A snapshot of some of the RISC Projects and Plans


Improv Symposium: Saying Yes / Exploring Creative Growth

(Irwin, artist Kenn McCloud, local artists, University of Regina Theatre Department).

Summary: A research symposium asking how can we shift public understanding of improvisation as a means to “maximize the moment;” to realize its potential to create innovative art and address social challenges. Included a panel of improvising artists and researchers: Kathleen Irwin, Kenn McCloud, Johanna Bundon, Jayden Pfeifer, Chancz Perry Sutherland, Dan Macdonald, Marnie McMillan, Dawn Bird & Anne MacDonald
Research Questions

·      In your opinion, what are the formal elements of improvisation?" What are its guiding principles?

·      How do you use improvisation in your work and how has it contribute to how your work has evolved? How is improvisation viewed or framed in your discipline?

·      Has improvisation revealed new opportunities in your work and what is the most important benefit?

·      What is one element in your life, outside of your work, that has been informed by your capacity to improvise?"

·      How can we expand the understanding of improvisation to include a recognition of its potential to create innovative art?

·      How can we expand the discussion of improvisation to include people beyond the “usual suspects?” Is improv a tool for social change?

·      How do we, as artist / practitioners, address the challenges inherent in improvisation as a practice and methodology? Is it working for us – can we further “maximize the moment?”

·      This question comes from phrase used in Economics. Please relate it to an expanded definition of improvisation: “The choices that you make in the face of scarcity.”
 Supported by the Humanities Research Institute and RISC.
Completed by May 2014. Outcome: Symposium, video documentation


Improvisation Methodologies in Creative Technologies

A research project investigating improvisation in Creative Technologies in Saskatchewan Funded by the University of Regina President’s SSHRC Fund. Complete, although Improvising with iPads continues

Includes a number of smaller projects involving researchers:

 IMP Labs Documentation (Caines, Marsh, student researchers)- documentation of improvisation work in the IMP labs, to be disseminated in Critical Studies in Improvisation journal as an interview in the upcoming issue on hip-hop.

Improvising with iPads (Caines, Gerhard, Minevich, new  community partner Wascana Rehabilitation Centre, and the Regina Public Library, student researchers)
Community workshops- continued research, video editing of existing documentation, grants, ethics documents, meetings, planning
Completed by 2015. Outcomes: Journal article, concerts, workshops

Participants in the Improvising with iPads project (2014) Photo Credit: Eagleclaw Thom

Indigenous People’s Health Research Centre documentation and planning (Episkenew, student researchers). 

Research is being planned to document the improvisation elements in IPHRC’s current work in after school arts and health programs. This will include a graduate student brown bag lunch to discuss the project and build a plan, and student hours supporting photographs, video and written documentation  2013-2015 projects. Partially complete.
Completed by December 2015. Outcomes: Journal articles, video documentation, published interviews, project documentation

Site visit- IICSI Director and Community Engagement Officer (Irwin, Gerhard, Epiksenew, Petty, Caines)

Visit to the University of Regina campus by IICSI Director, Ajay Heble and IICSI Community Outreach Officer Elizabeth Jackson  including meetings with researchers and University of Regina Leadership including VP(Research) David Malloy and Dean of Fine Arts Sheila Petty. Scheduled talk by Ajay Heble at the University of Regina Fine Arts Presentation Series.  Planned networking events, showcase of iPad research project results, and visit to the IPHRC and IMP labs, Creative City Centre, and Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.
Complete by April 10, 2014. Outcomes: Public talk, networking event, meetings with researchers and partners

Improvisation, Intermediality and Human/Digital Interaction

(Caines with Campbell, Loess and Arroyas)

This project was supported by the University of Regina Research Trust Fund. It focused on analyzing improvisation in the field of new media art, with particular focus on Canadian works. The main output was a panel at the Rethinking Intermediality conference in Romania in October 2013 where research was presented on new media art by SK artists Rachelle Viader Knowles and Judy Anderson, and a new smartphone app “The Improscaper” for improvising with digital image and audio was launched.Completed November 2013: Outcomes: Panel at international conference, practice-based research leading to a new smartphone app, published journal article:

QR Codes and Traditional Beadwork: Augmented Communities Improvising Together 


The University of Regina iPad Orchestra     (Caines, Gerhard, Minevich)

Research Questions/Summary:
This project aims to explore the potential for engaging with the Apple iPad as a teaching and learning device in the area of music composition and performance. Whilst there have been a range of orchestras utilizing new mobile technologies as performance tools including the renowned laptop orchestra at the University of Regina (Regina Electroacoustic Performance Orchestra, 2008-2009), there have been few explorations with the new opportunities offered by the iPad/large screen touchscreen tablet, and there have not been any extensive studies on the teaching applications of using the iPad touchscreen tablet in the university classroom. This ongoing research engaged students in the classroom in active improvisation and learning with the iPad, and creates practice-based research outcomes including concerts, videos, and the development of new musical apps.
Completed: Ongoing
Outcomes: Concerts, video documentation, conference papers ( three complete, one proposed), journal articles

 Improvising with iPads: A Partnered Inquiry into Technology-based Music Therapy, Improvisation and Cultural Expression in Health Settings

(Caines with Amanda Schenstead and Rick Kotowich -Regina Qu’apelle Health Region- Wascana Rehabilitation Centre)

Research Questions/Summary:

   •    Can improvising with the Apple iPad device offer long term clients in a health setting new therapeutic, creative and cultural opportunities?
    •    Are there any therapeutic benefits of working with the iPad to make music and multimedia arts?
    •    Can this form of improvised arts aid in community building in institutional settings?
    •    What is the therapeutic value of using iPads as improvisational instruments?
    •    How is the “self” (identity) being represented through electronic means?
    •    What is the experience of the therapist as a supportive figure within this context?

Upcoming Projects

Liquid Arts:
Caines and partners Creative City Centre and Sâkêwêwak Artist Collective

 Photo Credit Larissa Kitchemonia

Liquid Art

Project Summary
Liquid Art is a community-engaged, practice-based research project investigating the social impact of improvisation in live painting and mixed media. This project works with visual arts as a liquid, live form, able to sustain a creative city. It explores painting, drawing and mixed media art as liquid forms that can be created live with audiences, and used to sustain and enrich communities. In particular it explores live painting, drawing and mixed media art as a format that allows learning in the visual arts to flow from established artists to emerging artists, to young artists, to the communities of Canada and back again.  It examines the social impact of live art on communities in Saskatchewan through supporting live art workshops, events and exhibitions. This initiative is a project by the Regina Improvisation Studies Centre, The Creative City Centre and its Hague Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, working with renowned Indigenous artist collective Sâkêwêwak and the communities they are embedded in, and two local high schools: Scott Collegiate and Thom Collegiate.  Improvising musicians from Holophon Audio Arts and the communities could also join us for live art events.

Mentorship Outcomes
Through a series of workshops and events where established, emerging and young artists learn about live art, and participate in making live art with and for their communities, visual art practices can be sustained and supported. It aims to support the best of the area’s emerging artists, and allow youth, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, access to fine arts mentorship and training unavailable through the current school systems. This project also aims to create public engagement with innovative visual art through the creation of large, exciting, public interactive visual art events with a significant online and media profile.

Artistic Innovation and Exhibition Outcomes
Through partnering with an artist collective which is an established leader in contemporary First Nations art, the project will bring together a range of intercultural approaches to live art technique, including contemporary Aboriginal mixed media art practices, and interdisciplinary approaches such as competitive, performative “art battles,” and painting live to improvised music, film, and spoken word. A final exhibition will be mounted at the Hague Gallery to exhibit work by the established artists, the emerging artists developed from the live art events, and work by the school children from workshops.

 Community-Engagement Outcomes

The project will pair two emerging artists with two established artist mentors (including well known artists Lionel Peyachew and Josh Goff). These artists will work together with their mentors to develop a series of workshops for school children, with a focus on improving access to high quality visual art programming and mentorship for those whose communities face socioeconomic disadvantage. The artists will also participate in public live art events, demonstrating their work in art battles and improvised live art evenings and show their work in exhibitions. These public events will bring in new audiences for contemporary Canadian public art, and also engage the communities that the artists are part of.  The schools will benefit from culturally appropriate, professional visual art workshops and informal mentorship for their students who have an interest in the arts. Support letter from the schools are available on request. The emerging artists will benefit from the professional development of working with mentors and showing their work and the stories inherent in their work from their own lives back to the communities involved. Elders will be consulted to develop themes that might inspire the live art processes. Other community-engaged outputs include positive role modeling for young people, support for young First Nations artists, positive community events and a strengthened partnership with both our existing partner The Creative City Centre; and a new partner Sâkêwêwak Aboriginal Arts Collective.

Research Questions
  • Can improvisation in live art forms produce new forms of artistic and social mentorship for young people in at-risk communities
  • Can improvised live art practices support and sustain stronger communities
  • What kind of innovative art practices might emerge from curating new kinds of live art events
  • Can live art partnerships strengthen research into critical studies in improvisation through access to new forms of community knowledge.

Research Outputs

Exhibition at the Hague Gallery at The Creative City Centre, Regina, SK (Summer 2016)
This will include art by established and emerging artists and community art from the school workshops

A Series of Written Reflections from Observations at Live Art Workshops and Events
To form part of the IICSI/ICASP research collection

A high quality video, and a series of photographs documenting the whole project
To be hosted on the IICSI website

Conference presentations and journal papers
Critical Studies in Improvisation paper (2016), IICSI Colloquia presentations (2016,2017)
Performance Studies International presentation (2016), presentations with each community partner at the Community Research Showcase in Regina (2016)

Isomorphisms for Improvisation

Isomorphic keyboards have the potential to enable musical novices to more redly participate in improvisational activities because the music-theoretic relationships between notes and constructs are encoded within the keyboard layout.  Musix Pro (for the iPad and iPhone) and the Rainboard (a physical controller instrument), both developed in Regina, SK, allow experimentation and interaction with a wide variety of isomorphic layouts in rectangular and hexagonal tesselations.  We would like to study how musical experts and novices improvise on isomorphic keyboards and develop new ways for musical novices to quickly learn and engage with music. Timeline: January 2015- September 2015. Outcomes: Dissemination of research findings (Conference and Journal papers) Development and adaptation of new interfaces for the digital tools.     Home Cooking, Cooking Home  (Irwin) Description of Project: This practice-based project will create: 1) a video installation of 10 cooking lessons made by 10 women who are far from home; 2) a significant performance event – through a staged meal on a hand crafted wooden table in a gallery space for an audience of 10 guests. Served to “power brokers” in the community, the event comprises 10 courses, on10 unique ceramic place settings made by local artists, reflecting 10 homelands and 10 food-related stories or issues. What underlies this research is how the equation of women + food + distance equals the sum of how humanity sustains and performs itself in place and over time. Home Cooking focuses on the experience of immigrant women in Regina, who through labour and love and provide nourishment for their families. In this project, home cooking is both a life-sustaining process and a creative practice that bridges current circumstances and memories of home. As a creative practice, it allows women to share favourite recipes and hands-on cooking lessons to explain how they make and "make do" without certain ingredients, thereby creating new, hybrid recipes that illustrate the challenges and the opportunities of their new home. A public symposium on food-related issues at the University will form the capstone for the creative events at the University in Winter 2015. Objectives: This project valourizes food, in particular the role of women in providing sustenance and sustaining culture. It also celebrates those who join in the event through sharing food and conversation. Both the locus of investigation and the aesthetic focus is food – and the politics and practices that surround it in the 21st century. Its aims are manifold: 1) to creatively address issues around the daily business of putting dinner on the table; 2) by creating a video installation, performance event and public symposium we aim to create a significant, performative occasion, where recipes, dinner and stories are shared; 3) by tapping into the significant food-related research underway at the U of R, we aim to include key researchers “at the table” to talk about sustainability, access and food quality on local and global scales (Drs. M. Stewart; M. Spooner; D. Hepting; F. Dupre; A. Desmerais; J. Piwowar, etc.); 4) through this the project, we aim to actualize an economy of exchange and to that end, we will invite a corporate entities to donate the ingredients in exchange for a place at the table of ideas. The invited guests attending the performance and members of the public attending the public forum will be encouraged to donate to the local food bank; 5) we aim to partner with members of the local arts/cultural community (Common Weal Community Arts Inc., Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan, Street Culture Kidz Project) to share experience and expertise; 6) the final aim is to create a cluster of networked, international events staged on both real and virtual platforms. Method of Approach: This project’s working hypothesis is that through “homecooking” (the transference of recipes from one woman to another), an intergenerational conveyance of culture occurs that transcends time and place. As such, “women’s work,” the regular setting and arrangement of meals on the table, exceeds the merely functional. It proposes that the intersection of women and food is a primary, radical, gendered, and fundamentally engaged performative practice operating on both local and global levels, and it investigates the quotidian and localized ritual of putting food on the table as a sensory and aesthetic performance, a memory play that crosses spatial / temporal boundaries, and a political act. The methodology underpinning this research is practice-based and emergent. It begins with a hypothesis and tests it with individual women who volunteer their time and culinary skills. Understanding that this information will be made public, participants contribute a brief written description of a recipe that resonates on a personal and cultural level. This is submitted along with a shopping list. When the ingredients are sourced, a time and place is arranged to video the cooking of the recipe, the camera focusing solely on the individual’s hands in the process. The video and audio recording of the spoken text is edited down to three minutes segments. In this manner, 10 videos are collected - the first stage in an event that will culminate in a gallery installation, a performance, a public symposium. The second stage results in a collaborative, international web-based project. Given the exploratory nature of this methodology, chance and contingency will largely determine outcomes. We will know that we have successfully completed the work, if the result is an affective, informative, collaborative, interdisciplinary art/performance event that operates on multiple levels and leads to public discourse and positive action around issues related to food distribution and sustainability on both local and global levels. Design of Research: At the centre of this creative process are a number of key questions: 1.How does placement (or displacement) transform patterns and modes of food consumption?; 2. Can the most basic of issues, the procurement and dispersal of nourishing, adequate and appropriate food be addressed through collaborative creative action on the local level?; 3. Can this activity produce good art, good food and affect sustainable solutions?; 4. How are food choices, taste preferences transformed over distance and time and how does food work to resist or inform reductive stereotypes?; 5. How do concerns about food on a local level turn our attention to global scale issues?; 6. When we create art about food, whom do we include at our table? Timelines: January 2015- December 2015 Outcomes: Practice-Based Research (Installation/Performance Event), symposium, conference presentations.