The past twelve months saw speakers, performers, and curators shine lights on the many barriers built into the mainstream arts and force a focus on the brilliant work that has been taking place beyond those walls for generations. It was a year of building safer spaces for play and thoughtful transformations.

Heather Igloliorte’s curation of SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut remains one of the most beautiful exhibitions to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The work of four generations of artists from Nunatsiavut, Labrador was a pleasure to walk through and a testimonial to the political and cultural importance of craft within the fine arts.

Recent Graduates of NSCAD U Jade Byard Peek and Shaya Ishaq were an indispensable duo in Halifax’s ongoing integration of social justice into the art scene. Byard Peek is an artist, curator, and leader in the student movement. Her performance Fried palpably translated her relationship to hair within the violence of white beauty standards. Ishaq’s residency at The Khyber, Black Libraries Matter, created a space of combined wisdom by building a library of readings recommended by members of the Black community and donated by the North Memorial Library. Peek and Ishaq’s joint effort leading the Black Lives Matter Reading Group extended their unshakable intelligence and patience to groups of participants in a collective learning classroom. The sessions expanded on the BLM Syllabus, specializing it to Nova Scotia’s troubled race dynamics. The tremendous energy they have put into this community reaches ever outward and will shape this city for many years to come, no matter where they move forward in their careers.

Helah Cooper, Switches + Links (photo: Helah Cooper, performer: Calen Sack)

Helah Cooper’s exhibition Switches + Links was a modular performance interface built in the Anna Leonowens Gallery. At set times in the day teams of performers improvised with platforms, steps, and tiny objects. Visitors witnessed the queer dynamics of each group as they built and deconstructed tiny worlds out of odd objects. Cooper’s experimental playground perfectly illustrated how we are able to reconfigure culture when we work together and make way for varying perspectives. The exuberance of play and ferocity of activism at work in 2017 was all encompassing and deeply humbling to participate in.

Anna Taylor is an artist, crafter, and organizer sitting on the board of the Halifax Crafters Society. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @TaylorMadeGoods.