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Many artists live precarious lives, work piecemeal jobs with no security, yet somehow still successfully
create art. Dr. Mary Blackstone, professor emerita in theatre at the University of Regina, wants to know
how they do this.
“Increasingly this is the direction of the labour force,” says Blackstone. “Artists can help others understand
how to survive this way of life. They are our canaries in the coalmine.” Part of her research involves
investigating how artists are connected to the communities they serve.
As director of the Saskatchewan Partnership for Arts Research, Blackstone conducted a study with artists
and the public to better understand the complex web of interconnected relationships in what she refers to
as Saskatchewan's arts ecology.
Responses from an innovative province-wide survey provided Blackstone with a more complete picture of
that arts ecology, a unique perspective few people share. “Information about artist wages, working
conditions, networks and their impact on communities is vital because we are transitioning globally to a
new economy grounded in creativity. Building healthy arts ecosystems is an important step towards
generating a creative economy and culturally rich and sustainable communities in the province,” says
The next research phase will extend the focus to Alberta and Manitoba and broaden the scope to examine
the roles of a wider range of players in arts ecosystems and their impacts on society – including areas
such as health and well being as well as economics.
Blackstone's work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).