YAC Tour -Day 5: Conference Conclusion
The final day of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation Power of the Arts National Forum draws to a close and team YAC is as fired up on creativity as ever! At the conference sessions, dinner networking meetings, and every moment in between, YAC was constantly incubating new ambitious ideas, and someone was always saying “Who’s writing these ideas down??”. Along the road, at the hotel, and every spare moment YAC was in ardent discussion amongst themselves about ways to make the power of the arts a potent reality in Halifax, Atlantic Canada, nationally, and internationally.
Each Artpreneur had something to offer and exciting ideas of collaboration continued to surface. YAC plans to prepare an artistic piece to bring to next year’s conference as well as collaborating with each other throughout the year in various music, dance and craft projects. In addition to significant relationship establishment within the group, valuable connections were made at the conference that pose several potential collaboration projects in YAC’s future.
The last day of the forum included several interactive performances and thematic dialogue sessions around the leitmotif of cultural activation. In large discussion groups the conference attendees representing themselves or their organizations exchanged ideas and developed strategies to encourage social change across disciplines by leveraging political, economic, and cultural levels of society. YAC contributed their ideas to some of the sessions in capacity building, research, policy, advocacy, public mobilization and awareness-building campaigns, funding cultural and social enterprises, and ethics and culture.
The stimulating environment of people passionate about arts cultivated fertile atmosphere to advance different concepts and rolled into a force of momentum for the participants to move forward into their various spheres of influence.
After speeches concluded the ceremonies, YAC left Ottawa in good spirits, gave final cheers with a celebration in Montreal, and began the long drive back to Halifax. A drive that of course comprised several long and conducive conversations on the power of the arts and YAC’s role in bringing what they’ve learned into fruition!
Infused with inspiration from the brilliant people and concepts introduced along the whole trip, YAC looks forward to great things ahead, using the power of the arts to Make Art, Make Money, Make Change!
YAC Tour Day 4 – POA Conference day 2
Today was a jam-packed day experiencing the power of the arts at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s National forum in Ottawa! YAC was exposed to innumerable inspirational ideas and contagious creativity through listening to various speakers and participating in constructive workshops.
To begin the day, Savannah (Savvy) Simon, a Mi’kmaq dancer, motivational speaker, YAC colleague and collaborator, opened the second day of the conference with high energy levels in a tradition Mi’kmaq round dance. She later shared on the panel discussing the implementation of the National Action Plan about her and her family’s experience with oppression, the present-day effects of the residential schools, and her inspiring initiatives to take back her language and culture. There were no dry eyes in the house when she explained the struggle of suppressing the horrible things done to her people and the liberty that comes from acknowledging and sharing their stories to create change.
Later in the day, another aboriginal group from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation Youth Group echoed her supplication to think positively and believe in oneself. The KIFNYG recounted the moving tale of their reconciliation initiative, giving credit to their determination and leveraging the power of arts to promote reconciliation.
Other key speakers of note were Mohamed Thiam speaking about diversity and social inclusion, Pablo Munoz on cultural institutions and community integration, and Ahmed Mohamed on economic development and social enterprise. Each artist came in a wake of recent success but authentically shared with the conference attendees their struggles and motivations.
Throughout the day YAC attended workshops on technology and social change, citizenship and democratic participation, economic development and social enterprise, and cultural institutions and community integration. Listening intently to presenters with relevant experiences and connections to share was only one way YAC benefited from the conference, meeting like-minded entrepreneurs, artists, and non-profit organizations facilitating profitable networking and unprecedented collaboration was another!
After lunch, YAC attended further workshops on public safety and access to justice, community and urban renewal, diversity and social inclusion, and mental and physical health. With copious business cards and new friends and business partners, the YAC crew called it a successful day.
YAC concluded the evening by reconnecting over dinner with Linda Albright, executive director of Art Network for Children & Youth, who played an essential role in the creation of YAC as an organization. Linda, now affectionately known as ‘Grandma YAC’, generously provided interest, support and advice for each of the Artpreneurs who shared their stories. This scintillating conversation of collaboration swelling around the table of bright-futured and talented individuals sets the tone for another day at the Power of the Arts National Forum tomorrow!
YAC Tour -Day 3: Montreal & Ottawa!
After a delicious brunch after an exciting night on Montreal, YAC said goodbye to their kind hostesses and traveled out of town to explore the Kahnawake aboriginal reserve where Artpreneurs purchased local materials for their crafts.
With all that YAC has seen and done on the tour so far, it hardly feels like only a few days have passed, or that the main goal of the trip has not yet been realized. That is, not until tonight! After hours and hours of interprovincial traveling and meetings, YAC was finally off to see the wizard of Ottawa! The Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada, hosts the Michaëlle Jean Foundation Power of Arts National Forum at Carleton University this weekend.
Immediately, as she herself stood to welcome people at the entrance, her accomplished eloquence and passion cast a spell of admiration over the attendees, and YAC, like everyone else, was enchanted and thrilled to be here!
The long-awaited conference began in Ottawa with a reception this evening, featuring deeply moving performances by the Imani Gospel Singers choir, an alternative dance choreographed by Rhodnie Desir, DEZAM founding director, and a song and inspiring presentation on his journey to success and international work by Halifax’s own Jordan Croucher (JRDN).
Madame Jean wore the hand-beaded aboriginal Remembrance Day poppy presented on behalf of YAC’s own Kilia Atenico while she made her opening remarks in beautiful French. ASL interpreters brought three languages to life across multilingual differences; as Jack Volpe, a winner of the TD Michaëlle Jean Bursary, said through a translator, “we want to focus on breaking down communication barriers to reveal the person and ideas underneath”.
Daniel O’Grady, National Manager of Community Partenerships & Investments at Enbridge Inc., gave the first speech about arts infusing community with energy; “[the arts] make you laugh, make you cry, poke your mind, and inspire your heart”. Following him was The Honorable Michael Coteau, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, who confessed, to the delight of the audience, that he listens to hip hop, Bob Marley, and Public Enemy. He spoke about arts as a part of citizenship, what makes us proud to be Canadian, and the power of arts to transform and heal.
Further remarks were given to tribute the power of the arts by John Osborne, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University, and Jean-Daniel Lafond, Co-founder, co-chair and executive director at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation.
YAC’s representatives were particularly inspired by Amanda Taylor, who went from living on the street to great success in spoken word poetry, and was awarded the TD Bursary by Alan Convery, TD Senior Manager of Community Relations, at the reception this evening. “Arts saved my life”, she told the audience.
After spending the evening meeting and reconnecting with like-minded organizations, YAC is fired up to delve into action plan implementation material tomorrow morning!
YAC on the Road -Day 2: Fredericton & Montreal
After a late night of live reggae music, team YAC unwound at the Delta Hotel in Fredericton, NB, for a good night’s rest before morning meetings and a long day of cruising toward Montreal today.
The seven YAC representatives met over breakfast at Sweet Belgian Desire Cafe in the Charlotte Street Art Centre, rekindling connections from last year’s Growing a Creative Economy Conference in Cape Breton.
This morning YAC connected with high energy representatives from Battle of the Arts, the New Brunswick Arts Board, and the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design to learn from each other’s successes and help each other in their struggles.
Justine Koroscil, Director of Administration at the New Brunswick Arts Board, shared her agreement with YAC’s principle of intentionally involving youth on relevant policy makers’ discussions to engage their vital influence, while Saa Andrew Gbongbor from Battle of the Arts explained his vision for expanding the reach and impact of his organization.
Later, Shane Perley-Dutcher, Aboriginal Visual Arts Instructor at New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, led YAC through a tour of the campus with Andrew Paul Price, a student at NBCCD who showed off his intricate aboriginal art. Throughout the inside look at NBCCD’s ceramics, metalwork, fashion design, woodwork, and graphic design & media, YAC’s Artpreneurs were inspired and encouraged to pursue their respective crafts with gumption anew!
After YAC finished marveling at the magic of NBCCD’s 3D printer, they spent the rest of the day traveling to Montreal where they will pick up tomorrow for more adventures on the way to the Michaëlle Jean Foundation Power of the Arts National Forum!
Thanks to YAC’s supporters like McInness Cooper and Communities, Culture and Heritage (CCH, NS), we have exciting opportunities like this to connect and collaborate with youth art advocates and activists in other provinces!
YAC Tour -Day 1: Moncton & Fredericton
“This day keeps being awesome!” –Ann Denny, Co-founder
Early Wednesday morning, the YAC crew zoomed out of Halifax, NS with four Artpreneurs, two co-founders, one journalist and one goal: the Michealle Jean Foundation’s Power of the Arts conference in Ottawa. But there was a lot of awesome that had to happen before they arrived, so awesome is what they did.
With interprovincial meetings booked in cities along the route, team YAC left Nova Scotia with creative collaboration on their minds and inspired art in their hearts.
First stop: McKenzie College School of Art and Design, Moncton, New Brunswick!
Surrounded by authentic student artwork, YAC met with representatives from McKenzie College, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and New Brunswick Youth Orchestra & Sistema Program to discuss mutual interest in social change through youth artist entrepreneurship.
McKenzie College President, Dale Ritchie, led a comprehensive tour of the campus, showcasing impressive student portfolios and even a few of his own paintings.
YAC’s own Artpreneur Shevy Price found common ground with Canadian Mental Health Association Program Coordinator Kristen Barnes and Special Projects Coordinator and visual arts instructor Shannon Kirk when she shared about her past struggle with mental health issues and the prevailing power of art to overcome and re-establish herself.
But awesome hit a new level when Ken Macleod, CEO of New Brunswick Youth Orchestra told his story of bringing the dwindling organization up from nothing into the most successful Youth Orchestra in Canada, winning international awards and increasing enrollment, audience size, and positive change in the lives of youth at risk. After playing a few minutes of a “senior” orchestra (ages 8-11) performance, and after the moved boardroom wiped their tears, Macleod shared his personal tips for achieving excellence and making lasting change.
With this new inspiration YAC traveled on to Fredericton, NB, where the awesome continued, never once diminished. Connections were made with 16 year-old artist Masoka of MAP (Making Africa Proud), and further innovative ideas became solidified at Caribbean Flavas Fine Dinning Restaurant.
With minds, hearts, and stomachs full, team YAC gets ready for day 2 in Montreal! And who knows what flava of awesome tomorrow will bring!