There are six artfully-designed boxes hidden in plain sight in Fredericton’s downtown. This participatory art installation invites the public to leave an object and take an object – an opportunity to play, exchange, and engage with art, craft and design and social issues.

The boxes were created by 97 Foundation Visual Arts (FVA) students from the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design, as a student-driven component of their Creativity & Social Engagement course. The students conceived of themes for each individual box, based on a social, environmental, or political issue that relate to the location of the boxes.

“We are able to see the direct impact we have had on our community, which really solidified our passion and excitement for the project and the issues tied to the boxes,” says FVA student Emily Hansen.

The boxes invite you to leave an object and take an object, and as you engage with the box you may see the provocative themes emerging with each one. Whether you leave an object you have in your pocket, or a small creation you’ve made yourself, the project invites people to engage with art, to think about this community we live in, and the spaces and places we share and call home. Take a photo of your exchange, and post it on social media using the hashtag: #communityboxproject

“One box is an anti-littering campaign, another is paying respect to grief and remembering, while another box highlights the diversity within our community,” says Erica Stanley, one of the faculty members who wrote, and facilitated, the project. “The College students really care. In this course students are identifying what they care about, and exploring how to use art, craft and design in order to effect positive change in our community, and in the world. They really displayed a high level of communication, positive action, and collaboration within the Community Box Project.”

A student of the FVA program, Kyla Bonnell, has created a map outlining the project, and the locations.

“This project has allowed my students to engaged with the spaces they were given
and think about them in an entirely new way,” says Marcus Kingston, one of the course Instructors. “One group was tasked with engaging with the Old Burial Grounds for example. They noticed that each day citizens of the city pass in and out, walk pass graves, and monuments and rarely stop to think of or remember those buried within. This project has aided students in self-exploration, awareness and understanding. It’s given them the opportunity to create a piece of art that engages with the public, opens lines of communication and makes people stop and ask questions.”

AudréeHamelin-St-Amour, another instructor of this course, adds “To witness 15 students work all together on one box was fascinating. Based on the location of their community box, the students in one of my groups decided to explore the topic of diversity within our community. As they were brainstorming on how to visually express this topic, they showed immense respect and openness to one another. The students were able to find consensus within their group while acknowledging each other’s identity and opinions. I was astounded by the high level of collaboration; which really is at the core of art for social change and community-based art.”

Students in the course have also created a “Wishing Tree” inspired by Yoko Ono, where they have written wishes on tags and hung them from a tree growing at the entrance to the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. Inside the foyer of CSAC, the public is invited to take a tag, write a wish, and add it to the installation. Students are now moving on in their course to creating Socially Engaged projects around a topic that they are intrinsically motivated by.

The Community Box Project was made with special thanks to the City of Fredericton, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, who helped with box locations and supporting art and design in the downtown.