A Creative Canvas: Artists & Innovators in Residence


We’ve always been a sanctuary for the curious and creative. This year, we took another leap toward sparking creativity, connection and curiosity with the introduction of our Artists & Innovators in Residence Program.

Living Well Together

From 2022-2023, we called upon talented artists and innovators to immerse themselves in our community, inspiring everyone with their unique talents and perspectives. Through this program, we sought individuals willing to transform the Library into their learning lab, classroom, gallery, or studio, sharing their knowledge and igniting innovation in the community.

Under the theme “Living Well Together,” our aim was to address the challenges we face as a community, from the impact of the pandemic to climate change and political issues. We focused on facilitating critical conversations, using art and creativity to bridge differences, and finding collaborative solutions.

The selection process was thorough and intentional.

"We really took a look at our programming portfolios and communities that have been underserved,” says our Regional Programming Lead, Kassondra Torraville. “Each artist was chosen to resonate with and uplift our community in unique ways.”

And the artist picks were phenomenal.

Unique talents

Our program hosted four exceptional individuals: Christine Hempel, S. Bear Bergman, Alan Syliboy, and Israel Ekanem. Each brought their unique voice, approach, and passion to their residencies, enriching our community in the process.

Christine Hempel, an urban designer and illustrator, used her expertise to engage with community members on eco-city building, affordable housing, and place-making. Her interactive Lego™ workshops, exploring themes like “designing for people and urban wildlife,” not only ignited creativity but also sparked meaningful discussions about our city's future.

S. Bear Bergman, an author, playwright, and poet, brought a transformative experience to our community with his "Gender Reveal Party." This performance art series focuses on celebrating and understanding gender identities, promoting inclusivity, and breaking down barriers.

Alan Syliboy, a Mi'kmaq artist/musician influenced by Indigenous Mi'kmaq rock drawing and quill weaving traditions and much more, embraced our community with his deep reverence for the Mi'kmaw culture. From sharing the beauty of petroglyphs, to story-walks and musical performances with his band Thundermakers, Alan provided an intimate look into Mi’kmaw traditions, language, and art.

Israel Ekanem, a storyteller, director, and podcaster, introduced the world of podcasting to our visitors. Through workshops, hands-on sessions, and interactive/online storytelling, Israel empowered many to find their voice in the ever-growing podcast community.

Memories made

The Artists & Innovators in Residence Program saw several memorable moments. Christine Hempel’s (100-attendees) walking tour discussed city building and gentrification, S. Bear Bergman’s "Gender Reveal Party" brought performances to public parks, Alan Syliboy’s evocative storytime at JD Shatford Memorial Public Library engaged the community deeply, and Israel Ekanem left us a legacy of how-to podcasting content for keen creators.

“We had a lot of families and lots of really great feedback,” says Kassondra, noting the positive comments have been inspiring.     

Our inaugural Artists & Innovators in Residence Program has been a testament to the potential of public libraries as spaces of continuous evolution, creativity, learning, connection, and growth. We are grateful to our artists, Library staff, and, most importantly, our community members for embarking on this journey with us.

Explore more

This story was originally created as part of Halifax Public Libraries' 2022-23 Annual Report. Read the full report here.