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Artful B.C.

Rachel, Jess, Crystal (Volunteers - Aug 11th DTES Street Market).jpg

Artful Communities Society of B.C. is a dynamic, volunteer-led nonprofit united around the belief that art can change the world. Our mission is to provide low-income and marginalized artists with the means of creative expression to transform their lives and communities. We do this by collecting donations, providing free supplies to individual and collectives of marginalized artists, and facilitating opportunities for those artists to showcase their work in the community.


Artful Communities began as a dream, almost lost amidst the stones of English Bay as the sun began to rise and an unimaginable cold dragged the spirit down into the earth. A notebook and brittle pencil was all that held our founder, Rachel Malek, above the waters edge. There are realities of homelessness, poverty, and marginalization that cannot be denied, and in the morning light they blaze clear, as every moment is lived under the control of others, as food, sleep, speech and opinion sublimate to the cry for survival. Blank pages bound in leather offered a lone solace, a space of personal control, where the self could be created and defined as something greater than the moment. This is the transformative power of art for individuals on the margins.

Having slowly worked her way off the street, seeking support from community and government services, finding stable housing, and returning to school, Rachel realized the deep need for societal change. Our city is indeed being transformed daily by the art of the wealthy, as gentrification pushes the poor into a powerless grey zone, controlled and dictated by those with control of our society’s wealth. This is a unjust, inequitable transformation.

In August of 2014, Rachel invited some of her close friends to join her on an adventure. They bought 50 notebooks and on a Sunday afternoon, walked the streets of the Downtown Eastside, giving them out at Oppenheimer Park and in the DTES Street Market. The response was overwhelming, with each recipient sharing unique stories of what they wished for and how they would use the notebook. Yet many recipients were not writers, requesting other small supplies such as beads, sandpaper, and sketching paper. Some pointed out the challenges of sharing their art with the world, citing a variety of barriers from restrictions on street vending, to insecure storage, to high commission fees in existing galleries.

With this feedback, we formed Artful Communities Society of BC, dedicated to providing low income and marginalized artists with the tools of creative expression to transform their lives and communities. We are made up of volunteers from diverse life experiences, and follow the principles of empowerment, harm reduction, and anti-oppression.

Our first project, OUTSIDE/IN, is a direct reflection of the feedback we heard in our first adventures distributing notebooks in the downtown eastside, and we will continue to adapt ourselves to meet the needs of those we serve. We believe that by empowering those on the margins through tools of creative expression, our society can be transformed for the better.


We provide low income and marginalized artists with the means of creative expression to transform their lives and communities.


When a person creates art, they are transformed.

When they bring that art into the world, the world is transformed.

When those on the margins bring their art into the world,

the world can be transformed for the better.


  • Empowerment

  • Anti-Oppression

  • Harm Reduction



Our organization is in its early days, run by a ragtag group of artists and community members who share a passion for and commitment to the cause. Our Board of Directors has eight members who plan and coordinate different areas of our organization, from fundraising, to networking, to program delivery. At this point in time, we have no staff or overhead.

We aim for growth, and will be developing our long term programs after we complete and evaluate this first project. Our goal is to be B.C. wide by 2016.


Wood Carving Tool used by Anonymous Recipient of Notebook at Oppenheimer Park Aug 19th.jpg

Street Outreach

We collect donations of small, non-reuseable art supplies that we distribute to homeless and marginalized artists in the Downtown Eastside, Commercial Drive, and Granville Strip. Items include notebooks, sketchbooks, pens, paint beads, needle, thread, sandpaper, and any other small art supplies which are donated to us by community members for this purpose.

Our street outreach team is always looking for volunteers. At the moment we go out as a large group on the last sunday of the month, visiting each location in order. Yet the best part of this service is the time and attention we devote to each individual who receives a notebook. More volunteers means we can break into smaller teams, and visit each location separately, providing a deeper and more engaged service to each location.

Want to help? Send us an email at artfulcommunities@gmail.com with your relevant skills, interests, and availability.


We have a dynamic team of volunteers who develop short term projects which aim to bridge existing services, raise funds for artists on the margins, and increase

awareness of the artists works.

Our first project, running from September 1st to December 31st, 2014, will be titled “Outside/In”, offering a vision of what the world could look like if the edges came to the centre. We aim to serve twenty five marginalized artists through direct outreach and community partners, and to showcase the work of these artists in a film and event at the projects end.