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Changing the Conversation Collaboration

The Changing the Conversation project aims to better understand the perspectives of those who have experienced challenges related to housing insecurity, including renters, and how these perspectives can be better included in community conversations about housing.

In early 2023, artists Amal Ishaque and PJ Patton were selected to lead New Westminster in examining how public spaces and public art can facilitate a healthier discourse about housing in the community, prioritizing the perspectives of those with lived and living experience of housing insecurity. Check out Amal and PJ’s biographies, and the rich experiences they bring to this project below.

This three year deep dive into artistic expression and public discussion is presented in partnership with the Institute of Applied Ethics at Douglas College and Arts New West.

This project is generously funded through a grant provided by the Vancouver Foundation.

The Artists in Residence


Amal Ishaque is a Pushcart nominated poet, educator and interdisciplinary storyteller. Their writing has appeared in multiple journals, anthologies and other platforms, including: The World that Belongs to Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia, Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, The Puritan – What Does It Mean to Be A Muslim Writer, Room Magazine, The Feminist Wire and more.

Amal has curated numerous arts showcases, writing workshops and other creative projects centering narratives that are often hidden or forgotten. In 2019, they completed a year-long arts residency with Carnegie Community Centre.

At the beginning of the pandemic, they co-founded the Marpole Mutual Aid Network to respond to growing food and housing insecurity in their neighbourhood. Amal’s art practice is informed by years of grassroots community organizing and the foundational belief that together we can create the liberatory futures of our dreams.

PJ Patton

PJ Patten is a self-taught graphic illustrator, tattoo artist, and poet whose work is influenced by the intersection of his Japanese heritage with his American military upbringing.

Patten’s parents met in Japan where his father was stationed, and the family was raised in Huntington Beach, California where he started airbrushing surfboards in the popular surfing community.

Patten’s own lived experience of homelessness and addiction as a young adult led to the publishing of his first published book “Tower25: Strung Out, Homeless, and Standing Up Again.”

The evocative and emotional illustrations in the book are inspired by the traditional Japanese artform of Haiga, which blends watercolour painting and haiku. Patten uses inkstone and brushes that belonged to his Oba-chan (Japanese for “grandmother”) that she herself used to create art.

His preferred mediums are acrylic paints on canvas, pen, ink, watercolours on paper.

As part of his mental health journey, Patten spent ten years living at a buddhist retreat center, immediately after which he began working on his graphic novel “Tower 25”.

Patten has led graphic novel workshops for at-risk youth and given talks on comics and his own recovery story. He has had his paintings and drawings exhibited in and around Vancouver B.C., and is currently working on a new project – also a graphic novel – telling the stories of the children who spent time in Canada’s Japanese Internment Camps.

Patten is a grateful resident on the unceded and stolen lands of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueum peoples who have been here since time immemorial. He operates out of hi

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