4 art projects that look a lot like journalism

How tapestries of data, family videos and a giant mural are filling gaps

This is from our weekly Discourse newsletter. Make sure to share it and subscribe here.

Holding power to account, pointing out gaps in data, making information accessible and revealing truth in service to the public — sounds like journalism right? I’m actually talking about art. Don’t believe me? Here are four projects where art and journalism are intersecting in powerful ways.

  • Addressing gaps in data. “The Canadian archives are lacking in home movie footage from Indigenous people and visible minorities,” says the Home Made Visible project. So they’re asking people of colour across Canada to send in their home videos to be digitized so they can be entered into Canada’s archives to preserve history from communities that are often pushed to the margins. (Sounds like a better reason to hoard my home videos than to embarrass my cousin at his upcoming wedding.)

  • Revealing truths. Lauren Crazybull plans to map Indigenous culture across Alberta on a giant 2.5-metre tall mural or canvas. She’s a Blackfoot and Dene painter, and as Alberta’s first artist-in-residence, she’ll be spending the next year travelling the province listening to stories and transforming them into “The Portrait of Alberta.”
  • Making information accessible. “Tempestry” is a textile art project that is turning climate change data from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration into tapestries. Each tapestry represents the daily high temperatures over a specific year and location, with yarn colours representing temperature. Together they show the world’s changing temperatures over time.  
  • The co-founders of the Tempestry Project, Emily McNeil, Justin and Marissa Connelly, stand in front of tapestries representing Deception Pass in Washington.
  • Holding power to account. You might be tuning out the endless news stories about Trump’s border wall and the U.S. government shutdown. Using data and illustrations, the Guardian‘s data editor, Mona Chalabi, took an artistic approach to show just how much the shutdown cost the U.S. economy — compared to the $5.7 billion Trump wants to build his border wall.

Do you have other examples of art and journalism combining forces? Send me an email and I’ll share some in an upcoming newsletter.

Did you hear?

  • A Canadian Task Force is recommending fewer mammogram screenings for women in their 40s, but some experts are warning this is a mistake. “If a Canadian wide-body jet were to crash because of maintenance problems, killing all 400 people on board, it would be seen as a national disaster and would occupy the news for weeks. If this happened each year, it would be unthinkable. But 400 is approximately the number of women in Canada who can be expected to die of breast cancer every year if screening for women in their 40s is cut back,” writes Martin Yaffe in Policy Options. (Thanks to Discourse member Trish for pointing me to this issue.)
  • “People are dying because of Canadian mines,” writes Duncan Hood for the Globe and Mail, reflecting on the 44 people he says died between 2000 and 2015 from violence surrounding Canadian-owned mines in Latin America. “These atrocities rarely make headlines in Canada. The victims are poor and live in faraway developing countries… But despite the distance, these deaths can be the unfortunate side effect of planning decisions made in Vancouver and Toronto.”
  • Al Jazeera follows Filipina journalist Maria Ressa’s fight against misinformation and propaganda as she takes on one of the most oppressive governments in Asia.

Updates from Scarborough

Scarborough Discourse published its first video, as part of an ongoing series that shows how the suburb has shaped its community members. First up is this video featuring Malvern native Farley Flex, a music executive best known for being a judge on Canadian Idol.

“When I think of Scarborough, I think of legacy,” Farley says. “It’s so much of a place where people get their start.”

For updates on our upcoming videos and other Scarborough-related news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter.


Canada is in the top 20 countries in the world for press freedom but it still has a long way to go. Last week, we asked you if you think democracy is under attack in Canada. Thanks for writing in and sharing such passionate responses. Here’s what some of you had to say.  

“Why yes, I do believe the above. Corporations control the government through lobby groups, bribes and, I suspect, threats. AND: they control all the major media outlets. It’s been like this for years. This is old news regurgitated because the corporations are also adept at lying, in such a way that we all believe it’s the truth. We need to keep writing and talking about it until enough of us WAKE UP.” — Nancy

Something I have witnessed personally in the media is that there is still some reluctance to call out some behaviours by politicians and other invested, interest-motivated individuals. I think this is mostly due to a lack of time journalists have on any one issue.” — Trisha

“Mainstream media is dreadful about accurately reporting Wet’suwet’en violent attacks by the armed police. About SNC-Lavalin potential corruption. About the lack of need and justification for Site C, and destruction of environment, First Nations’ treaty rights, climate change exacerbation, dam and reservoir safety, and financial disaster. … Yes — we certainly need more press freedom, more transparency, more honesty from politicians, responsibility from corporations.”  — Roger [end]

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