Local kids explore Artasia

 

August 5, 2011 · Todays Family ·

Local kids explore Artasia

Today’s Family is proud to participate in the Culture For Kids in the Arts Artasia program. Over 200 children ages 7-9 from our camps are participating in the project. Their views of what they like about their neigbourhood, what they imagine for their neighbourhood and what would make thier neigbourhood a better place are being shared at the upcoming exhibit at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts on August 25.

 

The following article by Terri Pecoskie from the Hamitlon Spectator appeared Thursday August 4th:

Local kids explore Artasia

For Mariah Gillespie, there’s one thing that would make her west Mountain neighbourhood a better place.

“Flowers,” says the eight-year-old, pointing to a patch of orange tiger lilies. “I want more on earth, so there’s more for the planet.”

Her twin sister Marlena has a different view.

“I want more bleachers,” she says, turning toward the baseball diamond tucked behind R.A. Riddell public school. “It would look much better.”

The girls both hold black and white photos they took of the spaces. The pictures are covered in acetate, ready for them to overlay their visions for positive change with marker, magazine clippings and glue.

The twins are just two of around 500 kids in Hamilton, Dundas, Stoney Creek and Burlington who are using art and sound this summer to show how they would improve their communities.

It’s all part of “Artasia,” a collaborative program launched last year by the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts.

Vitek Wincza, the conservatory’s founder and artistic director, says the initiative is aimed at making art education accessible to all local kids, not just those whose parents can afford to sign them up for lessons. It’s run in co-operation with five local kids’ camps and is supported by several agencies and charities, so the program comes at no additional cost to the six- to 12-year-olds taking part.

Wincza says the goal this summer is to encourage children to see the possibilities that exist in their communities and empower them to bring about change. Last year, the program centred on recycling, and this year’s focus, neighbourhoods, aims to build on that theme.

“Imagination creates their ambitions,” Wincza explains, and “ambitious people create successful neighbourhoods.”

Although Wincza would like to see some of the visions realized, he stressed that the two-hour-long weekly sessions are more focused on showing the kids how to care for their neighbourhoods and how to make small but meaningful changes.

“We want people to grow up in a place where they feel comfortable,” he says.

The six-week program culminates with an Aug. 25 exhibition at the conservatory, where the kids will show off their unique ideas and designs. The show will also involve video and photo displays, as well as an audio component featuring kids from five of the 14 Artasia locations.

“It’s going to be an awful lot of fun,” says Victoria Fenner, a Hamilton-based sound artist brought in by the conservatory for the project.

“I think the message is for the kids to hear their own voices and let them know that their voices count. It’s incredibly powerful when they hear themselves. It’s validation.”

Fenner says sound installations are also planned for the five sites where the children were recorded, including the Eva Rothwell Centre on Wentworth Street North and the Jamesville Community Centre on MacNab Street North.

The installations will layer the kids’ plans for the urban spaces — everything from an arcade to a zoo — with real sounds, in order to highlight the innovative nature of their ideas.

“One of the pillars of Artasia is encouraging that capacity to see potential,” says project leader Renee Jackson. “Our thinking is that when kids see that things can change and they reflect on that, it builds an understanding that things aren’t static, that they can have an effect on the world.”

Jacqueline Roth, director of resource development for Wesley Urban Ministries, says her organization is excited the kids in their summer camp program have had a chance to take part.

“It allows the children to express their creativity, impact their own neighbourhoods and ultimately create future visionaries,” she says.

Roth also sees value in allowing kids to colour outside the lines — literally and figuratively, in the case of Artasia.

“As children, they’re usually being told what to think. Now, in this program, they’re being asked what they think,” she says. “It promotes innovative thinking.”

Brenda Ferguson, communications and corporate affairs director at Today’s Family, says the kids from her camp have been highly engaged in the initiative so far. She also sees the significance in giving kids a medium — artistic, in this case — to share their ideas.

“We need to recognize that children are the youngest citizens in our community,” she says. “It’s really important for them to have a voice.”

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Artasia at a glance

How it helps: Gives kids — inner city and otherwise — an opportunity to access arts education

Who it helps: Around 500 kids at 14 locations throughout Hamilton, Dundas, Burlington and Stoney Creek

Summer camps involved: Wesley Urban Ministries, Eva Rothwell Centre, YMCA, Today’s Family and Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton

Additional funding partners: Ontario Arts Council, Hamilton Community Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, City of Hamilton, Hamilton Spectator and Turkstra Lumber

Where to go: The kids’ creations will be on display Aug. 25 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts at 126 James St. S.

How to help: Make a donation at the exhibition or contact Victoria Long-Wincza at 905-528-4020

Please visit: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/573036–local-kids-explore-artasia for the multimedia piece about the project.

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