Opening Spaces for Listening in Art Museums through Community-Based Art


  • Jennifer Eiserman Associate Professor, Art Education and Museum and Heritage Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary
  • Beaumie Kim Professor, Learning Sciences, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary
  • Ryan Doherty Independent Curator



community-based art, contemporary art, community development, museum studies, ethics of care, sociogogy


This paper highlights three community-based initiatives that empowered seniors, racialized immigrant women artists and street artists to share their unique perspectives. From 2021 to 2023, Contemporary Calgary and the University of Calgary collaborated with artists, community partners, and the Downtown West neighbourhood to provide programming in a repurposed light rail transit car to vitalize the community through arts. Through exhibitions at Contemporary Calgary, these artists were able to tell their stories. Visitors were able to engage with, listen to, and learn from the artists’ experiences. The programs fostered strong bonds among participants, resulting in ongoing collaboration and support. Drawing inspiration from Silverman’s (2010) concept of the museum as social worker, this paper builds on a model of care in the art musem (Eiserman, 2000) wherein contemporary art museums serve as spaces for marginalized individuals to express themselves and for communities to actively listen and respond.


One light rail train car parked in a parking lot. The car is decorated with a colorful mural on it.



31 May 2024 — Updated on 3 June 2024