SFU Big Data partnered with the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC) on a project to collect, analyze and visualize data on participatory arts organizations operating in British Columbia. These organizations engage communities through the collective making of art about topics that matter to them. Generally, they are facilitated by trained artists and explore community art creation as a way of generating dialouge and exploring issues facing the community. The purpose of this project was to document and raise awareness about such organizations. ICASC manually created a database from publically available information about these organizations. Subsequently, SFU Big Data and VIVA partenered with ICASC to develop visualizations that effectively showcase the diversity of these organizations.

As the project evolved, its potential to generate dialouge around underserved communities and government funding streams became apparent. We created visualizations to explore topics surrounding the types of communities being served by various community-engaged arts organizations in BC as well as exploring the various federal, provincial, and municipal funding streams directed to these organizations.

A major challenge and learing experience in this process was translating and communicating data formatting and shaping needs for visualization. The process of scrutinizing data revealed misplaced assumptions and challenged understanding of the true meaning of the data.


These visualizations are currently hosted on the ICASC website at https://icasc.ca/BC-ASCmap/ . Visualizations related to funding streams have been used in discussions surrounding federal funding sources in Ottawa. This project has demonstrated a proof-of-concept for cataloging and visualizing data about participatory arts organizations that can be replicated by other provinces or at a national level.