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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence


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DAREarts Youths Experience Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia

On July 27th, 50 DAREarts children and families rushed to Cirque du Soleil‘s Grand Chapiteau through the pouring rain.  The show, Luzia, described as “a waking dream of Mexico” was a feast for the eyes.  Our attendees, almost all of whom had never seen a Cirque show were totally in awe of the incredible, superhuman feats of the Cirque artists, of the gorgeous music and sets and overall air of magic created under that tent.

Everyone was buzzing with energy and excitement after the show – they loved it!  It was the kind of beautiful, inspiring experience that will stick with them as a shining beacon of the power of human creativity.

DAREarts Thanks Cirque du Soleil“Thanks so much for a great night!!! It was beautiful.” – Sabrina

“This is an amazing opportunity.” – Shannon

“Thank you so so much. I was so fortunate to see the show with my girls. It was incredible. Very much appreciate it.” – Dee


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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2016 DAREarts Toronto Summer Camp – Loving Shakespeare!

Stage combat choreography with Director Jenny Parr. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Stage combat choreography with Director Jenny Parr. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

This July, 20 DAREarts Toronto Summer Campers delved into the Elizabethan era at Bloor CI and the TSA (Toronto School of Art), thanks to the generosity of Northbridge Insurance, the TSA, the TDSB, Coach Canada, and the Stratford Festival.  The teens, aged 12 to 17, engaged in intensive arts workshops centered on Stoppard, Norman, and Lee’s Shakespeare in Love, led by DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon and Artist-Educator Jennifer Parr.

With only eight days ahead of them, our campers were eager to explore Shakespeare’s struggles with writer’s block and love’s inspiration and woes. The goal seemed daunting: the teens were dared to put on their own short performance that explored Shakespeare in Love! Assisting the teens were our three seasoned DAREarts youth mentors, Dante, Jaiden, and Ryan, and documenting their adventure was youth volunteer Dexter.

Actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett brought language to life! Photo by Dexter Coffey.

Actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett with campers. Photo by Dexter Coffey.

The first three days of camp were a whirlwind of workshops, and after being properly introduced to the plot of Shakespeare in Love they began their work as a burgeoning theatre company. Our youth volunteer, Dexter, describes the first moments of camp: “As people arrived they all congregated together and quickly began talking and laughing. The sense of community within the camp is amazing and as a newcomer it felt very welcoming, they all introduced themselves and included me in their conversations and circles.”

Actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett of Shakespeare in the Ruff helped the teens explore how to make language come to life and make personal connections to the Bard’s words. Multi-discipline artist Cathy Elliott helped them brainstorm and paint their three 9-foot canvas backdrops together in groups. They also worked with actor Jamie Robinson, who helped each of the teens perfect their stage presence and voice!

Painting the backdrops! Photo by Dexter Coffey.

Painting the backdrops! Photo by Dexter Coffey.

On Monday, the campers met at the TSA to paint the backdrops, and through their discipline and teamwork they were rewarded with beautiful finished artworks by the end of the day. Costumes were made, script coaching happened throughout the day, and everyone was starting to feel confident in their roles.

Wednesday was our annual DAREarts Summer Camp trip to Stratford! With over half of the campers new to our summer programming, many had never been to the picturesque town or had even experienced live theatre. The trip began with a 2-hour drive from Toronto to Stratford, and upon arrival we were brought into the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s costume warehouse for a tour. The teens learned the history of many of the costumes, and were thrilled to be able to try on several pieces. After having lunch in the Festival Theatre park, we journeyed to the Avon Theatre to see Shakespeare in Love, followed by a Q&A with actors Brad Hodder and Ruby Joy. The day ended with a trip to Boston Pizza, where the teens had the chance to unwind and reflect on their experiences at Stratford. We then boarded the bus for the long journey home.

Adventures in the costume warehouse! Photo by Phill Snel.

Adventures in the costume warehouse! Photo by Phill Snel.

For their final rehearsal day, the teens were more inspired than ever to make their performance lively and powerful. They immersed themselves in the complex scenes, which included a full cast stage fight and plenty of snappy dialogue. On Friday morning, their performance day, the teens arrived an hour early to do two full run-throughs before the audience started arriving.

DAREarts Founder & President, Marilyn Field, welcomed the audience to the “hottest show in town,” and we were grateful to be joined by several VIPs including Davenport MP Julie Dzerowicz, TDSB Superintendent Annie Appleby, and TSA representatives Brian Bradstreet and Elizabeth D’Agostino.  The teens took to the “stage” and pulled our audience into the world of Shakespeare with perfect timing, zero missed lines, and flawless support of one another!

Praise & Maia prep to go on stage as Queen Elizabeth I and Viola de Lesseps! Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

Praise & Maia prep to go on stage as Queen Elizabeth I and Viola de Lesseps! Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

Our youth volunteer, Dexter, also took on a role in the performance himself. After the show, he reflected: “Everyone was very nervous and I had my doubts as the run-throughs still were a little stiff. But everyone pulled it together and all the transitions and sequences went really well. The end result was amazing and I’m so proud of all the campers for pulling this off in so little time. This was an honour to be a part of and seeing it turn out so well was truly amazing.”

After the show, a reception allowed the teens and their families to connect with us about their experience. One parent shared that her son needed this opportunity to take his skill with people to the next level.  Another noted that her child with Asperger’s had flourished in our program. The teens themselves congratulated each other on a job well done, and stayed in the gym far beyond the end of the reception. Our campers had a very diverse array of backgrounds, personalities, and home situations – including parental abuse, bullying, dyslexia, autism, Asperger’s, etc.  –  but DAREarts gave them all a common goal and a true sense of belonging and friendship.

We are so proud of our teens, and look forward to seeing what other incredible feats they can accomplish in such a short amount of time!

The DAREarts Campers with actors Ruby Joy and Brad Hodder! Photo by Brenda Norton.

The DAREarts Campers & Team with Stratford Festival actors Ruby Joy and Brad Hodder! Photo by Brenda Norton.

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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DAREarts Families Experience the TSO & Buffy Sainte-Marie!

DAREarts Thanks the TSO

Thanks to the generosity of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 50 DAREarts children and families gathered in the lobby of Roy Thomson Hall on Thursday, June 30, the sense of anticipation and excitement palpable. They were there to see Buffy Sainte-Marie – a living legend and Indigenous icon who has been a musician, educator, activist and writer for over 50 years.

Accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Buffy’s powerful stage presence had the eyes and ears of the DAREarts families glued to the stage, her music ranging from soaring rock anthems to gentle folk songs to spoken word to campfire singalongs, all underlined with her powerful message of Indigenous rights, care for the planet and for one another.

The R in “DARE” stands for Responsibility, a value that Buffy highlighted powerfully throughout the evening.  Acknowledging residential schools and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, Buffy reminded us of our collective societal responsibility to work towards renewed relationships with our Indigenous communities.

After experiencing this incredibly inspiring evening of music, here is what our delegates had to say:

“I enjoyed the atmosphere of the concert and ability for music to bridge the generational gap.” – Rosalyn

“I brought two of my children and my eight-year-old was on the edge of his seat. We loved seeing folk music backed up by the orchestra and I would come to see another show in a heartbeat. Thanks so much to for the generous donation of tickets. It allowed my children to experience something outside their usual exposure.” – Selby

“We loved the concert. The fact that Buffy was on stage most of the time was amazing and that she sang most of the old songs. We were three generations and all loved it. The symphony was great and all around we had a great time.” – Gert

We’d like to thank the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for sharing this inspiring opportunity with our families!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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DAREarts Attawapiskat: Walking for Peace

On National Aboriginal Day, a group of youths from Vezina High School in Attawapiskat First Nation reclaimed their voice by releasing an original music video. Called Walking for Peace, the work addresses, in clear yet powerful language, the youths’ frustration with the ongoing suicide crisis in their community. While the media coverage has been extensive and many experts have visited, the youth feel as though their concerns haven’t been heard. Through this music, they are speaking directly to their community, as well as all of Canada, about their experiences, feelings and hopes.

DAREarts, a national charity that empowers at-risk youth using the arts, facilitated the production during a two week workshop upon request from the community and officials at Vezina High School, including teacher Mandy Alves. The organization, which has previously worked in Attawapiskat providing song writing and videography workshops, assembled a team of leaders in music, videography and education, and arranged for their transportation and accommodation. During the first week, Juno-nominated musician and artist-educator Glenn Marais led a song-writing and recording workshop. Indigenous artist-educator Cathy Elliott and DAREarts Lead Teacher Shelley MacDonald taught the youths how to direct and edit the video during the following week. MacDonald is also a teacher with The Royal Conservatory’s Learning Through the Arts program, an affiliate organization whose support as Education Partner was critical for the project. Financial supporters include: Palgrave Rotary Club, Thunder Air, the Paul Semple Scholarship Fund, Sarah Haney, and Aeroplan donors (notably Hans Koehle, Maria Da Cunha, Cheryl Vhal and Victor Ford).

In the news:
In the face of suicide crisis, Attawapiskat youth find common voice in art: CBC News
Attawapiskat Youth are Ready to Show Canada Their Strength: Huffington Post Blog

DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educator Glenn Marais
Read Day One
Read Day Two
Read Days Three & Four
Read Day Four Thoughts
DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald
Read Days Five, Six & Seven
Read Day Eight

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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Guest Post: DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat, Day Eight

Thunder Air LogoPalgrave Rotary Club, Thunder Air, Aeroplan donors (Hans Koehle, Maria Da Cunha, Cheryl Vhal, Victor Ford), The Royal Conservatory’s Learning Through The Arts Program, and the Paul Semple Scholarship Fund are supporting this project.

June 17th, 2016 | Written by DAREarts Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald | Day Eight

IMG_5525

Karis with DAREarts artist-educator Cathy Elliott.

The Editing Journey
MORNING: 
Karis, a graduate from Vezina Secondary School and a member of the Attawapiskat First Nations Youth Committee, met DAREarts and Royal Conservatory Artist-Educators at 10:00am sharp to continue the editing process while the rest of the students wrote their morning exams.  Karis has been instrumental in the vision behind this whole project.  She worked with Glenn on the song creation and is an excellent mentor for the students here at the high school.  She goes where she is needed to support the students here at the high school.  She has been here everyday since we arrived. She is a true DAREarts leader taking action and igniting change in her community.

Shelley MacDonald and a youth

Artist-Educator Shelley MacDonald with an Attawapiskat youth.

AFTERNOON & EVENING: The kids were shooting until it got too dark to shoot.  The community, including us, staged a walk for the fight against drug dealers and bootleggers, culminating in a prayer circle and drumming by the river. We got together for a campfire with some of the students, and there were some of the drummers there including Robbie Sutherland, the Chair of the Youth Council. Our Feast turned out to be hotdogs and marshmallows, thanks to Shelley, and the video will have the walk in the credits, thanks to the students who videotaped the Walk. A very moving moment was when everyone did a thank-you handshake before we broke the circle. Shelley and Cathy met everyone eye to eye, hand to hand and they thanked us for being there supporting their children.

Over 25 students worked with us all week! The rough cut was shown over and over to the students, teachers and even a NAPS officer who dropped by the house. There wasn’t a big formal gathering because students were in different activities all day, including a paint-ball tournament, exams and prepping for the walk.

Sunset-webresWe had our own craft service feast Thursday night as students got some final shots in and helped with editing.

Here are some quotes from the youths:

“The process has been a great one to give people a view of the Attawapiskat we see. It’s amazing to see the lyrics of the song come to life.” Karis L., age 20, Attawapiskat Youth Commitee.

“It was fun! The food on our craft service table was yummy. Filming the Walking For Peace on the street with everyone was my favorite part.  It was cool. I am feeling very excited for the rest of Canada to see.” Nigel N., age 15, grade 9 student.

I really enjoyed this project. It’s a great hobby and I enjoy it. It also tells you the real story inside of Attawapiskat, not what others choose to see because of what’s in the media. I will still continue to tell the story, the true story of Attawapiskat and walk for peace and hope.” Jack L. Jr., age 16, grade 11 student.

“It was fun creating the song with Glenn and then making the music video with Cathy and Shelley. Attawapiskat is my home town and I am proud to live here.” Liza J., age 16, gr 10 student.

Water's edge - webres

DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educator Glenn Marais
Read Day One
Read Day Two
Read Days Three & Four
Read Day Four Thoughts
DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald
Read Days Five, Six & Seven
Watch “Walking for Peace” by the youth of Attawapiskat


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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Guest Post: DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat, Days Five, Six & Seven

Thunder Air LogoPalgrave Rotary Club, Thunder Air, Aeroplan donors (Hans Koehle, Maria Da Cunha, Cheryl Vhal, Victor Ford), The Royal Conservatory’s Learning Through The Arts Program, and the Paul Semple Scholarship Fund are supporting this project.

June 14th, 15th, & 16th, 2016 | Written by DAREarts Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald | Day Five, Six, & Seven

13407042_10154261498302317_6137187653312452632_nDay 5: We arrived and hit the ground running! We started brainstorming with Karis, Ariel and Jack, who envisioned what the video might look like. They were instrumental in the groundwork of the song that dictates what they are feeling and guides the vision.

This is a continuation of what Glenn started; we started video right away on the first afternoon. They played with shadows on the ground by the shore. We started with just the three students and picked up more during the day. Very informal. They worked with the “bounce,” which reflected light on faces and created beautifully strong portraits of students. They want to do more close ups of faces.

13416749_10157005131075585_7890642931788541525_oDay 6: They strongly feel that Attawapiskat’s visibility is affecting them, both physically and emotionally.  On day two, they projected Peter Mansbridge introducing a feature “Checking in on Attawapiskat” from the housing crisis in 2010 and Jack and Joseph lined up their faces and lip synced Mansbridge’s words. They also want to have a group shot with them doing the same thing, mouthing the words of the media as the lead-up to the spoken word segment of the song.

We set up our “drum screen” in the classroom and rear-projected a walking scene and the students cast their shadows, walking, dancing, holding hands, celebrating. That evening, we met around 9:30 for the “magic hour” lighting of the setting sun. Liza and Nigel knocked on our door and we played back the music as they sang along for the lipsync. They walked around the town and we picked up two little girls who wanted to be in the movie. We found ourselves in the playground, by a hill and the silhouettes of the kids on the hill were spectacular with the “god sun” effect with the lens flare. 13416913_10157006104575585_1525913808101152598_oJack magically appeared in the group on the hill – which was growing, and started directing. He discovered the beautiful shadows on the red brick wall, and completely took control of the shoot. It was a miracle in action as we watched the students show the discipline it took to do take after take to get the perfect shot. It was wonderful to see them “come together” as a group and create an almost mythical creature on the wall.

A modern pictograph. Or a contemporary petroglyph – etching their presence on this land with the lens.

Day 7: This afternoon, we’ll start laying out the video and doing more shooting.

13418842_10154261498217317_5997809301985913957_nWe’ve decided to leave a camera with Jack. He’s got so much promise, he’ll use it for the Youth Council, start up a Youtube channel for the Council, and we know he’ll use it for good. He’s already shown extraordinary leadership, and this will be a great tool for him.

Photos courtesy Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald.

DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educator Glenn Marais
Read Day One
Read Day Two
Read Days Three & Four
Read Day Four Thoughts
DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald
Read Day Eight
Watch “Walking for Peace” by the youth of Attawapiskat


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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Guest Post: DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat, Day Four Thoughts

Thunder Air LogoPalgrave Rotary Club, Thunder Air, Aeroplan donors (Hans Koehle, Maria Da Cunha, Cheryl Vhal, Victor Ford), The Royal Conservatory’s Learning Through The Arts Program, and the Paul Semple Scholarship Fund are supporting this project.

Sat. June 11th 2016 | Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator Glenn Marais | Day Four, Thoughts

DAREarts Attawapiskat youths with Glenn - Day 3This journey had a different structure, purpose and sense of immediate need and urgency to it. We have all seen the news on Attawapiskat and the many other reserves in Canada buckling under the weight of poverty and neglect and years of Post Traumatic Stress from the Residential School System. Yes it’s time that we start identifying history in Canada for what it is and not what we would like it to be and what we want to see through our red and white colored glasses of glory that we are all guilty of looking through.  Our government enacted a cultural genocide on First Nations people through the Residential School System. The survivors have PTSD and their children bear the brunt of those symptoms that manifest in substance abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.  They are suffering in an isolated silence that is only disturbed by reports of the extreme, “11 attempted suicides in one day.” A miracle that it was averted, with doors kicked down in the nick of time, and lives barely saved, a macabre clock ticking on the madness of a life deemed hopeless by the young.  Young lives, the heart-blood and promise of a community, in peril and jeopardy, because in our subjugated human nature we only take notice during crisis. I say this not to criticize, because I love my country. It gave my parents a place to make a life when they left South Africa in 1964 because of Apartheid laws. It is a place of peace. One of the students, a lovely girl, named Aniston who has worked so hard and passionately on this song and who is a shining light, to me, expressed that her community is a peaceful one. She said it with pride and assurance and it made me so happy to hear her say that.  Happy but also aware of the struggles she and others her age have faced and have in front of them. She is in that golden age, Gr.11, moving into her final year of high school with all the promise and dreams of youth awaiting her. She wants to go to OCAD and study art and I pray and hope that fate will be kind and that she will find the resolve and determination to make that insurmountable leap from the reserve to college.

IMG_3371Yes we are a multi-cultural nation and a beacon of hope for many. Historically we have made mistakes. Now is the time to move past apologies and start rectifying these mistakes with the appropriate sense of urgency.  There is a national emergency happening on our reserves. Can we mobilize and raise money and petition results the way we did with Fort Mac? Of course we can. Seek the purpose and find the reason my friends, because the answer is simple. It is the humane thing to do and we rise and fall on the depths of our humanity. It is the polar opposite to ignore the things going on and walk around in a utopian daze.  It is insanity.  I implore, plead and demand that we institute and embrace a national paradigm shift.  Let’s stop looking back, pointing fingers, accusing First Nations of having a free ride, shaking in heads in disgust and then carrying on with a countenance of an indolent veneer that is preoccupied with the minutiae of life and misses the big picture that is in front of us so large and brilliant that we can’t possibly miss it. The fastest growing population in North America, the pride of our nation, a cultural legacy of art, music, craftsmanship, survival skills, trapping, hunting, existing in a peaceful harmony with the Earth and possessing a deep knowledge and respect of nature and the animals that is synonymous with our current search for an eco based lifestyle.  Let’s embrace our First Nations brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, uncles, aunties, elders, sages and the glorious newborn babes and hold them in our arms like family and say with pride that we are here, we hear you, we will help you, we need you, you are family.

DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educator Glenn Marais
Read Day One
Read Day Two
Read Days Three & Four
DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald
Read Days Five, Six & Seven
Read Day Eight
Watch “Walking for Peace” by the youth of Attawapiskat


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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