Thursday, 27 October 2016

Stories from the Youth Theatre Training Program: Community Arts Guild

By Christine Rankin, Education Assistant 

Our Youth Theatre Training Program (YTTP) offers financial support to programs that deliver accessible training to young people (age 14 to 21), led by professional artists in skills such as technical production and design; theatre administration and producing; and performance skills and play creation. 

Community Arts Guild was supported for their program IN COMMON GROUND that took place in the communities of Scarborough and Nipissing First Nation during April-June 2015. 

The Community Arts Guild uses the collective quality of group creation to build and strengthen the sense of community between artists. Upon designing a project to focus on youth entitled IN COMMON GROUND, they sought funding from Theatre Ontario under our Youth Theatre Training Program. From April to June in 2015, IN COMMON GROUND united the youth communities of Scarborough and Nipissing First nation through art-making.  Realizing that their youth groups paralleled each other, Community Arts Guild and Aanmitaagzi decided to collaborate on this project.
“The opportunity to collaborate with Aanmitaagzi in this training program was an inspiring and enriching experience. It was wonderful to spend time in Nipissing and collaborate with them…they are extraordinary artists and Community Arts Guild is proud to have developed a deeper relationship with them.”
It included six workshops and two intensive weekends that were split between each location. IN COMMON GROUND additionally occurred in tandem with Jumblies Theatre’s Train of Thought events: a touring community arts project that used various art media to explore the histories of relationships between first nations, other communities, and indigenous land. With the added support of Jumblies Theatre, the youths in the IN COMMON GROUND program likewise explored themes of land throughout their workshops, focusing on the need to respect the earth and the awareness that humans are its guests.

The workshops involved creative training in the fields of theatre, music and dance. The participants explored the role of movement in storytelling and the range of forms that movement can take. They engaged with mask work, improvisation, choreography, and even some puppetry. The participants also explored an auditory plane of art through voice work, soundscapes and drumming. Needless to say, the participants’ creative minds were kept extremely busy! These sessions not only promoted the development of artistic skills for future artists and creators but also for everyday life! Participants gained valuable insights toward creative problem solving, expression, self-confidence, and critical thinking. The participants had fantastic things to say about their learning experience:
“Best thing learned – being sociable with others making new friends, respecting others. It helped me to keep active. It’s been a great and wonderful experience.”
“It was a very adventurous experience for me, and my first time outside of the city of Toronto…chatting with others [was] very awesome.”
The workshops and intensive weekend in each location were geared towards the goal of creating a final piece that celebrated all of the above arts and that was presented in their communities.  The show, Beneath Us, was both scripted and improvised and derived from an oral story from the West Coast belonging to Salish people. In Nipissing, the youths performed Beneath Us at the Capitol Centre in North Bay in the Dream Big Conference. It re-adapted for outdoor performance and presented at Cedar Ridge Creative Centre in Scarborough as well as Art of the Americas and Train of Thought Toronto. Community Arts Guild and Aanmitaagzi truly made a difference in the lives of youths through this project: 
“Many of our youth expressed an interest in taking a more active role in our workshops and art making in the community, some even saying that they see a career for themselves in the arts.”
IN COMMON GROUND provided a landscape for the creation of art through the sharing of culture and experiences between participants of different communities. Without this program, these youths would not have had a chance to connect with each other. The developing of these new relationships was repeatedly noted as a point of excitement for the young artists. Participants from Scarborough were thrilled to learn in-person about indigenous culture from indigenous people. It was great to see the enrichment of art that arises from diversity of those involved in the process.

People of different cultures, nationalities, and generations came together through the process of art-making. Intergenerational creation was used to unite youth with established Community Arts Guild and Aaanmitaagzi artists. Additionally, the program’s reach extended beyond geographical barriers and included participants who were new to Canada and whose first experiences of the country became the open space for free creation established by the Community Arts Guild and Aanmitaagzi. 

Theatre Ontario’s YTTP is proud to have supported this initiative and was delighted to see so many creators come together…IN COMMON GROUND!

The next application deadline for the Youth Theatre Training Program is March 15, 2017.

Theatre Ontario’s Youth Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario. 

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