Our Approach

The following is an illustration of YAC’s philosophical and practical approach to programming.

  • Positive Change Through the Power of The Arts: Every YAC program is aimed at creating lasting positive change (personal and community-wide) through activating the power and appeal of various art forms, and the human passion that always accompanies quality art-making.
  • Safe Spaces: Before creative self-exploration and self-expression can happen, a feeling of trust and safety must be nurtured in a group, whether they are meeting for the first time or are well known to each other. We use various practices to create a safe space including talking circles, community standards, safety standards, and ongoing coaching about practicing and sharing art, performance and self-expression.
  • Self-Exploration: An artistic experience is ultimately a personal journey. YAC programs often focus on discovering personal interests and opinions, building self-confidence, and learning to see the value in unique personal stories.
  • Socialization, Sharing and Community: After self-exploration has happened, self-confidence built up enough and an understanding of the value of personal stories is developed, we develop the social and group abilities of group and community members. Being able to work well in a group is essential to creating positive personal and community change through the arts. By practicing artistic collaboration, good listening, giving good feedback and supporting the ideas and dreams of others, program participants learn to build a creative, collaborative, safe and productive community.
  • Youth Engagement: Because each individual and group of young people we work with have different needs, different goals and different interests, we use facilitation practices that allow for ideas and programming to come from participants. By listening carefully and implementing the ideas of young people, we provide them with a sense of empowerment in our programs. It also helps us ensure our programming remains interesting and relevant to the youth with whom we work.
  • Leadership and Capacity-Building: YAC programs focus on developing the leadership skills of program participants. Whether it’s taking a leadership role in a small after school group or instigating community-wide projects and programs, good leadership skills will build a community’s capacity for positive change through the power of the arts.
  • Adult Training: Because we usually work in partnership with other organizations or communities, we need to make sure our approach is in sync with the adults who help run ongoing programs. Whenever possible we pursue opportunities for shared learning with the adults that continue to work with youth after a YAC program is over, to build their capacity to maintain approaches to programming used by YAC.
  • Professional Artists: We believe that the most inspiring and transformative artistic work with youth can be accomplished by practicing professional artists with people skills. YAC staff are always in the room to provide expertise in working with youth, as well as adults from a partnering organization. We see on a regular basis the incredible and immediate impact a master performer or visual artist can have on a youth. This is a core ingredient of all YAC programs.
  • Performance & Creation: Although it can be inspiring to observe a master at work, personal transformation for young people happens much faster when they participate in creating or performing themselves. Whenever possible YAC seeks out opportunities for youth to practice performing, showing their work, and public speaking to explain their art.
  • Censorship vs Self-Expression: Young people often like to test the limits and what better way to do this than through artistic expression? YAC promotes an environment of free creative expression. In our programs we deal with complex issues surrounding controversial artistic expression through explorative discussion about authentic personal voice, intended impact of one’s art, choosing an audience, vulnerability and self-care, and other topics. The result is almost always something acceptable to the audience of the created art. YAC will not censor the art of young people unless YAC staff determine that it puts someone’s physical or emotional safety at risk.

Why work with YAC?

YAC works in partnership with existing organizations and communities to support the development of youth as creative entrepreneurs and community leaders. If you are interested in helping youth gain confidence through exploring their talents, developing their skills as project leaders, supporting them to plan a career based on their passions or producing an event to inspire and mobilize their community YAC would love to hear from you and design a program to meet your specific needs.

Ryan Veltmeyer

Ryan Veltmeyer is a professional musician and youth community developer. For years he split his time between playing in bands (Paper Beat Scissors, Blown Gasket Orchestra and more recently, Mother of Girl) and working with teenagers in Nova Scotia to create positive change in their communities (HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development & Halifax Public Libraries). In 2012 Ryan teamed up with Ann Denny to combine his passion for the arts and for youth engagement and founded Youth Art Connection.

Ann Denny

Ann Denny is a singer, songwriter(Mother of Girl), musical comedian (Anna Danova) and entrepreneur. After years of leading bands, performing in a variety of settings, teaching voice lessons and running an international translation business, she began working with Ryan Veltmeyer to share her creative talents to support the engagement of youth in their lives and their community. Founding and directing YAC has allowed her to combine years of experience in business and the arts into a satisfying career supporting the development of youth, communities and the local economy.

Art Builds Futures