Together with my research team (Drs. Mary Egan, Wendy Gifford, Pam Grassau, and Judy King), I am very excited to share news about a research grant. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC: https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/results-resultats/recipients-recipiendaires/2019/insight_grants-subventions_savoir-eng.aspx) and is titled: Community-based creative practices and visual research methods: Developing new understandings of a good life for people experiencing impairment. A project description appears below. However, due to COVID-19, our first series of workshops will be held online, rather than in person. This trial of online workshops and data collection is set to begin in January 2020.

Almost half of all Canadians live with sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment due to injury, illness, or aging. This means that impairment is a ‘normal’ state of being for a significant number of people. Yet, there is limited research investigating the complex relationship between well-being and impairment. Public and professional understandings of a good life presuppose that an absence of impairment is essential. There is a pervasive assumption that life with impairment is inferior to life without and that impairment is associated with poor quality of life. Emerging research suggests that this is not the case. Further, existing research has largely rendered invisible peoples’ experiences of a good life while living with impairment. In response, researchers are calling for interdisciplinary research that integrates new paradigms.

Our research is a response to such calls. Using innovative visual research methods, our team will complete a qualitative project over the course of 2 years. Research participants will be invited to complete one of two series of mixed media workshops. We will work with 24 women living with impairment as a result of cancer/its treatments to explore the ways in which creative practices can contribute to new understandings of a good life. Our team will: (1) Explore experiences with visual arts and their relationships to various aspects of a good life via mixed media workshops and in-depth interviews; (2) Document the social and narrative processes associated with community-based visual arts via the analysis of video-recordings of the workshops; (3) Methodologically explore the role of visual data analysis in understanding creative practices in a community-based setting through the analysis of video-recordings and the subsequent production of a 30 minute film; and (4) Disseminate the research findings through a combined film screening and exhibit of participants’ creative work.

The research will culminate in a public screening of the film and an exhibit of participants’ work. The film will eventually be freely available on YouTube. This will ensure our research is accessible to researchers, policy-makers, and to those living with impairment, their families, and their communities.

For more information, please email me: roanne.thomas@uottawa.ca