Virtual Symposium - Transformative Practices: Listening and Being Heard

25 March 2021 12 noon to 8 pm, GMT Organised and hosted by the MA Art and Social Practice and the Centre for Island Creativity, Shetland College UHI

see full size image
Event poster


Carey Newman, Keynote Speaker

Dr Loraine Leeson

Dr Deirdre MacKenna

Yara El-Sherbini 

The Virtual Symposium will explore the transformative potential of the act of listening within social art practice.  It will consider the transformative effect of being heard, to share direct testimony and lived experience. How can the transformative power of listening serve as a tool for artists to build practice? How are artists listening to others, and learning from different perspectives in order to strengthen practices, maintain relevance and be responsive? What do we learn from the different communities with whom we work, and how do we bring this learning to effect change? What are artists doing in response to the pandemic, and how have we repositioned our practices to respond to new situations and social needs?  

This international event brings together students, artists, lecturers and researchers from the UK, Ireland, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia and further afield.  We are honoured to host Carey Newman, the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest at the University of  Victoria, as Keynote Speaker. 

Speakers from the UK include Dr Loraine Leeson, based in London, and Dr Deirdre MacKenna, based in the Highlands and Islands, who will open the event. The socially engaged artist, Yara El-Sherbini, currently based in the USA, will present in the afternoon.

The Virtual Symposium broadly examines the subject of social art practice in art and higher education as a way to make a difference in society, sharing and discussing projects in progress by students and practitioners from diverse communities. Importantly it provides a forum for our students in the field of socially engaged art practice to meet other students, practitioners and academics working within national and international contexts.  Thus the event is hosted by the MA Art and Social Practice, located in the Centre for Island Creativity, Shetland College, University of the Highlands and Islands.  Our first Virtual Symposium was held in 2014, and this one is the sixth, having become an annual international event which promotes dialogue and exchange around current issues in the field and an ongoing network for emerging artists in this expanding field of practice.  


About Carey Newman, Keynote Speaker

Carey Newman, whose traditional name is Hayalthkin’geme, is a multi-disciplinary Indigenous artist, master carver, filmmaker, author and public speaker. Through his father he is Kwakwak’awakw from the Kukwekum, Giiksam, and WaWalaby’ie clans of northern Vancouver Island, and Coast Salish from Cheamof the Sto:lo Nation along the upper Fraser Valley. Through his mother his ancestors are Settlers of English, Irish, and Scottish heritage. In his artistic practice he strives to highlight Indigenous, social, and environmental issues as he examines the impacts of colonialism and capitalism, harnessing the power of material truth to unearth memory and trigger the necessary emotion to drive positive change. He is also interested in engaging with community and incorporating innovative methods derived from traditional teachings and Indigenous world views into his process. 

Highlights from his career include being selected as the master carver of the Cowichan 2008 Spirit Pole, a journey that saw him travel the province of BC sharing the carving experience of carving a 20’ totem with over 11,000 people, a major commission entitled “Dancing Wind” installed at the 2010 Olympic Games, Athlete’s Village in Whistler, premiering the documentary he wrote and co-directed at the Vancouver International Film Festival as well as publishing his first book. He also continues to create for and consult with corporations, government agencies, collectors and museums around the world. 

Perhaps his most influential work, The Witness Blanket, made of items collected from residential schools, government buildings and churches across Canada, deals with the subject of Truth and Reconciliation. It is now part of the collection at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Carey was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 2017 and was named to the Order of British Columbia in 2018.


For further information and to register, please email: or 


Speaker Biographies  and in formation about the MA Programmes taking part in the event will provided to participants in the Virtual Symposium prior to the event.