Introducing Khari Wendell McClelland, CERi Artist-in-Residence

April 11, 2023

By Steven Ta


Empowering individuals and communities to believe in their potential to make a positive impact on the world around them is what drives Khari Wendell McClelland’s work. As a creative facilitator, musician, and resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for nearly 20 years, McClelland’s strong desire to improve the community is what has led him to become CERi’s latest Artist-in-Residence.

“I think the arts have a very interesting way of giving people permission to dream to think, to envision, and to actually connect with what gives their bodies joy and pleasure and catharsis…what I'm trying to do is to inspire people to feel like they actually can take action, that they actually can be active and pursue the things that they hope for themselves, and for their larger community,” said McClelland.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, McClelland was first introduced to music at the age of six when he started playing the electric organ. Today, he is an established musician known for his stylistic mix of soul and gospel. One of his latest projects, the critically acclaimed album Freedom Singer, is a recreation of the music fugitive slaves carried on their journey into Canada. In addition to music, McClelland is a creative facilitator, a career which began when he attended a youth arts camp called Power of Hope. There, he witnessed the power of the arts to facilitate transformational learning and was inspired to pursue creative facilitation himself.

When asked about how his work intersects with community-engaged research, McClelland mentioned the value of knowledge that comes from places other than academia.

“I think community-engaged research for me and how it connects or overlaps with what I do as a facilitator is that it assumes that the expertise isn't held by one person or one body – that knowledge, wisdom and understanding, are not necessarily hierarchical – it's not about experts, who deduce and give proclamations, it's about trying to get a real representation of who the community is,” said McClelland.

At the core of McClelland’s work is addressing the human condition. In an increasingly complex society filled with suffering and inequality, one of the main goals of both McClelland’s music and facilitation is to identify places of celebration. “A big part of what I deemed to be essential inside of a space is actually to be able to identify places of celebration, to be able to identify when our peers or the cohort are doing things well. Even if that's just listening well to one another. Acknowledging when someone is meeting a challenge – maybe it's something that might be easy for someone else – but for that person, you can really see that they’ve moved through a lot of struggle to meet that moment. That's worthy of celebration.”

For McClelland, the arts are a way for people to address their emotional vulnerabilities and lead them to action. “There may be sadness or loss, or frustration or anger or rage even. But there's a way in which the arts – things including humour, music, visual art, and storytelling – these things have this capacity for giving us a way to express things that just lie internally, sometimes dormant, sometimes unexpressed. And I think our ability to put those things outside of ourselves, just outside of our minds and onto something outside of ourselves, increases the likelihood that we will find a way to act on those things.” McClelland said.

Looking toward the future, McClelland is excited to explore the possibilities of working in collaboration with CERi. “I feel like there are loads of possibilities for how I can collaborate with CERi. I'm just excited for what we will do together as this is nearly the beginning.”

To learn more about his book, please visit

Khari's music website:

Khari's facilitation website:

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