Image: Camilo Jimenez
Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Summer 2020


This project seeks to understand the experiences of personal support workers (PSWs) during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many PSWs in Canada continue to provide their essential services through the pandemic, with increased precarity and vulnerability in their care work and personal lives. We will recruit twenty PSWs to participate in arts-based research (photovoice) to understand their experiences of care work during the pandemic. We will begin with a critical consciousness-raising focus group, where we will ask each participant to think about the ways in which their care labor remains invisible, thus increasing their precarity and vulnerability as a PSW. We will then ask the participants to create, on their own, an image that would represent these reflections. After they have created a photovoice, each participant will collaborate remotely with a visual artist to finalize their image and develop an artist’s statement about the image. There will be a second focus group, where participants will be able to share their images and reflections with one another in dialogue. We will use the photographs, statements, and any themes from both focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences. We expect to receive counternarratives about vulnerability, visibility and care, community, and strength from the participants. We will share the photographs and statements from the participants on online media platforms (e.g., Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, and virtual galleries) to engage the larger community and increase the potential to support positive change for PSWs.

Principal Investigator

Patricia Van Katwyk

Associate Professor, University of Waterloo

Dr. Trish Van Katwyk has been designing, facilitating, and writing about arts-based research for over 10 years. Her community-based research engagements have been with youth, community members experiencing exclusions due to mental health, poverty, and newcomer status, as well as with Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth and adult community members exploring possibilities for alliances. Van Katwyk has used dance, sculpture, comic books, illustrations, paintings, digital storytelling, and theatre as methods of arts-based research. Her critical arts-based research has been participatory, collaborative, and community-immersed. Knowledge mobilization activities have included dance performance, public installation, comic book distribution, conference presentations, art exhibits, and academic journal articles.