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The art of community engagement

The art of community engagement

Sheridan professor Abigail Salole inspires her students to action with Photovoice, an exhibition created by her community workers class to tackle vital social issues.

Abigail Salole understands the power of art in community engagement. Since 2010, she has engaged her first-year Community Worker program students to put on an exhibit that brings light to a pressing social issue. Called Photovoice, the exhibit challenges students, faculty and the community to inspire meaningful dialogue around an issue that matters.

“For many students this is a first introduction to group work, which mimics the type of work many of them will need to do with community organizations,” said Abigail. “Students find it empowering when they get to share their viewpoint.”

Photovoice is more than a great way to get students to express themselves in ways that create necessary conversations. It is a critical part of the hands-on creativity stressed at Sheridan.

“Every year we have a class conversation about what is happening and relevant,” Abigail said. “We get into the habit of looking at newspapers to find a timely issue.”In past Photovoice exhibits, students have tackled tough subjects such as social inequality and the “99%”. In 2013, they class chose “The Human Project,” which dealt with ideas around bullying, stereotypes and the labels we are given ― a timely and important public issue partly inspired by the Rehtaeh Parsons suicide and cyber-bullying case.

What makes Photovoice so successful is the relevance of topics, and the diverse and compelling ways in which students choose to engage them.

“We have a wide range of life experiences at Sheridan,” Abigail concludes, “which is why placement organizations want to work with our students.”