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!

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. * 

Summer Students, Community Outreach and Updates

Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

By: Jackson Reed – Community Liaison – Summer Student


Hello dearest blog readers! Things have been pretty busy over here at Thinking Rock HQ.

I’d like to update you on Thinking Rock’s summer and the work we have been been doing throughout. First, we moved our office to Queen Street at The Downtown Association and are very excited that we are sharing this space with two other awesome organizations – The Downtown Association and the 4R’s Youth Movement. Both groups are community-minded organizations that share similar values in local business, artists, youth development, change making and other great things.

Thinking Rock at Lumberjack Days in Elliot Lake - July 2015

Secondly, Thinking Rock brought in two student staff members, including myself, for the months of July and August. We have spent time between the office and on the road contributing to the Rivers Speak project as well as coordinating outreach activities at events and festivals throughout the communities of Algoma. We visited Blind River Community Days, Desbarats’ Sustain Algoma Expo and Elliot Lake’s Lumberjack Days and have an upcoming event at Searchmont as Thinking Rock assists the work being done with the YSI Algoma Nest and its work to support young change-makers across Ontario.

Rivers Speak at Sustain Algoma Expo - July 2015

I’d like an opportunity to share a bit about myself as a member of Thinking Rock. I like being active in the music and art community. Through this work, I actively support and take part in organizing concerts at local venues (Loplops, Cafe Natura, 180 Projects) and promoting the Soo creative scene online. I will be starting my first year of school in Toronto this fall.

Emily Jane – Meawasige is a creative, passionate and eccentric high school student residing in Serpent River First Nation. Emily-Jane is currently working with Thinking Rock Community Arts to help promote The Rivers Speaks and other community projects.

I look forward to assisting in the development of the Rivers Speak project with the staff and its projects as an organization.

Thanks, I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

Stilts and Masks Workshop in Blind River

Posted by on April 29, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

Hello again!

We have been busy over the last several weeks with the Rivers Speak project and our skill-building workshops. In late March we held our Puppet Making workshop at Serpent River First Nation. Then, on April 18 & 19, we visited Blind River to host our next skill-building workshop, focussing on Stilt Walking and Mask Making.




We brought two talented artist-facilitators to Blind River with us. Sarah King-Gold, the artistic director for Myths and Mirrors Community Arts in Sudbury, brought her performing background of stilt walking and theatre performance for participants to learn about and engage in.


Teaching participants about balance on stilts


We also brought in Sean Frey, a mask, puppet and shadow puppet animator who has worked with Jumblies Theatre in Toronto. Sean has a great aptitude for bringing scenes from stories to life through mask making, which was demonstrated over the course of the weekend’s workshop.


Sean Frey working on Wolf Masks


As the weekend unfolded, Thinking Rock’s workshop attracted visitors and participants from several communities including Spanish, Elliot Lake, Serpent River First Nation, Mississaugi First Nation, Iron Bridge, Thessalon, Echo Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and, of course, Blind River.


End of Workshop performance


Underpinning it all was the development of a Kaswenta, the Two Row Wampum, one of the original treaties that outlines the principles of how Anishinaabe people of this area and the Visitors can work together from a foundation of Trust, Mutual Respect and Friendship.

This workshop was made possible by funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Arts Council – Conseil des arts de l’Ontario, and Theatre Ontario‘s Youth Theatre Training Program.


Learning about Kaswentah and Two-Row Wampum Belt


We will continue to offer opportunities over the next few weeks and months to learn more about the Rivers Speak project and Thinking Rock Community Arts. We are offering these workshops as a way for local community members to learn about the different artistic skills that can be incorporated in creating a community play. We invite everyone to become involved and learn about these skills as a participant, a maker, and even as a performer when Thinking Rock’s community play launches in summer 2016. These workshops are open to all, regardless of age or artistic experience.

In June, Thinking Rock will be offering another skill-building workshop at Mississaugi First Nation focussed on Theatre and Movement, which will be facilitated by the talented team from Aanmitaagzi from Nipissing First Nation.

An Elliot Lake workshop will follow in mid-August, when we bring Jumblies Theatre’s Ruth Howard and Arts4All‘s Liz Rucker to lead community members in exploring the use of Theatre Design and Words in a community play.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and check back on our website,, for further details.