Arts-Based Tools for Community Development

Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network

1 1 18 January 2017

Full disclosure, I do not have an artistic bone in my body. So, when I received an invitation to Literacy for Life’s Culture of Collaboration event – Arts-Based Tools for Community Development – I was convinced that my inaptitude would be revealed to the communities of Okotoks and High River.

I am happy to report that the facilitator, Glynis Wilson Boultbee and graphic recorder, Wendy Meeres, introduced and modelled that Arts-Based Community Development refers to processes instead of projects. In other words, artistry and creativity lie within each of us.

To begin, Glynis explained that ‘the arts’ we would be exploring include:

  • Visual
  • Literary
  • Performing

Why arts-based?

According to the website Creativity at Work, “Art-based activities can be used strategically to create safety, build trust, find shared values, and shift perceptions. Combining right-brain imagination with left-brain logic and analysis increases the capacity for breakthrough ideas and insights that lead to success.” (Retrieved from, January 17, 2017.)

Sue Stegmeier, Executive Director of Literacy for Life, worked closely with Glynis to use arts-based tools while identifying the needs of adult learners in her community. In particular, this Culture of Collaboration event evidently focused on the desired outcome of increased literacy and essential foundational skills of adults from Advanced Education’s Building Vibrant Learning Communities: framework and actions to strengthen community adult learning councils and community literacy programs.

How did they do that?

One of the first activities of the day asked participants to identify the basic skills needed for individuals to be successful in their work, family and community. After participants had brainstormed these skills, Glynis attached each skill to one of the nine Essential Skills.

Essential Skills Graphic
Together Glynis and Wendy did a phenomenal job of setting the focus
of the day around literacy and foundational learning.

What is an arts-based tool?

During this full day Culture of Collaboration event, Glynis introduced six tools:

  • puzzle pieces
  • appreciative storytelling
  • junk sculpture
  • visual prompts
  • map making
  • ABCD cards

In addition to using these tools to gather information for the community dialogue, Glynis created supporting documents for each of these tools. These handouts allow participants to use or adapt each of the tools for use with their own learners.

Junk SculptureVisual PromptsABCD Cards

A highlight was observing Wendy's graphic facilitation of the day’s conversations in real time!

What is graphic facilitation?

Graphic recorder Brandy Agerbeck ( defines graphic facilitation as “the practice of using words and images to create a conceptual map of a conversation. A graphic facilitator is the visual, usually silent partner to the traditional, verbal facilitator, drawing a large scale image at the front of the room in real-time.”

To learn more about the Arts-Based Tools for Community Development workshop, please contact:

Glynis Wilson Boultbee (verbal facilitator)
Phone: (403) 342-5582

It will be so exciting to see the full community report once all participating agencies have used these tools in community dialogue providing insights into foundational literacy and learning needs of adults in the MD of Foothills.

Emily Robinson Leclair
Regional Support Staff, South
Community Learning Network


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