Art Impact

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Art Impact was a collaborative partnership committed to engaging the Canadian cultural sector in dialogue about the implications of artificial intelligence on communities, artistic practices, and society broadly. Workshops (14) were offered in every province and territory and led to a series of recommendations which have since been shared with provincial and federal policy makers.

Over seven months and fourteen workshops, Art Impact saw 255 attendees representing a range of cultural sectors and every province and territory across Canada. The workshops received radio and television coverage in Saskatchewan, Yellowknife, and Twillingate (Newfoundland).

From these day-long workshops a series of recommendations were consolidated and shared with provincial and federal policy makers. The project and its outcomes have also been presented in a wide range of forums including the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network Global gathering in Merida, Mexico; AI for Good in Geneva, Switzerland; and the Toyota Foundation’s quarterly magazine (in both Japanese and English).

Workshops involved both capacity building and consultation in order to equip artists to understand the implications and opportunities of artificial intelligence while also inviting them to imagine the appropriate artistic and political responses to a world that will be significantly altered by the introduction of these technologies. We supported artists to not only use these tools, but also to inform the conversation about how these tools will be deployed, and to whose benefit.

The downloadable asset below is the final observations and recommendations from the process created by Valentine Goddard.


2019 – 2020


United States


Canada Council for the Arts

in partnership with:

AI Impact Alliance (Valentine Goddard)

Akoulina Connell

methods and techniques:

in-person workshops
video documentation

Project Summary

Art Impact catalyzed a national conversation in the cultural sector about the implications of artificial intelligence on artistic practices and on community health.

Partners Jerrold McGrath, Valentine Goddard, and Akoulina Connell facilitated workshops for artists and cultural workers between August 2019 and February 2020. The Art Impact AI Report: Observations and Recommendations was presented by Valentine Goddard at the United Nations during the summer of 2020 and has contributed to international policy recommendations underscoring the vital role of the arts in digital governance.

Emerging from our Dartmouth, Nova Scotia session, a collective of artists has banded together to form the Atlantic Canadian Artists Exploring Artificial Intelligence group. The Toronto session was forced online due to COVID-19 restrictions, yet we managed to recruit an active community of Newcomer artists through a partnership with the Neighbourhood Arts Network. Following this, we were invited to engage with planners looking at a new cultural space in the city and how AI might play a role in the spaces and discussions available to a youth-centered artistic space (100,000 sq. ft.)

The process and results were shared at a BMW Foundation global event in Mexico, which led to conversations with Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird of the Virginia House of Delegates and Red Dawn Foster, South Dakota Senator, about the cultural implications and available responses to AI for both African-American and Indigenous communities, respectively.

Recruitment to workshops was deep and broad with the explicit intent of sharing outcomes within communities. We continue to hear of grassroots activities sparked by participation in the workshops, particularly in Atlantic Canada, Iqaluit, Quebec City, Twillingate, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

As part of the process, we commissioned a group of artists to generate a physical game that would allow participants to experience viscerally the patterns of control and influence of machine learning systems. This game was shared at the AI for Good summit in Geneva (2020), and was shared at the Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation Summit at the Banff Centre in 2019. It was also documented in a Toyota Foundation publication in Japan, shown below.

Japanese text summarizing the game developed to provide workshop participants with an experience of algorithmic systems

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Adopt a definition of AI which includes social sciences and the arts to increase its beneficial social impact.
  2. Adopt a living definition of AI ethics.
  3. Improve access to AI’s development and governance for civil society and community based organizations.
  4. Support civic engagement & critical design through the arts.
  5. Improve access to choices of data governance models that reflect and respect data sovereignty and contribute to socio-economic development.
  6. Create an intellectual property strategy that supports a thriving cultural sector and the socialization of its benefits.
  7. Monitor and value social impact.
  8. Create an oversight body and/or algorithmic charter
Promotional square for a workshop on artificial intelligence and culture hosted in Iqaluit, Nunavut. A picture of brightly colored lichen dominates the image.