Empowering Glendower

Knowledge Power Art

Art Starts has been working with the Glendower community for the last seven years in a collaborative effort to empower local residents. With many successes in that time including forming a resident lead arts council, a multi-year public art mosaic project and enabling a dance crew who applied for and received funding to run their own youth-led program. Though the road has not always been a smooth one, every win and loss has taught us many lessons that will serve Art Starts and our communities in continuing to facilitate effective, collaborative and culturally sensitive experiences for local residents.

Most recently at Glendower Art Starts has been engaging local youth with  Knowledge, Power, Art!, an after school program that fuses art and academics to addresses issues of literacy. Through a fun and engaging process of mentorship and research the kids and youth work with facilitators Yafet Tewelde (researcher & community developer) and Nicole Brooks (actor, playwright, producer & vocalist) to write and perform original monologues based on cultural or historical figures. The monologues are addressing a range of issues but center around the idea of race in society. The culmination of their work will be a collaborative performance piece they will present at a celebration showcase in June.

Art Starts Program Director Katherine Earl and Glendower Program Manager Amina Alfred have both noticed the mature, thoughtful and articulate youth that the program is nurturing. Youth in the community are beginning to invest in the program in wonderful ways that are building their confidence and allowing them to communicate and express powerfully and effectively while touching on culturally sensitive issues. As the program grows in attendance and the kids and youth are eager to continue.  We can’t help but be excited about the new leaders that will emerge from this program and look forward to watching their final performances in June!

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Art Starts is Stepping Up!

Art Starts presents the One Love Step Group

Stepping up with step-dancing!

Step Up! is a program that began in early 2014 as a response to the youth in the Lawrence Heights and surrounding areas who were clamouring to learn the art of stepping. As a part of our continued commitment to the residents in these neighbourhoods Art Starts was able to provide a space within the Yorkdale Community Arts Centre where youth from 7-18 can learn choreography, create dance pieces to perform and learn the social skills essential for success.

The program also addresses concerns of community tension and conflict among the youth and provides a bridge for them to connect.  The Step Up program is providing a platform to unify the neighbourhoods of Neptune, Jungle and Champlain around the art of dance. explains Alicia Clarke program manager for Art Starts‘ Lawrence Heights neighbourhood.

A collaborative effort, Art Starts has been working with Toronto Parks & Recreation youth coordinator Shukri MohamedToronto Community Housing mentor Teisha Mullings and youth leader Lashay Cadore along with Black Action Defence Committee youth outreach worker Hasha Alexander to finally bring this offering to the youth. “It almost makes you forget the overwhelming tensions that exist between their neighbourhoods” says Shukri.This initiative has been in the minds of front line workers in these communities for a long time“.

“Some of the challenges that the group of mostly young women are dealing with surface in their social interactions” says Teisha who provides a fresh perspective to the youth by encouraging them to curb behaviours that reinforce negative stereotypes and adopt more empowering habits.
The expectation of the youth in the program is respect, love and positivity,” stresses Alicia, which the group has embraced as they came together and named their team the One Love Step Group.

Inspiringly the youth have gotten so involved and been so committed after working with famed dance instructor Hollywood Jade they have organized the group with team jerseys and have been applying to perform in local stepping competitions. Currently preparing for their first performance on May 17th at the 2nd Annual Girls Power Leadership Conference, which aims to empower young girls discover their individual identity, tenacity and creative gifts, the group is eager and talented and ready to take the stepping world by storm!

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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.