“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!
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.
These 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.
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.
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 !
Out 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!
The 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.
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!
Music 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!
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.
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