A Tough Night

It was a particularly rough start to the night at Innercity Arts. One of the youth had arrived in distress, suffering from a mental health crisis and inebriation. His behaviour was out of control and his health was in danger – so we made the decision to call paramedics.

Like so many other young people on the streets, this young man became afraid and agitated when he saw the flashing lights of police and ambulance. We tried our best to keep him calm and reassure him that he was safe. It was so difficult to watch as he yelled and struggled with the paramedics who were trying so hard to help him.

From the corner of my eye, I could see several peers from Innercity Arts watching quietly. I sensed that they were guarding their young friend, making sure he was not being mistreated.

When the ambulance left with the young man, I approached the group to make sure they were okay.

“I know that must have been hard to see your friend like that”, I said.

“Actually, we wanted to make sure YOU were okay,” one replied.

Surprised, I questioned “Me?”

“Yeah, you looked to sad. We just wanted to make sure you were okay,” one said.

“When I saw how upset you looked, I thought wow, you guys must really care about us,” another said.

It is amazing how one moment my heart was aching, seeing a young person in such distress. And in the next moment, I was being comforted by the very youth I was there to comfort! I am constantly amazed by the capacity young people on the streets have to show compassion and caring for others, even when they have so much going on in their lives. I am so thankful for this community.  

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members (1)

Learning to Carve

Larissa volunteering at the 2017 festival

Every year, the Canadian Stone Carving Festival raises funds for Innercity Arts. Many young people from the program help out at the festival, including Larissa, who has volunteered her time the past two years. Whether it is shoveling stones, sweeping up dust, or making sure the carvers have enough water – she is always eager to help. She loves talking to the carvers about their creations.

“I wish I could do that!” she told me last year.

Learning to carve with Danny Barber

 

 

 

 

For the first time this year, we used some of the funds raised at the festival to create a bursary, called Freya’s Bursary, which gives youth an opportunity to learn how to carve. Larissa immediately applied for the bursary and put a lot of thought into her application. When I told her she had been chosen as a bursary recipient, she was ecstatic. “I can’t believe it!” she said with a huge smile.  She spent the next 8 weeks attending an Introduction to Stone Carving course at Barber Carving and Sculpture Inc. I visited Larissa at her carving course one night. It was amazing to see her focus, and how comfortable she was using the tools. She was truly in her element and looked so proud of herself. 

We are thrilled that Larissa will be back again at the festival, but not as a volunteer….as a carver! Larissa will be showing off her new skills by carving alongside amateur and professional carvers. Her carving will be up for auction on Sunday July 21st at 2pm at 190 Sparks Street. 

Please come out and show your support! 

Click here for more details! 

 

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Larissa’s first carving!

 

 

A Glimpse into Mental Illness

Damon was downtown one afternoon, when he began to sense the ever too familiar feelings of anxiety and depression taking over: quickening heart beat, pain in stomach, and the overwhelming feeling of dread and despair. Negative thoughts started to race through his mind. He had a few hours before art group and worried these feelings may overwhelm him completely before then. He sat down with his sketch book, and started sketching how he was feeling. He probably sketched more than 10 drawings in one sitting. When he arrived at art group, he told me about his day and what he had been feeling. We flipped though the sketchbook together. His drawings told a story of someone feeling empty, incomplete, and unaccepted.

The sketches were heartbreaking. But the moment was full of hope. Damon has learned over time that his art can be a valuable coping mechanism – a way to express feelings that seem inexpressible. And he has learned that art group is a community that accepts him and values him. He says he looks forward to it each week and that it is one of the only communities he belongs too.

It is an incredibly hopeful moment when someone is vulnerable enough to give a glimpse into their own experience – not because you can fix how they are feeling, but because they just need someone to see it and acknowledge it.

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The Four Stages

the-four-stagesThe monarch butterfly is a glorious creature to behold. If you’ve ever witnessed it’s beauty, watching it in flight is a vision you don’t forget.
 
However, to get to that point in its life there’s a journey and a fight requiring strength and determination.
 
There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a monarch that it must pass through to reach maturity; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), adult.
 
Each stage must be completed before it can go onto the next.
 
We walk around and see caterpillars but forget the stage before that they had to persevere through to become who they are.
 
It’s not often in everyday life that we get to see a chrysalis hanging from a branch…and sadly our first thoughts would probably go to thinking it was a sac of nasty bug eggs instead of the incredible and transforming miracle that is slowly taking place inside of that precious little pod.
 
When I think of the amazing wonder of the Monarch butterfly my heart and mind immediately go to our street engaged and homeless youth…they fight the odds around them and win against the world that tells them they can’t. These incredible young people fight and succeed to go from one stage to the next with the strength of giants and the determination of a Monarch. 
 
What a gift we have in getting to be a part of this process or when we take the time to stop, listen and appreciate the miracles all around us everyday.
 
Let’s remind each other to push the pause button, sit on a park bench, share our time and listen to the story of someone who had to fight hard to get to the stage in the cycle of life that they are currently in.
 
~Bonnie, Staff
 
 
 

Unicorns & Dragons

Seeing the world through the eyes of creative at-risk youth and young adults.
 
Do you believe in unicorns, jackalopes, fairies, protective dragons, leprechauns at the end of rainbows, singing frogs and baby pigs that dance the jig?
 
Until 4 years ago my eyes were glued wide shut; to be fixed only on the narrow views seen straight in front with no peripheral options. Thinking there was only one way of seeing the task at hand through to completion and the rigidity that came with it was an ‘ok’ way of reaching an end goal.
 
I was so very very wrong.
 
I am now so incredibly blessed to have been given the gift of being with 50 street-engaged youth over the past 4 years in the Innercity Arts program. Every single one of them are special, unique and amazing in their own marvelous ways and all of them, for different reasons, have allowed my once-shut tight eyes to be opened.
 
I’m so thankful for the great God I serve everyday for what I now get to see…colour with infinite possibilities. When I close my eyes now I can actually hear the sounds of buzzing fairy wings, the laughter of leprechauns, the dancing hooves of piglets and feeling just a little bit safer knowing that there is a protective dragon in our midst.
 
If you want to be forever changed like I have, then please join us and come celebrate with us at the 10th Anniversary Innercity Arts Show. You will see and experience original art like you’ve never seen before. Take some home from the silent auction and transform your surroundings and change the way you feel about the world around you.
 
Can’t wait to see you there! Bring the whole family because they aren’t going to want to miss this one! We have lots of fun planned!
 
10th Anniversary Innercity Arts Show
May 9th from 6-9pm
The Ottawa Art Gallery (10 Daly Ave)
 
See you soon!
 
~Bonnie, Staff

Mandala Workshop

“Mandalas are an ancient artistic technique used in many cultures around the world as an aid to understanding who we are as individuals and as part of the universe around us. The inside of the circle represents our inner world and the outside represents the outer world.” 

This was the perspective that local artist Claudia Salguere from MASC Ottawa brought to Innercity Arts, where she recently led a workshop on mandalas. Claudia led a calming and meditative workshop, giving each participant identical instructions. Two things struck me by the end of the night: the first, was how peaceful the energy in the room was during this exercise as everyone was focused on their mandala. The second, was how different each persons mandala was despite being given identical instructions and materials. We laid out each mandala at the end of the night and were amazed at the diverse approached each artist brought to the exercise. Thank you Claudia! 

 

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Resilient Heroes

Resiliency is the ability to recovery readily after being bent or stretched from adversity. I have about 50 heroes in my life; all of which come from the Ottawa Innercity Arts program. A hero is a person noted for courageous acts and that’s exactly what the street-engaged youth at our art program are.

IMG_1953These young people have been through seasons in their lives that would have brought down the strongest of men and yet they continue to soldier on with hope. They are brave warriors that refuse to give up, give in and stop fighting. They are all brave little David’s standing up against the giant while the rest of the world around them stands in fear.  1 Samuel 17

Our youth see life and run after it in which ever form it is handed to them; an amazing lesson we can all take down and apply to ourselves. Day after day and week after week we see youth who have nothing except what is in their back packs or in a rooming house, yet on their faces there are sparks of light, thankfulness, hope and a smile.

On my longest of days I’m quickly reminded of my 50 angels born without wings and my attitude changes and goes to a place of gratitude for all that they daily teach me and bring to my life.

It is now officially spring; the time of year which brings new growth, color,  wildlife and people seem happier.

Did you know that a simple smile can change the entire day of a person? If you see a youth who might seem like a resilient hero…could you please send a friendly smile their way, because you never know what chapter of someone’s life you just walked in on. 

 

  • Bonnie – Front Line Care Worker 

We invite you to support these resilient young people as they show off their artistic skills at our 10th Anniversary Art Show, taking place on May 9th at the Ottawa Art Gallery.  

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