Youth El­e­vat­ing Youth art group to start by lis­ten­ing

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG COWAN

A new youth arts col­lec­tive will use two fund­ing grants to in­crease pro­gram­ming for lo­cal artists and cre­ators.

The YEY (Youth El­e­vat­ing Youth) col­lec­tive in Owen Sound was one of 16 groups in On­tario to re­ceive a grant from the Laidlaw Foun­da­tion as part of their Youth Di­rect Ac­tion pro­gram.

YEY’s pro­gram­ming will in­clude weekly open arts stu­dios and week­end work­shops in 2019, which will pro­vide train­ing in dif­fer­ent arts dis­ci­plines and of­fer sup­port to cre­ate col­lab­o­ra­tive com­mu­nity arts projects. YEY also plans to of­fer sum­mer-camp style in­ten­sive train­ing in 2019 for emerg­ing artists aged 14-29.

An “Idea Jam” work­shop will of­fi­cially kick-off YEY’s lo­cal pro­gram­ming on Oct. 21, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Tone Stu­dio in Owen Sound. Peo­ple aged 14-29 are in­vited to reg­is­ter and con­trib­ute their thoughts about how to cre­ate safer spa­ces for in­te­grat­ing arts, with dis­cus­sions on so­cial change by email­ing yey­col­lec­

The YEY col­lec­tive also ap­plied for and re­ceived fund­ing from SPARC (Sup­port­ing Per­form­ing Arts in Ru­ral Com­mu­ni­ties), which will fa­cil­i­tate five work­shops for emerg­ing arts pro­fes­sion­als, and those work­ing in the arts who are more es­tab­lished in the com­mu­nity, in an ef­fort to share skills and knowl­edge while mak­ing con­nec­tions and pro­vid­ing men­tor­ship.

“I was rec­og­niz­ing that, as a young per­son who grew up in the re­gion and ben­e­fit­ted from the arts pro­gram­ming, that some of the pro­grams that I ben­e­fit­ted from don’t ex­ist any­more,” said YEY co-founder Lau­ren Best. “We had a de­sire to cre­ate a con­tainer for arts-based pro­gram­ming that would re­ally re­flect . . . the youth voice and have youth in­volved in the pro­gram­ming, but also have some longevity.”

The YEY col­lec­tive is aim­ing for youth to mix artis­tic and creative meth­ods while ground­ing their work in so­cial is­sues and cre­at­ing change in their com­mu­nity.

“We can try to work­out how we feel about these is­sues through our artis­tic process,” said Dy­lan Chau­vinSmith, a YEY co-founder.

“The project stems from a de­sire to sup­port well­ness in young peo­ple through the arts, and we be­lieve that help­ing peo­ple in­di­vid­u­ally by hav­ing a creative prac­tice that con­trib­utes to their per­sonal well­ness also con­trib­utes to cre­at­ing well­ness within the com­mu­nity.”

For now the project is a blank can­vas fo­cused on col­lab­o­ra­tion, safe spa­ces for creative out­lets, and skill­build­ing while look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion to from young lo­cal artists - but a pub­lic in­stal­la­tion or gallery may be an op­tion in the fu­ture for the col­lec­tive.

“It will be an in­ter­nal process so peo­ple can feel safe to do things that they wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily do for a pub­lic au­di­ence, but we also want to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for youth to ex­hibit and share,” said Chau­vinSmith.

While art can of­ten be an in­di­vid­ual pur­suit, Best said the role of a col­lec­tive could help build “creative con­fi­dence” in young and emerg­ing artists. “They will feel sup­ported and also have strate­gies for ex­press­ing them­selves and ne­go­ti­at­ing those creative and so­cial re­la­tion­ships,” said Best. “By pair­ing young peo­ple with art pro­fes­sion­als who have gone through that process them­selves of over­com­ing that shy­ness . . . to be able to work more con­fi­dently.”

“We’re go­ing to be very in­ten­tional in cre­at­ing sup­port­ive spa­ces.”

Of the 16 groups to re­ceive Laidlaw Foun­da­tion grants a com­mon theme was en­gag­ing youth in so­cial jus­tice and the com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties of young peo­ple while hav­ing those per­spec­tives heard by “de­ci­sion mak­ers”.

Black Lives Mat­ter Toronto and the Cana­dian Tamil Youth De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre were two other groups that re­ceived the Laidlaw fund­ing.

“I think in this com­mu­nity specif­i­cally youth voices and per­spec­tives are less high­lighted or not as prom­i­nent,” said Chau­vin-Smith. “We hope that we can help cre­ate in­ter-gen­er­a­tional di­a­logue by hav­ing youth per­spec­tives trans­lated through art and shared through artis­tic means.”

Best, as Owen Sound’s Poet Lau­re­ate and a lo­cal arts-based busi­ness owner, is well versed in the lo­cal creative scene and the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of the col­lec­tive.

“I hope young peo­ple feel more em­pow­ered,” Best said. “In the age of so­cial me­dia they’re able to re­ally wit­ness first hand how some­what lit­tle things peo­ple make can be­come very big.”

Best added the abil­ity to reach wider au­di­ences could also be an ob­sta­cle for new artists.

“You’re ex­ist­ing in a very dis­tracted world that has a lot of noise and it’s easy to feel small and in­signif­i­cant . . . it’s much more par­tic­i­pa­tory, but it’s also much more crowded. By join­ing to­gether and by hav­ing a frame­work we’re help­ing to am­plify what they care about and what they cre­ate.”

The YEY arts col­lec­tive can be fol­lowed on Face­book by search­ing Youth El­e­vat­ing Youth or on In­stra­gram un­der the han­dle “yey col­lec­tive ,” they also pub­lish a monthly news­let­ter.


YEY (Youth El­e­vat­ing Youth) and par­tic­i­pants at the Teddy Bear Pic­nic for Chil­dren’s Men­tal Health col­lab­o­rated on this piece. YEY arts col­lec­tive pro­gram­ming kicks off with an Idea Jam work­shop, open to those ages 14 to 29, on Sun­day, Oct. 21. Artists are in­vited to con­trib­ute their thoughts on how to cre­ate safer spa­ces for in­te­grat­ing arts with dis­cus­sions on so­cial change.

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