The Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop (The Atelier), opened in April 2018, is a not-for-profit, member-based organization. We are an inclusive bilingual space (physical and virtual) for collaboration, training, knowledge-sharing and providing support for social innovation. Our organization is the practical branch of an ecosystem located at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, alongside the Élisabeth‑Bruyère School of Social Innovation and the Centre for Research on Inequalities and Social Transformations (CRITS). Our members—students, researchers, practitioners, entrepreneurs and local communities—are stakeholders in the field of social innovation.
Amélie is the Atelier’s administrative coordinator. In 2021, she completed a master’s degree in agroecology in Norway (Norwegian University of Life Sciences). She is interested in socio-ecological transformation in food systems. To foster social transformation and create an emancipating society, the Atelier and its coordinator believe in change through engaged art and cultural mediation. With that goal in mind, the organization initiated its first citizen-based art project with the Gagnon-Forest duo of artists in 2021. This collaboration continues with the current project Land: echoes and dissonances created as part of the program for the Dialogues: Encounters with Riopelle’s Oeuvre from Sea to Sea.
This collaborative project brought together a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous visual artists who were asked to express their own vision of the idea of territory, using the urban landscape of the Ottawa-Gatineau region for their inspiration. It was organized in conjunction with the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop, an organization working for justice and social transformation.
During two walking tours and a workshop, participants had an opportunity to rediscover two historic sites undergoing major urban transformations. On May 13, the poet and Kitigan Zibi Elder Albert Dumont led a walking tour during which he explained the cultural significance and sacredness of the Akikodjiwan site (Chaudière Falls) for the Anishinaabe Nation. On May 14, historian Michel Prévost gave a presentation, followed by a discussion workshop, about the history of the LeBreton Flats and Chaudière Falls and the many transformations that occurred there in the past or are planned for the future. This is also an important area for the capital’s French-speaking community.
The key topics for discussion during this workshop were nature, the post-industrial urban setting and the democratic process. These encounters initiated a dialogue between local residents from different generations and cultures about the transformations of the landscape brought about by major real estate projects underway in the capital.
The artists were asked to create an artistic restitution by drawing upon the discussion topics for inspiration and, to varying degrees, addressing the issues that came up in the workshop. Employing various approaches, they brought their own visions to bear, using both traditional and updated practices, such as contemporary beadwork or photographic or technology-based tools such as 3D modelling. Echoing the legacy of Jean Paul Riopelle, the artists’ works raise questions in equal measure about landscapes, nature and what is sacred. The urban territory is analyzed in Mathieu Gagnon’s images and reproduced as a motif in Mathilde Forest’s work. A bestiary (medieval book of beasts) comes to mind when viewing the masterful materiality of Craig Commanda’s work, while Jobena Petonoquot’s work conveys a profound symbolism.
The project will end in the late summer with an outdoor exhibition at the SAW Gallery in Ottawa’s Arts Court. During a presentation given by the artists at the opening on July 4, the public will learn more about the project and be able to participate in a continuation of the discussions initiated during this cultural mediation exercise.
Realized within the framework of the centenary
The creation of the Foundation was inspired by the dream of Jean Paul Riopelle, who wished to pass on his passion for art, his vision and inspire the next generation of artists to explore, innovate and surpass their creative potential.