Message from the Chair

Joel Ong, Ph.D 
Associate Professor
Department of Computational Arts
School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design

The study, teaching, and implementation of academic research in the arts relies on its connection to external and “real-world” artistic practice.  Both internal and external to the University, I believe strongly in the role of the Helen Carswell Chair in bringing research-creation methodologies to support experimental research and its opportunities for community engagement, stemming from a deep commitment to the hyperlocal neighbourhoods around the university, and to the faculty and students here for whom institutional support and community connections are at a “metabolic” level of accountability living, working and breathing in the same neighbourhood.  As a researcher I have also realized an equal role of accountability and relationship-building that must go hand in hand with the extraction of information from the community, a culture that the Chair has historically focused on at York that considers the ethics of engagement with communities of vulnerable groups (especially youth) through music and the broader arts, which at an institutional level currently has a minimal level of scrutiny. I am confident this position can strengthen communications with researchers and administrative groups within the university in order to locate the role of the researcher as collaborator within the community-led process of self-determination as opposed to that of extractive visitor.

Established and supported by the Carswell Family Foundation in 2016, the Helen Carswell Chair supports research that explores community cultural development. With a focus on fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with the Jane and Finch community, the Helen Carswell Chair is proud to have a long-term partnership with CMST – Jane and Finch, the most recent branch of the incredible Community Music Schools Toronto. Through our work with CMST and other Community Arts organizations, we seek to disseminate new knowledge and research to community-based groups in the Jane and Finch community and in other high-risk neighbourhoods around the world.

As a fellow researcher and community activator, I am honoured to be a part of this mission to support community-engaged research in the arts. I look forward to working with community leaders in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood and beyond as we explore how arts can empower and represent children of all ages, from all backgrounds.

Oct 1, 2023