In January 2006, a group of Ottawa street artist
and Ottawa Innercity Ministries initiated the beginning of an artists cooperative. This partnership was
based on the principles of Assets Based Community Development (ABCD.) In a short six-month period a community
was developed and pARTners was born.
Artists in general encounter several obstacles
to achieving success. These include breaking through and gaining recognition, trying to support themselves
while creating their art and being accepted in a society that increasingly sees art as of little value in this culture of
the bottom line. For street artists there is the additional burden of having no place to create (except
in the warmer weather of the summer when they can work outside). On top of that, there is their need for
basic survival – many are on the streets, in shelters or low income boarding houses (hardly places that nurture the
creative process.) Many are dealing with addictions, where feeding that addiction or rehabilitating it
is their primary concern. There is also the Safe Streets Act, which prohibits streets artists from selling
their art on the street, where exposure in high traffic areas such as the market might reveal the next Norvol Morrisseau.
When an artist does manage to sell a few pieces on a street corner they hardly sell for what they might
actually be worth. Finally, creating art is an isolating process, and street artists already start out
with little or no sense of community.
Roughly, ABCD is a concept in which community
is developed by recognizing and using the assets within a group to empower and further develop that community.
Rather than solutions coming top down from the would be helping organizations, they are found an pursued in a lateral
partnership. In the case of pARTners, the assets are the work of the artists, the lessons they can teach
each other, sharing their own ideas on how to setup a show or display a piece, and doing the overwhelming physical work of
setting up a show. Each member has an equal say in the cooperative, contributes to the running of pARTners
and show setups as well as contributing a percentage of sales to the coop's budget. Though currently primarily
reliant on grants, the eventual goal is to have pARTners rely primarily on moneys brought in by the artists.
Ottawa Innercity Ministries oversees the grant application process, the initial accounting and administering of the
finances as well as proving a space for the artists and initial supplies, adding to the meaning of pARTners.
pARTners is an attempt to give the artists a voice
in their future and a sense of empowerment.