Kids really respond to the teachings and techniques that underpin Indigenous art, says Josh Ruth, Managing Director of Art City, an art centre in West Broadway that offers free drop-in programming for youth.
“We see every time that Aboriginal programming is so enriching for the kids. For all the kids. They love it and they get it,” says Mr. Ruth. “The teachings that come through in making Aboriginal art are so accessible and so profound.”
So, when Art City staff saw the call for applications for the Youth Vital Signs response grants, they saw a perfect opportunity: to create an Indigenous Art Program.
The new program not only expands Art City’s artistic offerings for young people, it allows the busy neighbourhood organization to offer a safe, supportive and creative environment for kids on Saturdays – a time when its doors were once locked.
The program, which received a YVS grant of $10,000, started in the fall of 2015.
An Indigenous art instructor will oversee workshops on a wide variety of art media, including carving, beading, weaving, storytelling and much more. Mentorship and field trips are also planned.
But, Mr. Ruth points out that the program will largely be shaped by the participants themselves. Art City’s Youth Council meets monthly to review programming ideas and discuss issues facing kids in the neighbourhood.
“We’ve created a culture at Art City where kids know they can voice their ideas. The more we’ve put kids in the driver’s seat when we’re designing programs, the more buy-in and attendance we get,” says Mr. Ruth.
Last October, The Winnipeg Foundation released Youth Vital Signs 2014: Young Winnipeg’s Report Card.
The report compiled survey responses from more than 1,800 local youth, ages 14 to 29, who graded quality of life in our city based on 15 key areas. (You can find the full report at www.wpgfdn.org/yvs). A number of Art City youth completed the YVS survey.
In March, the Foundation announced it would commit $100,000 to address concerns raised in the Youth Vital Signs report and the related granting decisions would be made by Winnipeg youth.
Community groups were invited to submit their proposals for youth projects that focused on one or more of the 15 key quality of life areas graded in the report.
That a youth committee oversaw the granting process made the financial support particularly relevant, says Mr. Ruth.
“It’s an amazing full circle when we can apply to a funding program that is recommended and deliberated by youth as well,” he says.
Mr. Ruth expects strong attendance at the program. About 60% of the kids who attend Art City are Indigenous; many others are newcomers. No matter the background of the participants, previous Indigenous programming has been hugely successful at Art City.
“We all have so much to learn from Indigenous cultural teachings,” he says.
And, it’s helping to build the kind of intercultural bridges that the YVS report called for.
“It really is about breaking down social barriers, providing a creative space for people of all ages to create and make art in an organic way,” says Mr. Ruth.