The Art of Finding Work

After finishing her Master of Fine Arts degree, Crystal Howie approached the Regina Work Preparation Centre (RWPC) with a unique proposition: to incorporate the visual arts into programs that help job-seekers.

The centre was excited at the prospect. "Art has the ability to strengthen one's confidence and cultural belonging. We believe that sense of identity increases the motivation to achieve sustainable employment," says Chris Bailey, executive director of RWPC.

RWPC is a non-profit, charitable, community-based organization that works with more than 1,000 people each year. Its clients face multiple challenges to finding and maintaining employment, such as lack of education, little or no work experience, addictions and criminal involvement.

Howie conducted workshops to give participants tools to visualize their future and cope with the anxieties they may face in the journey toward employment. "The people we work with are extremely creative - to the extent that it can get them into trouble. We're building an appropriate way to explore that personal creativity and use it in a healthy way," Howie says.

Visual arts were integrated into counseling, health and wellness, and the centre's Youth Employment Readiness Project. As 70 percent of clients are First Nations or Métis, Howie worked with the centre's Aboriginal liaison and engaged guest artist Keith Bird to address specific cultural needs.

Group activities helped clients develop public speaking skills essential for interviews and presentations and created a peer group that offered additional support. They were also fun. "People enjoyed the opportunity to be playful, creative and less formally bound to the business of job hunting," says Bailey.

Howie also reached out to the broader community. She hosted a "lunch and learn" to help inspire counselors to integrate the arts into their programming, and partnered with the Regina Correctional Centre, where she used her skills to help inmates transition to civilian life.

The residency has also affected the way Howie approaches her own art. "I used to see art as a product that was being made, the end of an idea. But I'm finding now that the process is so very important," she says. "My art practice is becoming more about my interactions with people."

For more on Chrystal Howie's collaboration with Regina Work Preparation Centre, visit

This project was supported by the Creative Partnerships program, a joint initiative of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SaskCulture Inc., and funded through the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.