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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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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: Thank You! (Part 2)

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.

It’s been great sharing my story on family radio CHRI.

Thanks for listening and following my story – it really helps me to know that there are people out there who really care about kids on the street. I am grateful that there are people who are willing to listen to my story.

If it wasn’t for the support and friendships I gained at OIM and the art group, I would not be in the place I am in today.  Thanks so much for your support. It really has made a difference in my life, and in the lives of many young people.

I hope you have a great Christmas and a great New Year too.

 

 

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: I Met OIM – Choir & Innercity Arts

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

How I first met OIM?

Well, there was this girl that used to go to choir, Alisha, and I asked her to come over. In my kitchen, I could only find macaroni and cheese. I didn’t have any money. None.

She said, “I go to this place where they pay me to sing. They also have an art group. If you like, I could call Moira and see if you could go.”

I was like, “Ohh… maybe I could get some free food.” I was so happy, and thought, “Maybe there is a chance for me.” I was on my last straw and did not know what to do. At the same time, I was also nervous, thinking it was not going to be what I thought it would be. Honestly, it was better. It was very organized.”

When I first went to choir, I was really excited, because I thought: “I could become famous.” I was so excited to become famous. Once I tried it out, I thought, “This is awesome.”

That was the beginning.

I got into the choir, and had to go on a waiting list to get into the art group.

I begged Moira to go to the art group, begged for weeks on end.  When an opening came up in the younger “Innercity Arts” program, Moira told me. I asked her about all the details

I was worried that if I came to the art group that I would be judged, thinking they would think I would be in the same place as they were. The youth made me feel like I was a part of everything. They involved me in just about everything. When I come to the Innercity Arts program, it’s like, “Hey everyone! Larissa’s here!”

When I got to the art group, I couldn’t believe how good it was. I loved it. I enjoyed myself. I did really good with fabric art.  Really good! I sell all my fabric art at the art shows we have each spring.

I never felt unwelcome, and though sometimes I got teased, it’s been going well.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares “My Changed Life.” 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!

 

Larissa’s Journey: My Earliest Memories

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!


I never met my father, and my mother never married but there were lots of boyfriends – all the time there was someone new. She kept her maiden name and passed it on to me.

When I was small, there was a bowl of bananas on top of the fridge. I climbed out of my high chair to the counter to the fridge and got the bowl and was eating them. I got into trouble, put back in my high chair, sent to bed, and my mom and her new boyfriend would fight.

Once when they were fighting, I went to help my mom and went to punch the boyfriend, and I accidentally punched my mom in the mouth and gave her a fat lip. I was four. She screamed at me to go to my room. That’s when I called the cops. Not just arguing, but fist fighting, tackle to the ground. I called the cops once, when I was four (I still had visits from my mom) – I’m not sure which boyfriend it was because there was a bunch of different boyfriends. The cops came after I went to bed. I got into big trouble for that. They put me in my room with the lights off. I couldn’t reach the light switch or the door knob because I was too small.

We moved from apartment to apartment, mostly in complexes. We moved a lot. I can remember two places I lived in before I was four.

My mom owed a lot of money for drugs. She would abuse her mental health medications. Once she collapsed and the drugs spilled on the floor. I ate some of the pills. My aunt screamed for the landlord to open the door. They took me and my mom to the hospital. I was feeling better, but when I was leaving, I collapsed on the floor. Then they gave me charcoal and pumped my stomach. She did drugs until she died. The last time I saw her, she was on crack. That’s one of the reasons we moved a lot – drugs.

When I was little, my mom would allow me to watch inappropriate adult shows. When I went to school, I strangled a kid – I thought I was Zena the Princess Warrior. I choked a girl out. I got suspended in kindergarten. I was four.

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!