really made us decide to go into the audit process.” 

Through the Listening Circles, we learned that the key to building an inclusive arts centre is a genuine commitment to connecting with diverse communities in the Bow Valley, to conversing with a variety of folks, to listening and responding to their needs.

“It’s important to remember that diversity, equity and inclusion is a practice, and we must keep working on it all the time,” notes Nicole. “We must keep learning, we must keep trying, we must keep letting go of old ideas and being open to new ones, we must stay humble and apologize and change sometimes, and I have faith in artsPlace’s ability to do that.”
“We are fortunate to go through this process with staff, board directors and community members who are really passionate about it,” adds Becky. 

This is true of the Community Connectors artsPlace works with, as well. Folks who have supported artsPlace in this journey like Katarzyna Wroblewska, Noriko Ohsada, Travis Rider and Emmanuel De Silva naturally lean into leadership roles in their communities because they deeply care about the well-being of those around them.

Whether it’s organizing social gatherings, brainstorming ideas to provide better access to local services, leading organizations, volunteering on boards, or simply offering to help their fellow neighbors, they take care of their communities.

Through cultivating genuine partnerships, artsPlace has made a commitment to consult and co-design our future with the folks who have been involved in this process, and with community members who are yet to come our way.

“These relationship building initiatives really translate into more community accessing the community centre,” says Nicole.

Meet some of the artsPlace Community Connectors and read what they have to say about their roles in this process.

Community Connector

Noriko Ohsada

Noriko is an artsPlace team member contributing to IDEA initiatives at the centre. She also supports the work of the Bow Valley Connections Centre; a non-profit organization that generates opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“We want facilitators and volunteers to be ready to care for kids with disabilities, but also to know how to identify their needs to help them enjoy these experiences. It’s a turning point for a child when we make their environment more comfortable.”

Community Connector

Emmanuel De Silva

Emmanuel, or Emman for short, is a local business owner who co-founded the Canmore Filipino Canadian Society in 2020 after the destruction from the Taal volcano eruption in the Philippines directly affected many local families.

“It takes time for newcomers to adjust to a new culture and a new place. We are acting as a bridge to connect them to programs and make them feel comfortable here.”

Community Connector

Kasia Wroblewska

She supports artsPlace by leading our Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) efforts dedicated to building and nurturing relationships in our diverse communities, and making meaningful steps towards creating a welcoming and safe space for everyone in the Bow Valley.

“I think it’s important to find a way into the diverse communities that live here and to learn from them. Learning about different cultures helps us to understand where people are coming from and to be more inclusive of those different experiences."

Community Connector

Travis Rider

Travis is a Stoney Nation community member who works to promote mental health and wellness from a Stoney perspective. He is the Indigenous Liaison to artsPlace and has helped artsPlace initiate a series of Cultural Learning Circles that aspire to build a bridge of understanding between different cultural groups in the Bow Valley.

“We need to learn how to coexist and live with each other and that starts off by sharing each other’s culture. Sharing a culture is another form of teaching. We want to hold space for people to learn from each other.”

What We Heard From You


• 91% feel that they can be themselves, and feel safe and respected at artsPlace.

• 83% feel that artsPlace values individuals for all their differences and diversities.

• 80% feel that they are welcome and that they belong at artsPlace.


• 47% feel that they have a good understanding of the programs artsPlace offers.

• 40% agree that artsPlace offers inclusive support and resources to diverse people and needs.

• 8% said they were not able to afford the programs and performances they wanted to attend at artsPlace.

• 6% said that they don’t know who to talk to at artsPlace when they need help.

The DEI Audit was made possible by funding from