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EmpowerHER: a women's map to the city, 2018, Marnie Badham, Emily Dundas Oke and Cynthia Travers in partnership with Thompson Rivers University and United Way, socially engaged public art-research residency, Kamloops, BC, Canada.

EmpowerHER: a women’s map to the city was a 6 week project I undertook as an artist-researcher in residence in Kamloops, BC, Canada in collaboration with curator Emily Dundas Oke and community activist Cynthia Travers. I was hosted by the Nicola-Thompson United Way and Thompson Rivers University. The project grew from a small engagement with women who accessed a micro finance program locally to a multi-site project to re-centre knowledge of women whom had experienced homelessness and transition. The mapping project visually identified experiences of beauty, fear, and important services. With more than 700 women participating, key learning from EMPOWER HER included a multi-valenced understanding of place; the need for gender specific community support services; and the value of social knowledge exchange between women in transition. This project could be read as both a participatory advocacy research and social art project. 

These maps identify many interests including spots of beauty and social connection or problematic areas of concern where a woman may feel unsafe when alone or with small children.   These maps also locate existing emergency resources and crisis services. While each workshop resulted in vastly different aesthetics and focus, preliminary findings include:

  • expressions of value regarding the natural environment and the need for more safe public space;

  • varying perceptions of safety based foot or car traffic;

  • and a deficit of gender specific support in existing family, health, and crisis community services.


The project provided a creative method for critical reflection and engagement between women for knowledge exchange within a community context. A public artwork outcome will disseminate the findings to women, community organisations and people who live in Kamloops.


EmpowerHER: a women's map to the city was developed as a community research partnership between United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo and Thompson Rivers University.  Additional support was provided by the City of Kamloops Social Planning, United Steelworkers Local 7619, Thompson Rivers University Student Union, Elizabeth Fry Society Housing, JUMP and My Place Day Shelters, and the many women who participated. 

Creative Cartographies are a way to registering emotion and experience as place knowledge.

Cultural mapping and creative cartography are methods of inquiry in social art making, urban planning, and community development that can make visible the ways local stories, practices, relationships, memories, and rituals constitute places as meaningful. Artists and cultural development workers use forms of cartography as tools for engagement, research, and to draw attention to counter-narratives and the politics of land, place and history. Within a broader context of artistic contributions to the interdisciplinary field, this paper examines three recent art-research projects I recently undertook in collaboration with a number of communities, artists and researchers in both Canada and Australia.

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