Artist. Architect. Space curator.
Finding the right space is important. Whether it’s a building that meets the needs of its occupants, an area that inspires community harmony or a city that embraces you, finding a space to call home is invaluable.
Tiffany Shaw-Collinge’s work lives where art, architecture and community advocacy meet. After completing her Fine Art diploma at MacEwan and receiving her Bachelor of Fine Art in Nova Scotia, she moved to Los Angeles to get her master’s degree in architecture. While there, she learned that the best place for her was right where she started.
“I worked for an architecture firm in L.A.,” she says. “We were working on fairly well known projects, like Beats by Dr. Dre Headquarters, as well as retail and housing projects for people in the music and movie industry. But after a while it didn’t feel exciting anymore. It didn’t have any resonance for me because I didn’t feel like I was affecting the community that I grew up in. At the end of the day, I felt those well-known clients would never know or care about who I was. It was fun and interesting, but I would rather do something that affects my family and community. So I decided to come back home to Edmonton to work with the community more directly.”
“Those well-known clients would never know or care about who I was. It was fun ... but I would rather do something that affects my family and community.”
Tiffany’s hometown roots run deep. As a founding member of iHuman Youth, a core member of the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective (which advocates for contemporary Indigenous art), and an active participant in the arts community, she has worked tirelessly to create spaces for people to come together, connect and express themselves. Even while studying in L.A., she returned to Edmonton in the summers, creating artwork to connect people.
One summer, Tiffany learned of a well-established community garden that had been removed to accommodate construction of the new Boyle-McCauley Community Centre. The city had promised to give the garden back, but nothing had been done three years later. "I could see tension between the city and the community, so I proposed putting a community garden in the parking lot as part of a transitory art exhibition called Dirt City Dream City," she recalls. " It was a small, quiet project but it satisfied both groups. That's what I like to do—create things that allow people to connect in a united way."
After returning to Edmonton permanently, Tiffany found her place as intern architect at a local architecture firm. “Manasc Isaac works on quite a few First Nations projects for almost 30 years,” she says. “I’m Métis myself, and it’s something I’m really proud of, so the fact that Manasc Isaac proudly features these projects as part of their extensive work had appealed to me as a young architect. I felt like that’s where my voice could be of value.”
Through Manasc Isaac, Tiffany’s career has come full circle. The firm was chosen to work on the design for MacEwan’s new downtown Centre for Arts and Culture, which will replace the university’s west-end campus in housing all fine and performing arts programs. In addition to working on the new building, Tiffany assisted with proposals for organizations looking to occupy the old one. “I worked with Yellowhead Tribal College on a feasibility study to move into the MacEwan west campus,” she says. “It’s a great organization that could benefit from really great spaces, so I got to reimagine the building for them. That was rewarding. I knew the space so intimately. I knew the potential that it could have.”
“That’s what I like about working in Edmonton,” she continues. “I know the projects. I have ideas about them already. I know what people think about the buildings and how they can adapt to reflect their identity. It feels affirming to be back here.”
Tiffany Shaw-Collinge is an alumna of the Design Studies program. Learn more at MacEwan.ca/DesignStudies.