CANMORE – A local facility is providing a space where Bow Valley’s youth are able to express themselves through the stroke of a paintbrush, the in-and-out of a sewing needle, or the delicate forming of ceramics.
Canmore’s artsPlace is encouraging youth to embrace the part of them that yearns to be creative and to express that through processes such as pottery; painting or sketching, and they’re giving them a space to do so through a new program called the Youth Arts Collective (YAC).
“ArtsPlace mandate is about creativity in the daily lives of all residents in the Bow Valley,” said program manager Nicole Fourgère.
“I think art gives voice to the deep inner story and if we can all share our deep inner story, it makes us healthier, it makes us more connected as a community, more well as individuals, and so we want to bring opportunities for that wellness, for that wellness of the youth, of the whole community.”
ArtsPlace executive director, Jeremy Elbourne, says YAC was started as a direct response to concern in the community.
“There was a concern in the community that we’d be able to engage with teenagers,” Elbourne said.
“It’s a challenging age. Teenagers are interested in hanging out with their friends … A lot of organizations struggle with the need to engage teenagers.”
The concept behind the group is that youth would have the opportunity to create, not only their own art, but also their own programming. ArtsPlace would then offer that programming for free. So far, YAC has flourished.
“I’ve jumped into caring for this program and it’s a real gift to be able to care for it because it’s already in fine motion, it’s already working very well,” Fougère said.
“The programs running in the fall and the programs running right now are full with a waiting list the size of the amount of the class.”
In fact, the program has flourished so much, artsPlace has been able to expand it farther into the Bow Valley to the Morley community.
“I spent some time in Morley just listening. It was important for me to listen deeply and truly before offering any ideas, or instead of offering any ideas,” said Fougère.
“That listening led me to hear that there was a need at Chiniki Community College.”
However, providing adequate programming is often a question of funding. Such is the case for both artsPlace and Chiniki Community College.
“We operate as a charity at arms length in the town of Canmore,” Elbourne said. “The Town of Canmore owns the building, but we operate it on behalf of the Town, but very much independently. We do rely on donations and sponsorships and other levels of government support to make ends meet.”
The consultations with the college resulted in an opportunity to support a Stoney Nakoda artist deliver youth arts programming in that community.
“Chiniki Community College had a pre-existing relationship with elder and respected artist Roland Rollinmud, but they didn’t have money to pay him his artist fee and they didn’t have money to pay him for his supplies,” added Fougère.
“So this is where I see authentic partnership between a skilled artist, an organization that has a deep connection to youth, and artsPlace which has skill as a community connector and has skill in arts education.”
It was a grant opportunity provided by Rogers Communications that helped to bridge that funding gap, allowing YAC to continue to flourish here in Canmore and to help programming continue at Chiniki College.
Gord Elser, account manager for 106.5 Mountain FM, said Rogers put out a request for stations throughout the province of Alberta to nominate programs in their community that “inspire and empower youth.”
“We thought of artsPlace. I thought ‘what a great thing.’ It’s art and culture and a great way to develop youth,” he said.
A few months later, it was announced that artsPlace had not only received one of the grants, but had also received the highest amount awarded and a $5,000 dollar cheque was presented to the YAC program.
“It feels fantastic,” said Elbourne. “We’re blessed here in that our challenge is not finding people to engage with us, we’ve been kind of overwhelmed with the level of participation that we’ve seen here. Our challenge is trying to actualize all the ideas that we want to do so the biggest challenge for us is both financial and human resources.”
Elser, along with 106.5 Mountain FM’s morning host, Rob Murray, had the pleasure of presenting the cheque. Both spend time at artsPlace and Murray also runs a five-week improv class.
“We’re big fans of everything they do here so it’s super awesome to be able to have our company nominate artsPlace and have our company give back to them because we think they give so much to our community,” said Murray.
Meanwhile, Elbourne and Fougère are excited to see the impact art continues to have on the life journey for Bow Valley youth.
“I think we all continue through our life journey of self exploration, but I think at that age, kids are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do and I think giving them the opportunity to explore what creativity means to them is a hugely important part of that journey that they’re undertaking,” said Elbourne.
Visit www.artsplacecanmore.com to learn more about the Youth Arts Collective program.