Art-making and the federal election

Experiment #1
Art-making and the Federal Election
September – December, 2015

Lab Director: Tara Mahoney
Lab Supervisor: Dr. Judith Marcuse
Lab Coordinator: Stephan Perrin

Post-secondary Partner: Art for Social Change (ASC!) National Research Project, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University
Community Partner: Tin Can Studio


As a field study for the Art for Social Change national research project,  Creative Publics Lab brought together artists, students and community members to participate in art-making inspired by social and political issues leading up to the federal election in October 2015.   In collaboration with  mobile art studio Tin Can Studio, we traveled to four sites and set up interventions where participants had the opportunity to explore election issues through various forms of art-making including collage, photography, videography, chalk art and improvised choir.


Voter turnout has steadily declined at all levels of government in Canada over the past two decades for many reasons. While not apathetic, an increasing number of young Canadians are less likely to vote or be members of political parties. In 2012, Elections Canada reported that there is a strong need to “reinvigorate civic life by finding ways to make politics more relevant”.

The objectives of the experiment were to observe the scenes of non-formal political engagement in three urban settings, identify the people who participate in non-formal political engagement and decipher the role of arts-based practices in political learning and voter engagement.


By facilitating spontaneous public art-making inspired by the election, our aim was to open up new spaces for political expression where ideas and perspectives can be explored through and facilitated by creative, tactile activity.

The project culminated in an interactive public art installation that was on display in front of the Belzberg Library at SFU Harbour Centre campus in downtown Vancouver during the week before the election (October 12th -16th). Read our press release here.

Read about our findings in the final report and the forthcoming issue of PUBLIC Journal.


Media Coverage:

iPolitics – Could this be the election that breaks Canadians’ political apathy?

The Tyee – Four Heartening Hints Young Voters Are Paying Attention
Vancouver Sun – Encouraging and engaging voters through art
The Georgia Straight – Creative Publics art project aims to inspire young voters in Vancouver
The Peak – “Not-a-Party” election party celebrates nonpartisan politics
CJSFF 90.1 FM: Federal Elections 2015 – Creative Publics, Art for Social Change

*Photo credit: Kim Gilker; Video credit: Zack Embree