Youth Elevating Youth art group to start by listening
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.