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Celebrating DAREarts Volunteer Guru of Grandeur, Sinclair Russell!

Photo courtesy of Beth McBlain.

Sinclair celebrates DAREarts’ 20th year with Leadership Awards Committee Chair Eileen Crichton & DAREarts’ staff Suzanne Clark. Photo courtesy of Beth McBlain.

Our dear volunteer, Sinclair Russell, is celebrating a milestone year on Oct 5th and we would like to say Bravo! Let’s salute his talent and spirit of FUN and FUNDraising by raising a glass to his many years of  involvement in Toronto Charity and Society Event Style.*  What better way than a VIP event at Cirque Du Soleil!  Click here to see your VIP invitation which includes a tax receipt as well as parking, a red carpet reception with sipping and supping, best seats in the house and a lovely gift-to-go!

Over DAREarts’ 20 years of empowering at-risk kids, Sinclair has been our dedicated Design Guru making our Leadership Awards and other events truly glorious!  But he went even further to give back: in 2011 Sinclair joined our team of teachers and artist-educators and headed to Webequie First Nation to work with Indigenous youths as they designed and sewed their own buck skin vests.

Professionally, his talents have contributed to Simpsons, Eatons, Estee Lauder, Fairweather / Dylex, Seven Continents, Display Arts of Toronto, Robert Gage Salon, Museum Tavern, many other retailers and publications. His talents took him abroad for 20 years working globally that won him awards and acclaim. He now lives in Minden, ON where he devotes his time and talents to many fortunate local efforts.

*Some of his lucky collaborators:
Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, Mt Sinai Hospital, DAREarts, WestPark Health, The Yonge Street Mission, Baycrest, The Griffin Trust, Canadian Opera Company, National Ballet School, Stratford Festival, Best Buddies, PetSOS,  The Fashion Group, The Brazilian Ball (x 12), and many society hosts, fine friends and his loving family members.

Sinclair with DAREarts Leadership Awards volunteers, including Seneca College students and Northbridge Insurance employees who generously contributed their time and talent!

Sinclair handwaves with DAREarts Leadership Awards volunteers, including Seneca College students and Northbridge Insurance employees who generously contributed their time and talent! Photo courtesy of Amanda Robinson.

 


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If You’re an Indigenous Youth, Don’t Read This

Written by Cathy Elliott (celliott@darearts.com).

The toxic headlines, the comment sections, the conversations with “helpful” strangers, the radio call-ins…the environment that provokes racism and provides discourse that is potentially deadly; how does a young Indigenous youth process and proceed?

It’s hard enough just being a “Native teen.” When you’re locked down in “Indian” designation, you have to cope with the confusion, fear, anger and anguish that you are exposed to every day.

This reality was exacerbated recently when tweets, Facebook groups, politicians and other forums began talking about a teen who was murdered on a farm in Saskatchewan.  Some of the things written about this tragedy are beyond distressing. They are triggering, harmful and dangerous. They incite hateful behaviour, and the initial self-preserving response by Indigenous individuals is either to lash out or hide from them.

A teen or child living in this toxic environment is already dealing with poor education, missed economic opportunities and generational trauma. In a time when we are all talking about Reconciliation and forgiveness, it’s hard to raise your head when you read, “His only mistake was leaving three witnesses.”  And people are actually agreeing with him, saying things like, “It’s open season on Indians.”

The mental anguish caused by this is real. It’s not just your imagination when you see the vitriolic discourse by people with real names, real email addresses and photos on their Facebook comments. It means that they don’t care what people think.  It’s a full-on assault on every young Indigenous person’s well-being.

What kind of mechanisms and supports are there for young people?

The arts, along with cultural teachings do help.  Here’s how:

Kids speak up.

Give the kids a fighting chance by providing a forum in which to speak up about themselves to the general population.  When DAREarts held workshops last June with Attawapiskat First Nation students and teachers about media attention, the youths turned the camera on their community and ended their music video with, “Hi Canada.” They wrote a song – Walking For Peace – that voiced their concerns about their futures, their community and their mental health. They were honest with themselves by talking about suicide among their young friends, siblings, cousins and distant relations. The resulting video was seen by 4,500 viewers in two months. They used their voices to celebrate their strength and reach out to the rest of us, to see the “good side of Atta, to be the good things that matta.”

Kids Kill the Stereotypes.

The Internet has become the biggest community in history, hooking up Canadian Indigenous kids through social media with kids all over the world. When someone uses racist language, youths can choose to organize their emotions and answer back in a positive, even humorous way. Through poetry, music, art, video and theatre, they answer to and dispel the stereotypes that weigh them down and drain their potential for success. They learn how to use art to turn back the negative feelings and make art with it and provide real facts, real impressions of their lives, inner and out.

Kids Channel Anger.

Art is the best, best, BEST way to put down a hater.  It may not get through to the person who initiated the anger, but it will vent that anger in a positive way. People invent things, make positive historical decisions, cure diseases, save the planet by first becoming angry. Nothing wrong with being angry. But if that anger stays inside and doesn’t have an outlet, it festers. And that kind of anger creates illnesses, both mental and physical, which can kill. Ask any Indigenous artist, world-wide, if they were angry when they created their best works. Nothing is more powerful than an angry artist.

Kids Become Teachers.

By being proactive, kids create the answers through art and when they need it, it’s right there. In a picture. In a video. In a poem. In 2014, Grades 5 – 8 students in a DAREarts project collectively wrote about water, land and concerns about their First Nation home in a poem called, “The Land Speaks”, which they turned into a music video using dioramas and their voices. Their message is disturbing in a good way. We can learn from the kids about what they fear and desire. This messaging comes from them, unprompted and looped back by their Elders. The confirmation of their inherent knowledge by their cultural Elders is invaluable. Vital. Especially when a comment comes up on a newspaper article about defending our planet and their way of life.

One of the saddest headlines I’ve read recently is that Northern Ontario First Nations students were afraid to go to school in Thunder Bay this spring. After the inquiry that examined the deaths of First Nations teens over the last several years there, the cloud of fear and mistrust floats heavily in the air.   It’s not going to be easy to disperse.  But, for the anxiety and dark feelings that Indigenous youth are experiencing, collaborative art with artists who have a deep understanding of the issues at hand, and Elders who use wisdom and traditional/non traditional practices, there is a way to break it down a little.

And that in itself can save lives.

 


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people 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 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 at-risk young people 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 at-risk young people 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, volunteers, 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 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 children and volunteers had to say:

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

“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, volunteer

“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 at-risk young people 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.