Patti Fraser: Community engaged arts can change lives

The Fostering Change website is one way we can showcase people making a big difference in the lives of youth aging out of care.

The 2013 recipient of the Vancouver Mayor’s Art Award for Community Engagement, Patti Fraser’s holds a post-doctoral research position with Simon Fraser’s University’s Art for Social Change Research Project and is co-Artistic Director of The Housing Matters Media Project.  


A. I have been a community-engaged artist for over 30 years, and a founding member of Leaky Heaven Circus and the nationally recognized Summer Visions Film Institute for Youth. 

My work focuses on the use of narrative to investigate vital issues the community shares through a variety of artistic mediums. This work has been recognized in fields as diverse as the Chee Mahmuk Aboriginal Education Centre with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the Canada Council for the Arts. I was also an artist-in-resident for four years in the Arts Health and Seniors Research Project.

Currently I’m working with media art installations created in collaboration with Corin Browne. Her most recent work is titled the 19th birthday party created in collaboration with youth who have experienced government care. This work was supported by Fostering Change and the Housing Matters Media Project.   

Q. What is the most rewarding element of your work?

A. Helping to create networks of activism and support through creative practice within a community engaged setting.

I am constantly surprised and inspired by the atmosphere of conviviality and challenge that authentic creative art produces in the community.

The work produced in community-engaged arts projects have the capacity to affect policies and people’s thinking through perspectives that reach far beyond most traditional avenues of communication. 

Q. What solutions or innovations would you like to share? 

A. We need to create opportunities for creative practice and artistic work with communities of youth. We need to see innovative creative community engaged arts work as work that can change lives. 

My hope is within the next generation artists will be placed as central agents within institutional settings. Skillful facilitation and well-supported creative communities can produce innovative responses to many of the challenges facing youth.

Networks of support, particularly within youth-based work, can reach far beyond the original intent of the project. Working with former youth in care on issues relating to homelessness, community-engaged work can provide urgently needed connections to the larger community.   

Learn more

To learn more about Patti Fraser and her art, take a look at: