DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence


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Forging Empowered Financial Futures: DAREarts Teens attend The Jr. Economic Club’s “Day on Bay”!

On Friday, March 23rd, 82 teens from Brock Public School and Ryerson Community School journeyed with their school teachers and the DAREarts team to the Hilton Toronto and the Toronto Stock Exchange for a very special Day on Bay organized and hosted by The Jr. Economic Club of Canada.

Welcomed by Alison Nigra and Emily Peters of The Junior Economic Club of Canada, the teens were excited to see what the day would bring. First they met Jennifer Abbey, who shared her inspiring story of finding success despite childhood poverty. Evan Hall, co-founder of Wittaya Aqua, then presented a workshop about successful money management techniques. Alison engaged the teens in a game that taught them the importance of budgeting and the skills needed to make the best of one’s income through careful planning, wrapping up the morning with great energy!

Lunch was a wonderful treat provided by The Jr. Economic Club, giving the teens the chance to practice their best table manners and to continue chatting with the morning’s guest speakers. Afterward, Kerry Ann Thomas, founder of KAT brand, shared her story and held an “Ask Me Anything” session, giving insight into entrepreneurship and starting your own business.

As a special finale to the day, everyone walked to the Toronto Stock Exchange where Meaghan Daly, President and Founder of Forward Vision Games, presented “Investing 101”, which taught the teens many forward-thinking investment tips that were new to the many of the adults in attendance!

DAREarts wholeheartedly thanks The Jr. Economic Club of Canada and The Economic Club of Canada for making this day possible for our youth. This opportunity comes at such a critical point in our children’s lives, as they are about to embark into high school and start seeing their future as adults. The tools this day provided are what they need to find success in their financial futures.

“Working with DAREarts was a pleasure from beginning to end. Everyone was extremely organized, passionate and responsive. The Jr. Economic Club coordinated a ‘Day on Bay’ street in the heart of downtown Toronto – a day filled with workshops surrounding financial literacy and personal growth. DAREarts brought us 80 youth to participate. The students were so engaged and enthusiastic, it was one of our most treasured programs to date. We look forward to working with them again!” – Emily Peters, Executive Director, The Jr. Economic Club of Canada

 “Brock had a wonderful time at the Day on Bay. Many of our students have been talking about some of the financial literacy they learned on the trip. Thank you for including us in this opportunity.” – Mr. Basanti, Gr. 8 Teacher

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DAREarts Toronto Winter Showcase 2018: “We’re all in this Together!”

On Thursday, March 1st, over 130 DAREarts student delegates from 18 Etobicoke schools showcased their inner leader on stage at North Albion C.I., cheered on by families, teachers, principals and community leaders. In the heart of Rexdale, an area known for its ongoing battle against poverty and gang violence, the children are stepping forward to celebrate their strengths, their hopes, and their vision for a bright future.

The showcase featured visual art, fashion, drama, dance, music and film created by the youths with arts professionals, exploring the past to the present.  Highlights included Juno-nominated musician Glenn Marais performing alongside Grade 7 & 8 students, and David Wall, blues artist and Jazz.FM91’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, alongside Grade 7 students. Community leaders attending included Councillor Michael Ford and TDSB Superintendent Lorraine Linton.

Bullying, peer pressure, violence and delinquency are just a few of our children’s realities. Without leadership opportunities or creative outlets, kids risk becoming targets of negative influences. DAREarts closes the opportunity gap by giving these kids artistic, learning and personal development opportunities.  Students joined the program from Albion Heights JMS, Beaumonde Heights JMS, Boys Leadership Academy, Calico PS, Chalkfarm JS, Claireville JS, Dixon Grove JMS, Elmbank JMA, Fairbank PS, Greenholme JMS, Hilltop MS, Humber Summit MS, Melody Village JS, Rivercrest JS, Smithfield MS, St. Jude CS, The Elms JMS and West Humber JMS.

The annual DAREarts Winter Showcase is a community celebration of our children’s learning and a testament to their leadership potential. DAREarts uses the arts as a tool to empower kids with the courage and confidence to be their best. They are dared to opt out of destructive behaviour and expectations of failure, and to redefine themselves in a positive environment. The children are tasked with the job of going back to their schools after each DAREarts Day to peer teach their classmates, sharing knowledge and experience. DAREarts’ Toronto program works with 9 to 14 year olds from schools in high-priority neighbourhoods, where select schools choose two students from Grades 4 to 8 who are in need of broader opportunities.

The children explore renowned arts and cultural venues including the AGO, the Aga Khan Museum, Bata Shoe Museum, Remenyi House of Music, Ballet Jorgen, Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, the Toronto School of Art and more, opening their eyes to a wider world.  Inspired by these experiences they work alongside the DAREarts teaching team and professional artists to create their own works while exercising the values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility, and Excellence.

Established 22 years ago, DAREarts has a proven track record of inspiring at-risk kids to reach their full potential. DAREarts has reached over 200,000 kids, providing the leadership skills needed to avoid the pitfalls of drugs, guns and gangs. DAREarts’ success stories include young adults in business, medicine, law and education.
DAREarts is grateful to all its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne Livingston, Baton Rouge, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Ontario Arts Council; and Toronto Education Partners: Toronto District School Board, TELUS and Wells Fargo.

Photos courtesy of Alan Dunlop.


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2017 DAREarts Toronto Summer Camp – “Be not afraid of greatness.”

In the final weeks of July, 25 DAREarts Toronto Summer Campers leapt into the whimsical world of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Walmer Centre and the TSA (Toronto School of Art), thanks to the generosity of Northbridge Insurance, the TSA, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, Coach Canada, and the Stratford Festival. The teens, aged 11 to 18, engaged in intensive arts workshops led by DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon, artist-educator Jennifer Parr, and DAREarts Lead Teaching Assistant Mackenzy Willis. Assisting the teens were our seasoned DAREarts youth mentors: Dante, Jaiden, Samira, and Sylvia.

In just seven days, our campers were dared to put on their own abridged performance of Twelfth Night, adapted for DAREarts by Jennifer Parr. The teens were eager to become their own theatre company after an introduction to the work. By the end of their first day together, they felt confidently versed in Iambic Pentameter and the plot of Twelfth Night. The following days were filled with workshops to help our campers refine their artistry as they worked toward their performance.

Visual Artist Tina Oehmsen-Clark of the Toronto School of Art led the campers through the process of creating their own backdrop masterpieces, where the campers used ink and alcohol to layer colours into abstract works of art. Volunteer Zlata Huddleston of Wells Fargo assisted the campers using her own arts experience. Musician Ciara Adams led a singing workshop and taught three versions of one of the most well-known Shakespearean songs, Feste’s “Hey Ho, the Wind and the Rain”. Kaitlyn Riordan, Artistic Director of Shakespeare in the Ruff, helped our young company delve deeper into the text of Twelfth Night, enabling them to better interpret Shakespeare’s verse.

On their sixth day of camp, our burgeoning company staged their final scenes and worked on rehearsing to perfection. Many even chose to stay for an extra hour to keep practicing! During the day they were joined by CBC Radio’s Rima Hamadi, who interviewed four of the campers and DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon. Listen here.

There wasn’t a shred of nervousness left as the campers arrived on their performance day. With great confidence, they did two full rehearsals of the show in the morning! On their makeshift stage decorated with their artworks, they greeted the audience after everyone settled in and then took to the spotlight. From the opening shipwreck ensemble to the traditional jig after the final scene, the campers supported each other with precise timing and flawlessly executed lines!

After the show, a reception allowed the teens and their families to connect with us about this experience. One parent shared how proud she was to see both of her daughters share an arts opportunity together, something they hadn’t done before. Another shared how important this was as her child’s school has been cutting back on arts programming. Many others shared how much this experience meant to their children, and how amazed they were at the calibre of their work. We wholeheartedly agree — we’re so proud of our campers!

To finish their camp experience, the teens had one more day ahead of them — their journey to the Stratford Festival to see Twelfth Night performed by a world-renowned theatre company! 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 lunch in the park, we met with resident teaching artist Edward Daranyi to present a special mural created by the youth of Neskantaga First Nation as part of the DAREarts-Stratford Spirit Bear Project. We then journeyed to the Festival Theatre to see Twelfth Night, followed by a Q&A with actors E.B. Smith and Emilio Vieira. 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.

“This was my first time attending DAREarts Summer Camp, and it was an awesome experience. I was really nervous since it was my first time acting, but really quickly I felt comfortable. I think that this summer had to be the most funnest summer I’ve ever had. Thank you to everyone who helps with this program, I hope to see you next year!” – Candy


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. DAREarts is grateful to all its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne Livingston, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Summer Camp Education Partners: Toronto School of Art, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, Stratford Festival, Coach Canada, and TDSB. We’d like to send a special thank you to volunteers Alan DunlopZlata Huddleston, and Kaitlyn Riordan.


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DAREarts Toronto Spring Gr. 8 Grads: My Identity is… Success!

On Wednesday, May 31st, the Bata Shoe Museum generously hosted the DAREarts Toronto Spring grade 8 class graduation celebration. Over 8 weeks of DAREarts Days, 27 Grade 8 delegates had explored identity and leadership through music, drama, dance, literature and visual art.

Laura MacKinnon, DAREarts Lead Teacher, welcomed the audience of families, teachers, DAREarts supporters and community leaders.  Annie Appleby, TDSB Central Superintendent & DAREarts Director, spoke on behalf of the TDSB. The class then began their presentation: two spoken word poems they created with SPIN El Poeta at DAIS, two drama pieces created with Little Black Afro Theatre, a short film created at TIFF, a dance learned with Fly Lady Di, and a song they wrote with Sheldon De Souza.  Self-portraits they painted with youth artist Ricky Schaede vibrantly reflected their identities on the walls.

Each DAREarts graduate received a medallion.  The William Stevenson Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by Emmy-award winning producer Monika Jensen-Stevenson, went to Valerie, whose poetry showed that, despite her shy demeanour, she has a strong voice. The James Westcott Award, presented by DAREarts supporter Nancy Westcott, went to Ezra, whose positivity and humour inspired the entire class.  The Crichton Community Leadership Award, presented by retired principal and DAREarts supporter Eileen Crichton, went to DAREarts graduate and volunteer extraordinaire Dante Scholar to help him further his paralegal studies.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to Sheila Knox, Head of Education & Programming for the Bata Shoe Museum, for making this evening possible. We also thank our young volunteers Iris Benedikt, Elijah Brown, Alan Dunlop, Kiranpreet Kaur Bhangu, Patrik Montelibano, and Dante Scholar.

Over 150 students from 26 schools spanning Toronto’s downtown core to east Scarborough attended the spring program as DAREarts “delegates”.  They were empowered with the job of going back to their respective schools after each DAREarts Day to peer-teach their classmates what they had learned.

Toronto participating schools this spring were: Brock PS, Cedarbrook PS, Chine Drive PS, Corvette JS, Cosburn MS, Earl Haig PS, Eastview PS, Equinox Holistic Alternative, Fairbank Memorial CS, George Webster ES, Gordon A. Brown MS, Jesse Ketchum PS, Joseph Brant PS, Niagara Street JPS, Pauline JPS, Queen Victoria PS, RH McGregor ES, Regent Heights PS, Roden PS, Samuel Hearne MS, Sloane PS, St. Andrew’s PS, Westwood MS, Willow Park JS & Winchester PS.

DAREarts thanks its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne Livingston, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario; Education Partner: the TDSB; Grade 8 Class Sponsor: Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Photos courtesy of volunteer photographer Alan Dunlop.


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DAREarts Toronto Spring Students Showcase Leadership

DAREarts Toronto Spring Grade 4s

The 2017 DAREarts Toronto Spring program for kids from 26 schools concluded with 150 young leaders. On each grade’s final DAREarts Day, they held a showcase for their families.  These intimate gatherings gave each child a platform to say what DAREarts meant to them.  They then shared their creativity and knowledge learned from their series of arts workshops.

The DAREarts Grade 4s shared a drama inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream created with Jamie Robinson, a Voyage Song created with Ciara Adams, and an Afro-Caribbean dance learned from Tereka Tyler-Davis. They displayed watercolour self-portraits created with Ilana Van Zyl plus Japanese calligraphy created at the JCCC.

DAREarts Toronto Spring Grade 5s

The DAREarts Grade 5s shared a Bharatanatyam Indian dance learned from Suma Nair of Sampradaya Dance Creations, a Baroque dance learned from Jeannette Zingg of Opera Atelier, a song to Handel’s Messiah created with Sarah Hicks, and a Commedia dell’arte drama created with Jamie Robinson. They displayed Chiaroscuro still-life block prints, plus ornate clay shoes created at the Gardiner Museum with inspiration from the Bata Shoe Museum’s galleries.

DAREarts Toronto Spring Grade 6s

The DAREarts Grade 6s demonstrated stage combat learned from Erick Fournier and Louisa Zhu, dramatic insults from Cyrano de Bergerac, a ballet created with Hannah Mae Cruddas of Ballet Jorgen, and a gargoyle opera created with Cathy Nosaty and Alix Sideris. They displayed Impressionist-inspired landscapes created with Sann Sann Lam, plus clay gargoyles created at the Gardiner Museum inspired by Casa Loma.

The DAREarts Grade 7s shared an Afro-Contemporary dance learned from Tereka Tyler-Davis, West African-inspired drumming they learned from Rufus Glassco of Rhythm Kingdom, a fashion show of 20th Century-inspired fashions they sewed with Lise Godel, and Blues lyrics they wrote with Jazz.FM91’s David Wall, Rob Christian, Lucian Gray, and John Mavrogiannis. They displayed mixed-media pieces created with Gloria Hope.

DAREarts Toronto Spring Grade 7s

The DAREarts Grade 8s held a special graduation celebration at the Bata Shoe Museum. Read about their evening here.

We thank our youth mentors: Iris Benedikt, Kiranpreet Kaur Bhangu and Dante Scholar. We also thank volunteers Bonnie Masina and Riina Muzaffar and especially our volunteer photographer, Alan Dunlop.

DAREarts appreciates its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne Livingston, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario; Education Partner: the TDSB; Grade 8 Class Sponsor: Bank of America Merrill Lynch.


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Artist-Educator Glenn Marais Reflects on Winter Showcase Music – ‘Spirit Of the North’

Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator, Glenn Marais.

Music is a gift to all of us. It echoes in our hearts and minds and resonates forever in our consciousness. Great songs can transport us to a specific time and place and a memory within seconds of the first note or chord and just like that, we are whisked away and under its spell.

Writing songs with my young friends from DAREarts is a true passion of mine. We write at a frenzied pace, starting at 9:30 and finishing with a recorded song at 2:30. The songs are written based on theme and once selected, I share song writing techniques and examples by singing popular and classic songs and then we send them off in small groups to brainstorm words, then lyrics which become verses, chorus’, rap sections and melodies developed to match their words.

The teachers and myself are continually blown away by their creations and this years’ Gr. 8 class took it to another level thanks to the generosity and compassion of the people at DAIS.  DAIS is a creative arts and music studio in Toronto, featuring five floors of recording studios, writing spaces, meeting rooms, multi-media and more. It is a cornucopia of creativity and we had it for the day to create and record our song. What a blessing. This building is incredible and eclipsed only by the generous nature and enthusiasm of the owner, Sol Guy and staff.

Our theme this year was self and our place in the world and how we can make a difference. It’s all in the lyrics written by these insightful, compassionate and intelligent students.

I could feel their nervousness at the rehearsal prior to Thursday’s performance, but I wasn’t concerned. It was a caring tension. It felt like they were presenting their song to the audience with a compassion born from creating it and a pride in their work. As if they wanted it all to come out with the same beauty as the creation of it. I admired them for that love of their craft and respect for their art.

When they performed, it was with grace and poise and attitude in the rap sections and power in the chorus. They owned it and it showed in their beaming faces as they smiled at the end with the applause of their parents, family and friends washing over them.

At the end of the show all of our DAREarts students gave a gift, a musical handshake to the people of Webequie First Nations reserve. They sang the song, “Spirit of the North”, composed by myself, and teachers and students of Simon Jacob Memorial School in Webequie. We wrote the song in October 2012 as part of a healing process after one of Webequie’s fine young men, Jordan Wabasse, passed away while living in Thunder Bay pursuing his dream of playing hockey at a high level.  He was found by the Kaministiquia River three months after disappearing in February of 2011.

The entire community was devastated and his classmates in particular where in shock and in mourning over the loss of their friend and someone they all looked up to.  We composed the song to heal our battered souls and to offer hope and love to the community. The lyrics seemed to flow out of us and the song grew around it like a protective cocoon. When we performed it in Webequie, the students sang with incredible passion and feeling, releasing their pain and opening their hearts again to healing and possibility. It was an incredible time to be with them and share that journey.

The students sang the song last night as if it were their own. There was a resounding power and joy in their voices as they sang together, in harmony, extending their hearts to our friends in the Far North.  I had shivers up and down my spine as I sang with them and felt the emotion coming out of our DAREarts students in waves of uninhibited passion. I’ll never forget that moment and if their words have wings the people of Webequie must have heard them last night and felt the splendour and glory of the moment.

This program does so much more than produce great music. It creates great moments of triumph through struggle, growth through understanding of self and a shared passion for the arts and each other that is developed and nurtured through the DARE values. I try to live by these values too because they are guiding lights and reminders of what we can be when we try our best.

DAREarts Artist
Glenn Marais


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DAREarts Uses Creativity to Empower Rexdale Area Kids

Last night, March 2nd 2017, DAREarts, a charity that empowers kids using the arts, held its annual DAREarts Winter Showcase at North Albion Collegiate Institute (NACI) in Rexdale, ON. 

The event showcased over 130 children, grades 4 through 8, from 13 Rexdale area schools.  With the theme “Promenade Through Time,” the Showcase features visual art, fashion, drama, dance, music and film, created by the youths with arts professionals, that time-traveled from the past to the present: from the Renaissance to hip hop.  Highlights included Juno-nominated musician Glenn Marais performing alongside Grade 8 students, and David Wall, blues artist and Jazz.FM91’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, alongside Grade 7 students. Community leaders attending included Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor Michael Ford, TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih, TDSB SOE Glenford Duffus and TDSB System Superintendent Annie Appleby.

This event is critical at a time when many young people face difficult choices. Bullying, peer pressure, youth violence and delinquency are just a few of their harsh, daily realities. With a severe lack of leadership opportunities or creative outlets, kids often become targets of negative influences. DAREarts closes the opportunity gap by giving these kids artistic, learning and personal development opportunities.  Participating schools were Albion Heights JMS, Beaumonde Heights JMS, Boys Leadership Academy, Chalkfarm JS, Claireville JS, Cookstown Central PS, Elmbank JMA, The Elms JMS, Greenholme JMS, Humberwood Downs JMA, Melody Village JS, Smithfield MS and West Humber JMS.

DAREarts operates nationally and is centred around the power of the arts and the DARE principles of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.  DAREarts’ Toronto program works with 9 to 14 year olds from schools in high-priority neighbourhoods, empowering them to become leaders.  Select schools choose two students from Grades 4 to 8 who are in need of broader opportunities. DAREarts Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, and a team of arts professionals take the children to many arts venues across Toronto, including the AGO, the Aga Khan Museum, DAIS, Ballet Jorgen, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Toronto School of Art, where they explore cultures and then themselves create.  After each DAREarts Day, the student ‘delegates’ are tasked with going back to their home schools to peer teach their classmates what they have learned, becoming sharers of knowledge and cultures in the process. The annual Winter Showcase is a celebration of all they have learned in the program and a testament to their potential as future leaders.

“I’m incredibly proud of what these children have achieved in building their confidence and courage to be leaders through their DAREarts experiences,” says DAREarts founder Marilyn Field. “Their inner discipline, talent and creativity is truly admirable.  It’s proof that, with the right opportunity, our kids can achieve anything.”

Established 21 years ago, DAREarts has a proven track record of inspiring at-risk kids to reach their full potential. DAREarts has reached over 200,000 kids, giving many the necessary skills to avoid the pitfalls of drugs, guns and gangs and, instead, take up the arms of paint brushes, voices, instruments and acting. DAREarts’ success stories include young adults in business, medicine, law and education who may have been lost without the program.

DAREarts thanks its national supporter Northbridge Insurance and its lead supporters Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Anne Livingston and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.  Local Education Partners include the TDSB –The Toronto District School Board.

Photos courtesy Alan Dunlop.