Art Starts Speaks

North Toronto Forum on Income Inequality

On Thursday Mar 20th Art Starts participated in a forum on income inequality organized by MPP Mike Colle. The panel of speakers featured Art Starts‘ own Managing Director Liz ForsbergShelly Zuckerman Executive Director of the North York Community HouseAnette Chawla of North York Harvest Food Bank and Virgina Mills of Voices for a Just Society with the Keynote by Trish Hennessy, the Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.  Trish kicked off the event by speaking passionately about income inequality and challenged the audience with reducing that gap through social citizenship instead of individualistic ideals.

In her address to the crowd our very own  Liz Forsberg expanded upon the ways in which Art Starts helps to mitigate income inequality through the arts. The first step, according to Liz was to be able to “imagine our ideal world,” which is made easier with expression through the arts. Tangible impacts like employment and other income generating opportunities for youth and professional artists provided through our programs have been the catalyst for change amongst the neighbourhoods we work in and beyond, Liz explained. As a recent example Liz highlighted the transformational nature of our bike building program which, upon completion, saw youth gain a sustainable form of transportation and employable skills that could be used to increase opportunity and income.

We were very happy to get the chance to participate in this great town hall event as it is so encouraging for us to gather together with other community organizations in this city and see the real changes and valued conversations around ending income inequality.

The Power of Collaboration

At Art Starts we were excited when the opportunity arose to work with past partners For Youth Initiative (F.Y.I.) and North York Community House (NYCH) to collaborate on  Voicing Our Ideas for Change & Empowerment (V.O.I.C.E.) a March Break program for newcomer youth.

The spark for the program started with Ejay Tupe, Youth Case Leader at F.Y.I. who had been working with ESL students in an after school program and saw a need in the community. He was able to connect with Amy Forristal, Youth Leadership Development Worker at North York Community House who had a plan for a March Break program and was searching for partners. We at Art Starts joined the team with our roster of professional community-minded artists and the V.O.I.C.E program came together. Art Starts Program Manager Carleen Robinson, said about the partnership “We [had] the same goals why not pool resources?” a sentiment echoed by Ejay Tupe and Amy Forristal who saw the partnership as “natural” and a “window of opportunity”. Collectively Art Starts, FYI and NYCh were able to enrich the entire experience for all involved.

We [had] the same goals why not pool resources?”

Taking a multi-arts approach the youth got to work with a variety of media from plaster masks to drumming and textile art amongst other mediums. The  focus was on collaboration whether from the Philippines, Burma, Afghanistan or St. Lucia to create artistic magic. One of the youth, Anna from Germany, said that the arts part of the program didn’t interest her much but that she was excited that she had a place to make friends and learn English. Conversely another youth Jessica, expressed that her love for poetry drew her to the program but she is enjoying the other arts that she’s gotten an opportunity make.

In a room where youth were from China, Mexico, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Somalia, English was still new as their second language but art was a way for the youth to speak to one another and express themselves.  Amy Forristal, one of the program partners from North York Community House told us that Luda (one of her most shy youth) is always the first to participate. Instead of the regular ESL classes Luda among others was engaging in a space creatively and learning communication simultaneously. This program brought to light just how powerful art is as a medium of communication and what happens when we do it together.

March 6th Newsletter

Program Spotlight  on Sew What?!

For our winter session of our ever popular fashion arts program, a group of enthusiastic Art Starts youth will learn the all important skills of pattern drafting from professional drafter Matthew Visser-Charest. Program Manager Carleen  can’t stress enough the importance of learning to draft patterns if the youth are looking for a design career in the fashion industry.

“Pattern drafting is key,” emphasizes Carleen, “and a real skill requiring precision.” The training the youth will receive will clearly map out the building skill necessary to make a pattern and construct their own top. The lessons will focus on attention to detail such as measuring arms bent as opposed to straight. “The kids asked why do we have to measure arms bent?” says Carleen, who is excited about the ongoing program “because no one walks with their arms straight” she tells the youth, teaching them how important the details really are. These are the valuable skills the Sew What?! training offer our youth in preparation for professional study and practice.

As classes get into full swing the Art Starts program, now in it’s third year, continues with a strong stride having notable moments such as an inspiring workshop lead by esteemed fashion model Stacey McKenzie. For more on our Sew What?! program check out them out in Yonge Street Media’s Civic Impact column or keep up to date with them on their youth-lead tumblr blog.

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