A yak and a pianist walk into a charity art auction… sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it was actually the beginning of history in the making last night.

Amid the warm perdurable chatter at Timeraiser, an event this Thursday at the Halifax Club, local non-profits were courted by volunteers donating their time to bid on artwork, but one non-profit organization stood out from the rest. With enthusiastic smiles, the team from Halifax’s own Youth Art Connection (YAC) passed the evening yac-ing with interested artists, potential volunteers, and partner organizations to establish fresh interest and community involvement in their youth arts programs.

YAC, a two year old organization created to invoke change in the community through the power of arts by developing the skills and entrepreneurship of youth at risk, attracted attention from the event’s positive palaver with one of their own live success stories. YAC staff brought with them Courtney Moore, 25, a pianist and contemporary-classical composer as a budding example of a YAC “ArtPreneur”.

It was Moore’s first performance playing in public and she credits YAC’s co-founder and musician Ann Denny with the motivation and support required to prepare her for this big step. “I would never be able to perform at an event like this without YAC,” she said, “They act a bit like an agent introducing us to connections and opportunities to showcase our talents. I was hesitant at first, even though I’ve been playing since I was 12, but Ann and my sister coaxed me to go for it!”

Her sister, Rebecca, 24, who introduced Courtney to YAC, came to support her sibling and promote the organization. She agreed that Ann Denny, who says she was “off playing in a rock band during school”, was a big help. “Ann is someone who pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you feel comfortable at the same time.” Rebecca claims she has bugged her sister for years to play in public, but it wasn’t until she became involved with YAC that she chose to step out. “YAC has provided me with all my artistic opportunities from jewelry vending to performance gigs,” said Rebecca, “I even got to be on the news! They’re really good motivators.” Rebecca is skilled in a wide range of arts and has a heart for activism. When asked how she uses art as an activist she replied with the question “How do you do activism without art?”

The sisters come from an artistic biracial family and talk of collaborating to record traditional Mi’kmaq music. Courtney’s instrumentals and Rebecca’s vocals facilitated by YAC’s connections promises an exciting future for the two sisters. “Being involved with YAC makes us want to do more stuff like this!” they affirmed.

Embracing the everybody wins attitude of Timeraiser, the artists, volunteers, and non-profits alike collectively benefit from the event, gaining exposure and connections. Artist get to sell their work, which are purchased and donated by large corporations, volunteers get to earn beautiful works of art through their donation of hours, and non-profits get an influx of new volunteers.

Networking was top priority for YAC at Timeraiser since the attending demographic was saturated with art enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Ryan Veltmeyer, musician and co-founder of YAC, said that “Timeraiser is a great event to generate connections because it is the perfect setting to build relationships with those interested in the arts. YAC relies on social capital as our main asset and currency, so we hope to get richer tonight.”

And get richer they did. The YAC team left with numbers of names in unnameable numbers inspired to move forward with their workshops and expositions. Denny reiterated that “growing creative economy and investing in resilience of community is the direction YAC is heading and we want people on board with us”. For Denny, meeting new people and establishing where they can best use volunteer skill sets is what Timeraiser is all about. She spoke of YAC’s practical need for volunteers in PR, social media, art workshops, and specifically “people with cars”.

Coming up next for YAC are exciting events that will expose the untapped resources of Nova Scotia’s diverse youth ArtPreneurs, like We Day in Halifax, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation Summit in Ottawa, and their own Art Prom celebration in December. These events and others align with YAC’s belief that art builds futures, and the power of art can save lives through crime prevention and supporting disadvantages people groups.

“According to the new Vital Signs Report, statistics show Nova Scotia with the highest youth unemployment rate in Canada, YAC wants to change that.” said Veltmeyer. In a climate of 19% unemployed youth and high mental and physical health issues, YAC believes this is problem that they can do something about. “How do we react to this report?” Veltmeyer continued, “In our world, we talk about vibrant artistic success and contagious momentum to make a lasting difference in the community.”

Starting with new connections from Timeraiser, the YAC team continues to charge forward with infectious energy and optimism because they know that art builds futures.

So, what do you get when you cross a yak with a pianist at an art auction? Connections made, lives changed, and a lot of “yacking” about YAC.

Nothing funny about that.


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Art Builds Futures