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Pancakes and Paintbrushes

Innercity Freedom GroupThey get up early… something that’s not in their nature or character; mornings just aren’t their thing.

Brushing the experiences of the previous night off their faces, putting on possibly the only set of clothing they own; making their way to a place of love and acceptance for who they are.

The Innercity Freedom Group – a recovery group for whatever hurt or habit someone is overcoming in life – meets on Monday mornings. It’s a safe community where everyone is welcome. It’s a group designed to provide support through whatever the struggle is, and since we all have challenges in our lives, we are all the same there.

As you enter the front doors the smell of pancakes and syrup overtakes your senses and the laughter of a community of friends who have your back makes you feel like you’ve definitely got the right address.

Exploration of thoughts is used through different mediums of art and our motto is “What happens and is said at IFG stays at IFG”.

No one has to share in front of the entire group each week and there is opportunity for one on-one-mentorship afterwards if anyone wants some extra support.

It’s often the little things that help us the most when we are striving to overcome the trials in our lives, like someone saying “I believe in you” or “what you say matters to me” or “I see your pain and I’m sorry that you are hurting.”

Pancakes and paintbrushes. It’s how we do life “one day at a time” at IFG. ‘Right now’ is really all any of us has and it’s worth celebrating.

If you or anyone you know would like to check out the Innercity Freedom Group, come by Monday mornings at 10:00am. We would love to have you.

 

391 Gladstone Av

Ottawa, Ontario

613-237-6031

bonnie_oim@rogers.com

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Shane’s Story, Episode 4: Outreach Team and P4Y

Shane’s Story is a eight episode blog post where Shane tells her story in her own words.  Each week in December, on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. you can click on both the radio spot and then read the Episode of this special gal’s story. Tweet it to your friends – it gets better as we get closer to Christmas, and Shane’s special Christmas wish to each of you. Hold tight! it is going to be a great ride! Merry Christmas!”

Click the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest of her story in this post:

I met Moira (OIM youth outreach worker) a few years ago. That was during my really messed up time. I remember how it happened…

I was busking on Rideau Street with my ukelele and Moira came up and said she ran an art group and that I should come. She gave me a sandwich and a juice box and she just kind of kept doing that every once in a while when I would be playing and panning.

I thought it sounded like a trap. I know you’re wearing a vest and all that but anyone can wear a vest. I thought she had some sort of agenda. She came around 4 or 5 more times and I got to know her.

There was another kid from the streets who had gone to art group that I had spoke to and she said that it was legit. I was like ok, and that there was free dinner every night. Ya I went and it was legit. That was pretty cool.

At first I was nervous because there was older street youth that I recognized. I was scared at first but I got used to it. Plus there was like the art supplies I was like oh my god! I don’t have to pay for paint but I can paint anyways! So I kept coming. I think I’ve been going there for about 2 or 3 years.

The art group is really great, you kind of get like self-confidence, like a self esteem boost especially when your art goes up for auction and your art is shown.   Sometimes you’ll see other kids art from the same group in like a restaurant. You feel like ‘I’m professional’. Definitely I look forward to every Thursday, guaranteed I am getting supper. It’s not gonna be just macaroni because I can’t afford anything else or just tuna because I can’t afford anything else. It’s gonna be like vegetables and casserole – not just pasta all the time..

It’s good, I like it.

You get to learn social skills.  I guess I kind of missed learning social skills. You get kind of forced into it: it’s good talking to people or acknowledging strangers when they talk to me is now a little bit easier. It does a lot of good things for a lot of people.

I like the art shows. Sometimes I just hang out by myself or whatever, and sometimes I play my own music, like live for people, and there’s lots of food. I’m always game if there’s food. I always bring my ukulele. You can hear what people say about your art, and that’s cool.

wishing well

A sculpture of a well Shane made at art group called “Space Change”.

Shane’s Story

ShaneDuring the month of December, we will be featuring the story of a remarkable young woman from our Passion 4 Youth Arts Program named Shane.

Shane’s Story is an eight episode blog post where Shane tells her story in her own words.  Each week in December, on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. you can click on both the CHRI radio spot posted in this blog and then read the Episode of this special gal’s story. 

For a preview of her story, click here or click the ‘play’ button below:

Tweet it to your friends – it gets better as we get closer to Christmas, and Shane’s special Christmas wish to each of you: Hold tight! it is going to be a great ride! Merry Christmas!

Ottawa Home and Garden Show. Why?

OIM has been given a booth at the Ottawa Home and Garden Show, March 20 to 23 at the Ernst and Young Centre.  Why?

A friend of the ministry donated this 10’ x 20’ exhibitor’s space so that people who are thinking about renovating, redoing and re-fixing their own homes might take a moment and consider people who don’t have any home at all.

Our booth will have an area where visitors can see some of the art work that our Passion 4 Youth artists have created; we will be showing the 7 minute OIM DVD and also another shorter DVD featuring interviews from three of the youth from the program; we will have a visual aid of a home (on Bristol board) where visitors can buy a brick for a donation of any amount, and we can collect funds for new space (which we desperately need).

Then we’ll top it off with not one, but two (and maybe three) surprises that you can only discover if you come by and have a visit with us.

The Ottawa Home and Garden people are expecting over 20,000 visitors to the show this year, and it is a privilege to represent OIM there.  We have scheduled volunteers and staff for the entire weekend, and you will want to see how this works!

Please consider this your special invitation: ‘Come on down’ and visit us!

“Tessa’s Home” (postcript): The Future

Tessa’s Home is an 8 part series that ran from November 28 to December 27th.  To listen to the audio backgrounders and accompanying blogs, click “Recent Posts” on the right sidebar.  Here is Tessa vision for her future.

Please help us tell Tessa’s story through your social media connections, Facebook and Twitter. Comments welcome! #TessasHome

 

Tessa talks about the future…

Now, I’m starting to transition.  I’ve taken the Urban Intervention Training and I’m starting to transition and be more than just one of the youth.  I want to be the one that helps. I want to try and do what they (OIM) did for me, to somebody else. There’s nothing that I would rather do.

More often than not, when a youth goes up to someone in leadership and tells them their problems, they (the youth) will say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like.  You have no idea what it’s like (ie. to live on the streets)’.  More often than not, the response is, ‘Yea, you’re right. I really don’t know what it’s like.’

I want to be the one to say, ‘I do know what its like. I’ve been exactly where you’ve been and if I didn’t get help from places like this, I wouldn’t be where I am trying to help you now.’  I want to do that.

What a journey! Thanks to all who have made a donation of any size!  Every dollar counts, and every dollar goes to help us continue outreach on the streets of our Nation’s Capital.  If you have appreciated Tessa’s story and want to help us continue reaching out to street engaged youth, please click ‘Donate Now’.   Thanks for your support!