Community-Engaged Arts

I lead community-engaged arts using whatever means necessary for all participants to contribute to the artistic process and product. We improvise, create soundscapes, pull pieces apart and put them back together into new compositions, re-write lyrics and repertoire from participants favourite musics.  Each group is unique, and I make an effort to draw on the interests, experience and expertise of everyone in the room.

We come from the mountains,
We come from the prairies,
We all come together
And turn the world around.

These lyrics co-written by a choir I led at Mount Royal University in Calgary just after the 2013 flood communicate beautifully how people feel when they make music together. This sentiment and the community that springs up among people who make music and art together is what motivates me to make community-engaged art the centre of my artistic practice.

Another such project is Stories of Care, a podcast series made with the clients, caregivers and families of the CARE Centre, a recreational centre for adults with severe disabilities, produced during the  first six months of the global coronavirus pandemic. See above video for details on Stories of Care and my approach to community-engaged arts (translation below).

Louise Campbell, Portrait of a Cultural Mediator:

What’s a striking moment in your practice of musical mediation?

I work with a center for adults with severe handicaps and seeing as a I had to restructure the project in a short period of time, (the pandemic was declared ten days before I was meant to start) I really had to dig into my creativity to be sure that everyone would be able to contribute something. So the fact that we can spend time together even at a distance is really touching for me. In fact, I even have a little postcard that the director sent me! So we do a weekly radio broadcast and everyone who can join, joins, and is able to ask for a piece of music. We’ll chat together about a specific question and share each other’s company even if we’re far from one another. So this is something that I’ve been living lately and have been for four months, which is something that’s really striking for me.

Can you describe your current practice of musical mediation in three key words?

“Listening”. I’m at the service of people I’m working with, so my first job is really to listen to others. “Adaptation”, which is really because I’m always searching for the best ways for others to make music. So if there’s someone in the room that really needs to adapt, it’s me rather than them. And finally “fun”, which is central to music in general, and absolutely in cultural mediation. If we don’t have fun, why do this at all? The idea is really that fun, laughter and enjoyment opens up everyone’s creativity, and it makes sure that everyone wants to come back and share with others.

What’s a tool in your mediator’s toolbox that you can share?

I find that we need lots of tools and the more we have, the better we can respond to various situations. Just keeping the passion for learning is the best way to continue mediating, continue learning and really keep on flourishing in this job. Learning continuously is very practical for me because I’m a classical clarinetist by training who has played lots of new music. I’m always learning, so I’ve become quite a digital musician lately over the last four/five years because I found that I needed to learn how to better make music in a virtual manner, with a computer and all of the tools that we now have in the 21st century. For more specific references, the website “Pass the Sound” has many examples that are quite useful for those who have never done this. It has these little videos with beginner exercises that you can use to get started and find a way to continue with.

Participant testimonials:

“Louise’s patience and mirth makes for a very safe room.”

“… her encouraging words and manner make you WANT to do your very best—no matter how YOU think you may sound…EVERYONE has something to contribute, and no one person is any better, or worse, than anyone else; WE ARE ALL EQUALS.”

“After having been told most of my life that my voice was of the kind that needed to be seen but not heard, (and therefore to not really sing but to only mouth the words), you cannot imagine what great joy Louise’s Sing class has brought to me… She is innovative, non-judgmental, and extremely knowledgeable and creates a safe place where all can test their limits, take risks, and most of all, have great fun.”