“Amelia Merhar discusses a participatory arts-based inquiry project she co-researched with young adults who have lived in Canada’s child welfare system. In her fun, engaging, and pointed way she talks about methodology, findings, outcomes and what art can do that other forms of research might not be able to. Amelia is an artist, researcher, facilitator, youth worker, policy analyst, and pretty amazing person”
Wow! A 168 page MA thesis, transformed into something more people might actually want to read! TL;DR (Internet slang for Too Long; Didn’t Read) is in classic zine folded format (including embracing typos), full-colour, featuring work from five co-researchers from the Moving Home project which explored the embodiment of transience among former youth in care in Canada. It includes a two-page summary of my thesis without any citations, truly a joy to create.
What is the point of creating research that gets stuck behind paywalls, or in a language most people do not interact with? Everyone should make a zine version of their thesis, it honours the written and academic, but transgresses the world of academic publishing into something more community-minded.
This zine is intended mainly as a support for current youth in care, those who work with them, and those interested in arts-based research and creative and accessible research dissemination overall. This work also makes a contribution to embodiment and mobilities scholarship, particularly with the idea of embodying transience itself. Essentially, considering work on space-time compression, and bringing it to scale of the body.
The TL;DR zine launched August 17, 2017 with a corresponding art show at Critical Distance Centre for Curators. 500 print copies were made, and already distributed freely. There was also a talk at the Ontario Advocate for Children and Youth’s office, who generously supported the printing costs of TL;DR, in addition to other financial support for co-researcher honorariums and art supplies.
For those that want more theory, the research was approached using a framework of the Mobilities Paradigm, Children’s Geographies, and Emotional Geographies. The methods were a combination of Arts-based, Participatory Action Research and Indigenous Methods. Half of youth in care in Canada are Indigenous, and half of co-researchers also self-identified as Indigenous in the Moving Home project. The racism of the child welfare system also shifts geographically across the country, as in Toronto, where co-researchers self-identified as with a statistically representative 40% Black over-representation of youth in care. This is an exploratory Canadian case study model, using Toronto to represent urban-suburban experiences, and Yukon to represent Northern/rural experiences. Colour-coded citations for the Moving Home Project Proposal (2016) are available here.
The built-in Community Action part of the Participatory Action Research project included four art public shows, two in the Yukon and two in Toronto in 2016 and 2017. These public art shows were all voluntary, with the ability to identify using artist names, First Nation names, initials, anonymous (whatever the co-researchers decided worked best for them). There were ten co-researchers with lived experience in displacing systems such as child welfare, (often overlapping with justice, and shelters) in the Toronto project, and five co-researchers with similar experiences in the Yukon. All art remains the property of the artist co-researchers, digital copies of photos, videos, songs remain in a Moving Home archive. Interesting fact: 80% of the the Toronto co-researchers priced their work for sale, and only 20% initially priced their work for sale in the Yukon (more were made as gifts). The urban hustle is real.
Zine credits: A Merhar, N Ridiculous, X Vautour-Binnette, E M, S N, Meek
Select press on the Moving Home project:
Moving Home: The Art and Embodiment of Transience Among Youth Emerging from Canada’s Child Welfare System is my MA thesis in Human Geography at York University.
Working with 15 co-researcher artists ages 18-29 with lived experience in care in Toronto and Whitehorse, this project questioned what sort of people is the child welfare system inadvertently creating through multiple placements. Subsections include a focus on emotions, relations and movement depicted in the art, and a chapter on the emergent theme of resilience and resistance, and the urge to give back and create a community for former youth in care.
The research had public talk August 17th at Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, and another talk TBD in Whitehorse. A zine version of the thesis will been launched as well as an art show presented Critical Distance Centre for Curators August 17 to 26.