Imagine Antigonish is an initiative of Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!)  (www.artshealthantigonish.org) , a group of artists, health workers and educators who are exploring the many links between art and health. Our mission is to foster all forms of creative expression for our community’s sustained health and vitality. Imagine Antigonish is an AHA!-sponsored travelling exhibit that combines an installation of 14 banners with a virtual gallery of restored black-and-white photographs capturing almost 150 years of the rural and urban heritage of Antigonish town and county. It’s a visual tour of the many essential conditions for our community’s wellbeing and sustainability—a model of healthy community that can help educate local, regional and national populations, organizations, and businesses.

AHA! identifies the following 8 objectives for Imagine Antigonish:

  • Build a unique, continuously growing, portable exhibit and virtual gallery, which traces visually the Antigonish community’s heritage since the 1850s;
  • Highlight state-of-the-art “made in Nova Scotia” photo restorations, to raise awareness of our heritage for actual and on-line audiences;
  • Promote AHA! as a socially inclusive enterprise inviting community participation;
  • Forge synergistic alliances with business, arts, health and other service organizations;
  • Foster the fast-emerging links between community arts and social health determinants, to generate employment opportunities and sustainable income;
  • Enhance arts-and-health connections through public education/entertainment for community and visitors;
  • Create a comprehensive arts-and-health curriculum for community/higher education;
  • Evaluate, quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact of this project on skills development, strategic planning, and sustainability.

AHA! will achieve these objectives by:

  • Maximizing publicity and community participation at the Highland Games and multiple subsequent sites;
  • Highlighting through socially inclusive education/entertainment how heritage arts simultaneously enhance community wellbeing and build revenue sources and financial sustainability;
  • Gathering several hundred suitable vintage photos from multiple sources, including the Sobeys Archives, along with the Antigonish Highland Society, Antigonish Heritage Museum,  StFX Library and Archives,  Coady International Institute,  The Casket Archives, the Old Photos of Antigonish Facebook Group, Antigonish Photographers’ Group Exhibit (APx), and the Sisters of St. Martha;
  • Using committed cash and in-kind contributions to initiate the project ahead of its launching date; specifically, restoring the first 20 photographs through cooperation with the Lyghtesome Gallery, APx, and the 5¢ to $1 store;
  • Expanding business and non-profit collaborations for mutual benefit, maximizing their visibility and partnership in the financial enterprise;
  • Continuing to recruit commitment from local retail businesses, galleries, and restaurants to display and sell mounted and unmounted prints, posters and cards.

Although the photographic content of this travelling exhibit focuses on the town and county of Antigonish, it serves as a model of public health education, which could support the higher education curriculum of health care professionals across Canada, and health promotion and public education in community settings rural and urban, all age levels, and intergenerational contexts.

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