Thinking Rock Blog

This is where we share updates about the projects we are working on across the Algoma District.  Be sure to check back frequently for emerging news and photos!

A Summer Full of Community Outreach!

Posted by on October 10, 2019 in Blogs | 0 comments

Reflections on a Season’s Worth of Social Fabric
by Áine Schryer-O’Gorman

At the end of June, I joined the Thinking Rock team as Programming and Outreach Assistant. We quickly started our summer of outreach with a day in Sault Ste. Marie at the yarn shop/café Shabby Motley for the opening of Tour de Fleece, a month-long fibre spinning event. Along with welcoming people to use our embroidery supplies, fill out our Social Fabric prompt cards, and participate in various other activities, we connected with community members about the Social Fabric project. Our highlight of the day was chatting with visitors about the importance of textile arts (specifically knitting and crocheting) in community, and how gathering together and creating textile art/garments helps build a welcoming, inclusive community. A few weeks later, Miranda – Thinking Rock’s Acting Artistic Director – went back to Shabby Motley for the closing of Tour de Fleece.

At the beginning of July, we had the pleasure of facilitating an artmaking session at the Explorer Summer Day Camp, run by Kensington Conservancy (KC) and the St. Joseph Island Hunters and Anglers Association (SJHAA). Over a few hours a group of twelve campers, aged 8 to 12, took part in a collaborative poetry activity and the creation of a felt landscape portrait. Through these activities we encouraged the kids to think creatively about their communities and the land that they live on. The venue on St. Joseph Island was beautiful, the kids were enthusiastic, and we were very thankful to partner with KC and SJHAA.

At the end of July, we facilitated a Block Printing drop-in workshop at 180 Projects in Sault Ste. Marie, where participants were encouraged to create a plate and print on paper and fabric, inspired by the Benjamin Chee Chee exhibitition, Life and Legacy, organized and circulated by the Temiskaming Art Gallery. Open to all community members, we ended up having a turnout of just under 10 participants. The day was calm and inspiring, with some wonderful results from the participants.

At the beginning of August, we hosted a booth at Thessalon Community Day and Little Rapids Fair. Both days were filled with summery weather and lots of talking with community members about the work that Thinking Rock does and Social Fabric, our current multi-year project. We brought our Social Fabric prompt cards, quilt block design activity, and a few other activities along with us and encouraged passers-by to think about community and get creative for a minute or two. At the end of the summer, we also hosted a booth for two days at the Bruce Mines Fair, where we encouraged community members to think about what it means to live in Algoma in the fall.

From August 11th to 17th, we were stationed at the 16th Annual Algoma Traditional Music, Dance, and Heritage Arts Family Camp. Every day, we hosted thoughtful artmaking of different types at our tent, which was very central to the site and got lots of people passing by to drop in for a few minutes. Artists Mary Schneider and Miranda Bouchard led a natural dyeing workshop, a fun experimental experience for participants, as part of AlgomaTrad’s Community Colours project. All week at Thinking Rock’s Social Fabric artmaking tent, participants of all ages dropped in and made collaboratively painted fabric, woven landscape portraits, drawings, felt landscapes, story illustrations, and “thoughtful rocks”. We also had Ruth Howard and Shifra Cooper, friends from Jumblies Theatre, join us for making and singing games.

Our part in the camp wrapped up with a beautiful little exhibition in “Cabin F” (with Shifra Cooper, Ruth Howard and co.) of artistic works created throughout the week, and stories, memories, thoughts, and images about AlgomaTrad that we collected throughout the week. Shifra’s children’s class sang songs, shared stories, and demonstrated puppet-dancing for a very attentive audience of campers as a part of the final display. We had a memorable, wonderful, and very busy week in artistic residence and collaboration at AlgomaTrad.

Thank you to all who supported our summertime activities as participants, audience members, makers, learners, donors of materials, facilitators, mentors, collaborators, and funders. We are already looking forward to next year!

YSI Algoma – Let’s Tend the Fire Gathering

Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

Moving Forward, Stronger and Brighter

By: Jon Cada

The YSI Algoma Nest hosted a gathering at Searchmont Resort in August, featuring a mixture of young community change-makers, adult allies and decision makers to develop meaningful conversations and relationships around several key challenges and barriers that young people face in Northern Ontario communities.

The gathering used the theme ‘Let’s Tend the Fire’ to focus on how the YSI Algoma community can continue learning about the values of shared leadership, facilitation and promoting the value of conversations so that young people feel empowered to host community conversations and develop action items from them. This theme followed last year’s YSI Algoma gathering, ‘Let’s build a Fire’ which brought young people from across the Algoma District together for the first time to discover where their hearts are for their community and how they can develop the skills they need and feel empowered to share them with others.

Meeting to share reflections and thoughts

Photo Credit – Jessica Bolduc

Since last year’s gathering, young people have benefited from the development of the YSI Algoma Nest by having a chance to share their reflections, share updates in their work and exchange ideas with each other while helping develop a community of support in the process.

Networking, another key development that has taken place in the Algoma Nest, gives young people a new outlet and confidence to ask questions and get feedback from different members and supporters so that they can push their ideas forward.

YSI meeting on the last day to talk next steps

Photo Credit – Jessica Bolduc

Some takeaways to share from this year’s gathering include a small group of young people wanting to utilize new tools, knowledge and communication strategies to build a community of people that can better support an emerging music scene in Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding areas. Individuals from Manitoulin Island and Thunder Bay, ON also attended and feel supported by the YSI Algoma Nest to begin bringing together key people in their communities so that conversations can be had around building a community of support and shared leadership in their respective regions.

YSI HeARTful harvest skit

Photo Credit – Jessica Bolduc

40 people attended the weekend event including individuals from Toronto who also count themselves as members of the provincial YSI community. Individuals from Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Goulais River, Batchewana First Nation, Echo Bay, Desbarats, Mississaugi First Nation, Serpent River First Nation and Manitoulin Island also represented their communities. Representatives from the Sault Ste. Marie Arts Council, Sault Ste. Marie Indigenous Friendship Centre and local federal party candidates also attended to learn about this exciting work. 

Funding and support for YSI Algoma’s ‘Let’s Tend the Fire’ gathering comes from the Laidlaw Foundation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Social Entrepreneurship Evolution, Children’s Mental Health Ontario, Thinking Rock Community Arts and the YSI community outside of Algoma.

Also, a shout-out goes to Gore Street Cafe, Cafe Naturathe Downtown Association and Mississaugi First Nation for providing space to meet, plan and coordinate the logistics of this gathering.

Gathering hosting team planning

Photo Credit – Jessica Bolduc

More about the YSI Algoma Nest:

The YSI Algoma Nest first started as a conversation in 2013, that included young people within Sault Ste. Marie and neighbouring areas to talk about how they can learn from one another and develop positive working relationships and collectively learn about the process of being in community with one another from across different backgrounds, fields of work and areas of interest. The provincial YSI initiative conversations originated out of Toronto in 2009 and includes individuals from across Ontario in on-going conversations to continue learning about what’s needed for young people to feel supported and empowered to create healthy changes in their community.

For more info about the YSI and how to get involved in this work, visit: or find news about the YSI on facebook.

Community Arts in Canada

Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

Reflecting on an Inspirational Journey

By: Jon Cada

To me, community arts has the the feeling of being a different form of conversation.  The connection between community conversation and art is as follows: conversation leads to ideas, ideas lead to plans and plans lead to leadership and development. Community Arts takes this prototype by hosting conversations in the community so that the community can have a chance to explore who they are and where their passion is in their community. The next step is taking those conversations and bringing them to life through art. The outcome here begins to change depending on the artists leading the project and the art forms they specialize in, but the work is not done by the artists themselves. Participants and volunteers in the community come together to shape the art by giving it a voice, a presence and a soul.

One of the things that tends to happen (and I love it every time) is when someone gets involved in a community arts project for the first time. The more they participate, the more they learn about themselves and want to try new things. Dealing with shyness and is something a good community artist knows how to accommodate; they give space to try things like painting, writing down ideas, simple drawing exercises and encourage people to share hidden talents they might have and appreciate their courage to try.

Thinking Rock Team back from BC

Each member of the Thinking Rock family has contributed to the growth of the organization and possess diverse experience as practicing artists, arts administrators, community organizers and facilitators, but community arts as a field of practice remains a relatively new idea and concept for most of us that we’re always learning about and sharing. Our first community play project, The Rivers Speak, has evolved from the feedback in the communities we work in and has become very much about supporting and empowering the cross-cultural history, understanding, and relationships within the area we share and call home.

Because of this work, we were invited to present at the Tracks: 7th Canadian Community Play and Arts Symposium in Vancouver, BC in May. We were excited (even a little intimidated at first) to be invited to attend as presenters. Our staff and our work is fairly green compared to other participants and organizations that we knew were attending from across the nation. However, we understood that our work means a lot for many people and it deserves the voice we have created for it. We were prepared to share our work, even as emerging artists and facilitators. This opportunity we gave us a chance to meet several West Coast First Nations communities and individuals that support community arts. Our work with First Nations communities in Ontario has mainly been through Ojibway culture and tradition, so we were interested in the perspectives from the Squamish, Musqueam, Tsilhqot’in, Splatsin and Coast Salish peoples.    

Jumblies Theatre, our mentor organization, worked hard to get us to British Columbia as part of their incredible Train of Thought tour, and our travel was generously supported by Schools Without Borders, who provided funding for our flights through our work with them as a “Featured Learning Partner”.

Jumblies was looking forward to us learning more about the work happening across Canada and that we may share our project with everyone there and develop connections. Ruth Howard and several key members of the Jumblies family have always been helpful and supportive of the work that Thinking Rock has been doing in our Northern Ontario communities.


For Thinking Rock, I saw this event as an opportunity to show that we are ready to call ourselves the next generation of young artists who are ready to use the arts as a tool for raising awareness of and challenging social barriers in the communities where we live.  

The event was a tremendous success and we all got an opportunity to meet some inspirational artists and organizers who shared with us the passion they have for their community.

We hosted a presentation at the symposium to highlight the work being done by young artists and social entrepreneurs in rural communities across Northern Ontario where relationship building and networking are crucial in supporting the arts. This presentation went very well as young people in British Columbia are looking for models of success from young people to base their own projects from. In the same day, we partnered with Dale Hamilton, one of the early practitioners of community arts in Canada, for a project at the symposium. The project involved a life size game board with interaction from the audience to explores and reflects on the challenges of starting and maintaining a non-profit organization in the arts. This opportunity was very exciting for Thinking Rock as it highlighted many of our organizational challenges as a young organization and also demonstrated how we have managed to meet those challenges while choosing to do the work in Northern Ontario.  


Oh Oh board game project with Dale Hamilton and Aiyana Maracle


The Thinking Rock team then traveled with the Train of Thought tour to Enderby, BC to visit Runaway Moon and Artistic Director, Cathy Stubington. Cathy’s relationship with the nearby communities which are of both Indigenous and Settler origin was very inspirational for the work we’re doing in the Algoma District. It’s especially an eye opener to see how much we still have to do, but that we’re certainly on our way there. I cannot wait to see how our work will grow because of that experience.


Cathy Stubington - Runaway Moon Community Tour


One thing I found on this trip is that meeting people through the arts is one of the most unique ways to learn about your community. You get a chance to learn how others look at their community and work in it. It also gives you an opportunity to feel more empowered by the community you come from and understanding your role in it. Thinking Rock’s The Rivers Speak project has come a long way already and I look forward to sharing more about this work as the community continues to shape it and learn about where they live. *