Art Place

Giving youth a positive space for expression: concluding thoughts with Alicia Borisonik and Maria Gomez Umana

April 12, 2016

How would you describe your overall experience with Art Place

The overall experience was positive. It was key for us that we had a previous relationship with the administration of Alexander Community Centre, which enabled us to deliver our plan in a timely manner. The scarcity of resources for art in the Community Centre resulted in high benefits for the youth participants.

What are some of the most significant things you’ve learned through out your project?

This project was an excellent learning experience for us as facilitators and for the participants. For instance, as facilitators, we learned:

  • the importance of providing space for young people to express freely;
  • ways to balance freedom, discipline, fun and commitment;
  • how to better communicate with youth;
  • the need for patience to give the participants time to trust us;
  • seeing the artistic potential in the group we hope to continue to work with them.


How was your project a success?

We realize how important it was for the youth participants to have continuous sessions during ten Mondays to learn about visual arts and music. They valued spending time with new friends, creating, having fun, and dancing. They became more aware of their power as young women in society. They loved dancing and creating rhythms, and we could see how it is natural for them. We are certain it has to do with the rich cultural background and the traditions they bring to Canada as immigrants.

Here some of the comments about their experience in the program, which make us feel very proud and happy.

“…we had a place to express ourselves…”

“…I loved hanging with everybody, nobody was judging, we all have our opinion and we got along..”

“…Maria and Alicia helped me to express myself, I had something great to do every Monday…”

“…I was shy at the beginning but now I feel comfortable, I got to know the real me…”

“…I was always waiting for Monday to come, and then class ended and I knew I had to wait for another week…


What do you intend for audiences to see, experience, and think about when learning about your project?

We want audiences to see how the progression of games and activities with the group ensured trust and camaraderie. The participants followed and trusted our plan, and the result was a new and unique rap song, and a collective mural painting. We want people to see the importance of giving youth artistic tools to express creatively. This opportunity benefits and changes their lives forever. They become more confident and they are more aware of the importance to find their voice and to get it heard. This program offered them a space to share without being judged, where they talked about their concerns, and the choices they have as young women. Some of the themes discussed came through in the rap song and in the mural.

In what ways did the community benefit from your project?

The youth learned values as well as artistic tools that make them better human beings. For instance, they learned how to work as a team to plan and create together.

They also learned how to communicate, respecting and valuing each other’s opinion. They understand the relevance of committing and participating in all the sessions. Furthermore they learned many artistic skills in visual arts and music, which will certainly enhance their life as members of a community. They will contribute to their community by sharing some of those life skills with siblings, neighbours and friends.

In your opinion, what did the participants learn from the project?

The group got completely involved working with rap music because it represents them. We adjusted the program to their needs, and our goal was to offer space and tools to express themselves musically. By means of exploring traditional music instruments of the world, they became more sensitive to sound differences, and they became aware of new instruments and their provenance. They learned to jam with an array of instruments and they loved it. They also learned new movement and rhythm games and became more confident and willing as the program evolved.

In terms of visual arts, the group explored different techniques as part of the introduction to image making. They had opportunities to try India ink, drawing pencils, soft and oil pastels, acrylic inks, and acrylic paints. The group had presentations on colour theory, composition, and some exploration of texture.  They enjoyed the opportunity to try out new supplies, although the time was short for them to explore the techniques in depth. Some of the participants showed talent and interest in painting, and we saw how the interest resulted in behavioral improvements throughout the program.

Do you have anything else you would like to share about your project or the program?

This project was an excellent learning experience for everybody. We see the incredible potential some of the girls have, and we wish we could continue working in this project longer to obtain better and richer results. We are convinced it is very important to offer arts and culture programs for youth in every community.

When youth are granted activities that make them feel like important parts of society, it guides their life in the right direction. The goal is to take youth away from unhealthy activities based on boredom and lacking of opportunities.

To find our more about Alicia Borisonik and Maria Gomez Umana’s Art Place residency.

Thanks for sharing / Merci d’avoir partagé!

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