10 Years of Innercity Arts

As we near the 10th anniversary of Innercity Arts, I wanted to look back on how the program came about. I recently spoke with Jason Pino, the Youth Outreach Worker who started the program 10 years ago.

Jason told me that back in 2009 he was doing regular street outreach – engaging with youth on the streets, under bridges and in parking garages. As he got to know the youth on the streets, he witnessed the social isolation and negative self-esteem that often accompanies street life. He wanted to create a positive program that challenged this negative self-perception and helped youth feel valued.  Around the same time, he got to know a youth named Kerry. Kerry would often sketch and work on art while she was on the street. Jason saw the calm and peace that would come over Kerry as she worked on her art – it was truly transformative. This is where the idea for Innercity Arts was born. Jason’s vision was to create a supportive space where youth could engage in the arts, build supportive relationships and build on their strengths. 

#innercityartshow #10years

“Kerry”, 2009

Jason secured a small room in a downtown church and purchased some basic art supplies. On the first day, just one youth arrived. In fact, for the first several months, Jason admits that sometimes no youth would show up at all. But he persevered and focused on developing trusting relationships with the youth who showed up. It was a partnership with Kelly Santini Lawyers that helped fuel the program. Kelly Santini Lawyers agreed to sponsor the program by providing meals, as well as organizing an art show where the youth could sell their artwork. Working towards the goal of a show was hugely motivating for the youth, and more and more of them started coming to the program.

The first show, which took place in late 2009, was a huge success. 9 youth participated and every painting sold. From there, the program developed and thrived.

Innercity Arts has grown and changed over the past 10 years. Over 40 youth attend weekly, we have 15 adult volutneers, a music room and we have a youth choir. But the vision remains the same: relationships are central and strengths are the focus.

We are thrilled to be having our 10th Anniversary Art Show at the new Ottawa Art Gallery. Kelly Santini Lawyers will again be our sponsor.

We hope you will join us on May 9th !

Behold, Real Art

innercity arts programOut of pure curiosity I browsed around on Google yesterday checking out the value of the top 10 paintings at The National Art Gallery here in Ottawa. I encourage you to explore the same in your spare time; some of it is definitely interesting. Most of the paintings and art work exhibited there cannot be put with their price tag beside it for security measures that have been put in place…they are in the MILLIONS.

We can all look at the same piece of art, read the same book, see the same movie and feel and take away something completely different; that’s the beauty of life being unique and imperfectly perfect.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then art speaks to the heart through the eyes of those who choose to feel the emotions behind the paint and clay.

Art is a form of therapy, an emotional outlet, a best friend to talk to. Art can be raw and tell a story of past hurts or hidden scars. It can also be a way to watch a life and heart slowly transform, learn to trust, break down walls and build a safe community with support and unconditional love.

Up until a few years ago our home had some fancy prints of famous artists; that was until I came to Innercity Arts and met true artists with stories, faces and names. Now our home is proudly decorated with colors and hanging art depicting the talents and stories of REAL artists. For us we feel truly blessed to have gifted art in our home worth MORE THAN MILLIONS; the priceless stories behind them worth more than any amount of gold.

Purchasing art isn’t always about “agreeing” with the artist’s choices, it’s often how it makes you feel and the emotions that it either inspires or provokes.

Coming up soon is an amazing opportunity to meet our artists and purchase some real  art at the 10th Annual Innercity Arts Show on May 9th. It’s being held at the Ottawa Art Gallery from 6:30pm-9pm. We can’t wait to see you there!

~Bonnie, Staff

 

 

 

Hope Trumps All

Innercity Arts program - Ottawa Innercity MinistriesThe definition of hope is as such:

Noun:  The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Other words describing hope? Belief, confidence, desire, expectation, faith, goal, optimism, wish.

That’s a BIG responsibility for such a small word…yet that’s exactly what our youth find at the Innercity Arts program. The word reminds me of our beloved 2-pound family pet Chihuahua named Princess; small but mighty.

Like all of us, our youth need encouraging words, community, safety, acceptance for who they are and the reminder that during the hard times there is hope and better circumstances waiting after the storms have settled.

Innercity Arts is my personal favourite place to be. Watching hearts and lives slowly transform as the youth learn to trust and open to the staff and volunteers who have been hand-picked to love and support them.

To be completely honest…they are my teachers. They have taught me what resilience of the human spirit looks like, what true community should be defined as, what real art looks like and how it should be more appreciated.

And they have also shown me how hope should always be at the forefront of our thoughts and the first words that roll off of our tongues….because watching the transformation come from it is breathtaking.

~Bonnie, Staff

 

 

 

 

New Bursary Program

For the past several years, the Canadian Stone Carving Festival has raised funds for Innercity Arts. The festival founders are passionate about supporting street-involved youth through the arts, and wanted to make a meaningful impact.

We are proud to announce a new initiative in partnership with the Canadian Stone Carving Festival and the Ottawa School of Art, called Freya’s Bursary. This bursary will provide professional level art education to four Innercity Arts participants each year.

Two youth will take a course at the Ottawa School of Art, and two will take an introductory stone carving course at Smith & Barber Atelier.

Several youth applied for the bursary and it was incredibly difficult to decide on just four youth – as all of them are deserving of this opportunity. Some common themes in the applications: a desire to learn a new skill, a need to use art as a therapeutic tool to cope with trauma and mental illness, and a hope that being in a post-secondary institution will help them regain the confidence to return to school.

We are so excited about this bursary and can’t wait to see where it leads!

To learn more about why the bursary is called “Freya’s bursary”, click here.

 

 

20190121_181400

20190107_17025820190121_180438

 

Come As You Are

Art Hand-minMusic playing in the back ground. The rustling of voices. Some laughing, some random chattering. The room is filled with various hues of paint color and textures of fabric. The faint smell of burning wood can be detected in the air. A large plate of home-cooked dinner awaits, with plenty more for seconds and take-home bags.

It’s a safe place where you are accepted exactly as you are. There is no judgment; just unconditional community, support and love.

Welcome to Innercity Arts! It’s an amazing place where our city’s street-engaged youth can sign up to be a part of a community where all different forms of art are used. It’s a way of coming together to offer a few hours of creative expression in a safe environment surrounded by food, friendship, and mentoring with individuals who accept our youth for exactly who they are.

Innercity Arts is a place where youth are seen for their talents – either visible or hidden – and encouraged to be the very best version of themselves. Our youth come from all different backgrounds, and all with a story of their own that is protected and respected.

Every youth is assigned a qualified mentor who walks alongside them with goal-setting or any struggles they wish to share in confidence; without any judgment. For our youth, the art group is a place to grow, to discover who they are and to encourage them to soar through using art as a way to heal and communicate their emotions. All this, while surrounded by a community of staff, volunteers and peers who believe in them and their abilities.

We are all special, unique and amazing exactly as we are. We all just want to be and feel accepted for the way we were made…Here, at Innercity Arts, we try to provide just that because our youth are incredible!

-Bonnie, Staff

 

 

Innercity Arts Christmas Party

Every year, Innercity Arts holds a Christmas party for all of the youth in the program. It’s a special night, when both the older and younger groups come together, along with the volunteers, to celebrate the special time of year.

We were blessed this year to have some of our behind-the-scenes cooks prepare and serve a hot turkey meal. This included the fire department – who regularly cooks for the art group – and who brought mountains of food and stuck around to serve seconds and thirds.

It’s always a blessing to see these young people, who have so much turmoil and stress in their daily lives, relax and laugh together – exchanging gift, hugs and smiles.

Each youth was given a gift just for them. A gift bag with a gift card, chocolate, and art pens – along with a card made by their mentor with a personal message in it. Each gift bag also included a journal or sketch book chosen just for them.

We tried to choose a different book for each young person that suited their personality. For one young person, who has had a particularly difficult year, we chose a journal with a CS Lewis quote “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. ” When she opened the journal, I told her I hoped she liked it – and she exclaimed “I love it! CS Lewis is my favourite author!”

For another young person, we chose a journal that had a galaxy on it because she loves painting galaxies. When she opened it, she said “Oh my God! You guys must really love me!”

It was an awesome night, and we are so thankful to everyone who helped make this happen, including all of our amazing cooks, volunteers, the firefighters at Station 12 C and the Christmas Cheer Foundation.

 

20181220_190102 edit 49496020_10102661409751529_2921122474802282496_n 20181220_194752 edit 20181220_194710

Larissa’s Journey: One Final Thank You!

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series featuring one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program that began on November 26, 2018. We hope it offered insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the program. Today’s blog post is a Special Message that comes directly from Larissa’s on-air presentation on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM (airing 8 am and 5 pm). Thanks for listening!

Larissa’s-Journey

Hi, my name is Larissa.

When I think of OIM, I think of faith, unconditional friendship, support, resources, food and a community of really good-hearted Christians trying to do their best.

They made such a difference in my life, and the lives of so many youth in our City!

I hope you will be able to help them continue to do their good work, by making a donation of  any amount.

Every dollar counts, and your prayers and encouragements mean so much.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and blessed New Year!

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: My Christmas Wish

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

Larissa’s-Journey

My Christmas Wish is that someone will pay for my driver’s license so I can get my license. I’d also like a gift card to Costco – they have the best cookies ever! When I was a kid, I used to get up in the middle of the night and empty the cookie jar.

I wish that all the youth in the program would have a safe place to go on Christmas night. I wish that someone would donate like $3 million dollars to the organization and you guys could buy this office place for your own.

For the Innercity Arts program, I wish that we get new supplies for the kids to use. Some of our old supplies are a little rickety now.

I wish that youth who are now on the streets could get the help they need. For those listening, if you are at Tim Hortons and you see someone who might be homeless, buy a five dollar gift card and drop it in his hat. Every homeless person needs to eat.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa expresses her thanks to OIM and all those who support this ministry. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: My Changed Life

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

Larissa’s-Journey

You know, if it wasn’t for all the organizations who help youth in Ottawa, I would probably be under a bridge, dead.

Without the Innercity Arts program, I would not have the food I needed to survive. When I started at OIM, I only had enough money for one meal a week.

One time my aunt took me to a restaurant, and she bought me a meal. Since I wasn’t used to eating all that much, I took the rest of the meal home, and it was all I had for the last two weeks of the month. Really, I found out that steak doesn’t taste all that good on the second week. But that’s all I had.

OIM would supply me with two meals a week, plus some money to buy more food. Now I had food covered for four or five days.

Since starting in the program…

I have schizophrenia, right. If I don’t have a routine, or schedule that I can follow, I tend to go off my meds, I go buy drugs and drive away nice people out of my life.

I burn bridges.

When I go to the Innercity Arts program, it gives me direction, keeps me stable, and I always have a safe place to go. If there is a delay in my medication, I can always go to OIM and feel safe, comfortable and welcome. It is a safe environment and a very positive one.

OIM gave me hope that no matter what I do, I am going to be OK, as long as I keep at it. OIM taught me that. Before OIM I had no motivation. OIM gave me support, and continues to be a lifeline for my life.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares “My Christmas Wish.” Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words.

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: Early Years in Foster Care

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 fm, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening!Larissa’s Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her “Early Years”. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

I would wait until my sister was asleep and then I would cry that I could go back to my mom and dad. I wanted to find out who my dad was, but I never did.

When I was 4 ½, I started to go to different homes in foster care. They finally found a home for my sister and me.  My sister and I were made to change our last names to a hyphenated one, because they were maybe going to adopt us, and they didn’t want anyone to know that we were foster kids. I lived there for 9 years.

They didn’t adopt us. My birth mom fought in court that we should not be adopted. The courts never agreed to allow us to be adopted.  When I left home, I was old enough to know what was going on, and I still wanted to go back home.  I felt so all alone.

My sister was with my at this foster home.  I don’t cook. I used to eat eggs and the eggshells too. It all went into the blender. Me and my sister would make concoctions and have an after school snack.

I went to 10 different foster homes after that, until I was 16. It was somebody else’s family, but you were lucky to be there, because it could be far worse. I must have been a really bad kid, because I never stayed at any place for any long time. One place my foster mom threw a knife at me and it stuck into the wall. I called the cops. I even lived in a group home near Spencerville. In that place other kids in the hoe would run away and get rides from truckers.

One home was way out in the country and we had homemade bread, butter, and we had to get wood from outside and bring it in to heat. Mice ran across my bed, and there were rats too. Crazy. I got really sick once and lay on the floor to cool my fever, and they wouldn’t take me to the hospital. I told my social worker but she didn’t do anything about it. Even though I was really sick when we talked, she didn’t do anything.

Some people that had us used us as if we were a trophy when we were in their home.  We’d get gifts to open in front of everyone, for show, then they would return the gifts to the store.

I went to so many different schools, lasted a month maybe. I only have my grade ten. The last school I was at, I lasted only two weeks. I can’t do school any more, I was hit by a bus and hurt my head really bad.  

When I was sixteen, someone from the group home dropped me off at a shelter in Ottawa.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her “Early Years”. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!