DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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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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DAREarts Vancouver: Youth Creating “Hope Beyond Adversity”

For the last 6 years, DAREarts workshops have been a fixture at Britannia Elementary School in Vancouver.  Grade 7 teacher, Justin Borsato, is a firm believer in the leadership skills and values that DAREarts instills in his students. He acknowledges that the arts are not his forte (hockey is!) and that DAREarts fills that gap. Each year, all the young teens write, act, sing, make movies (see their ‘Hope Beyond Adversity’ on DAREarts YouTube) and dance for their public showcase.  Below is from Mr. Borsato and one student. – ROY MULDER, DAREarts Vancouver Coordinator

“I just wanted to express my gratitude for making sure that the DAREarts program was able to touch the lives of my students in Vancouver this year.

DAREarts is far more than an arts program.  It is a program which dares students to find their voices and express their ideas through a multitude of avenues.  The DAREarts staff has the unique ability to push children out of their comfort zones and into the realm of emotional growth.  Throughout the week, my students were exposed to a wide variety of art forms where they flourished, working both individually and within teams. In the beginning, many found it difficult to express their feelings and work with students who were not close friends.  But, with the help of DAREarts’ amazing staff, the students found their confidence and developed bonds with new peers.

Shelley, Roy, Lori and Tracie are the consummate professionals.  Their diverse skill sets promote a wide variety of learning potential.  They work together as a single unit and build upon each other’s ideas.  They have an uncanny ability to elicit excellence from their subjects, while maintaining a positive learning environment.  I have worked with many artists and arts programs in my 18 years as a classroom teacher, and none of them hold a candle to the professionalism and talent of the DAREarts artists and program.

An example … is reflected in the story of one of my students.  A 12 year old girl with acute anxiety, was “dared” by Lori and Shelley to create a poem expressing the anxiety and fears she battles on a daily basis.  The student went home that night and created a poem (below) outlining the intensity of her disorder.  She was asked if she’d be willing to read her poem on stage.  She quickly said no, that she didn’t have the nerve to be alone on stage, but that she’d be okay if someone else from the class read it.  However, over some time and gentle encouragement, the staff was able to build the young girl’s confidence, and by the end of the week, she felt nervous but was prepared to read her own poem – alone on stage and in front of an auditorium full of guests.  Her performance was the highlight of the night.  She was bold and expressed her feelings clearly and with tremendous expression.  Her anxiety took a back seat that night, and I attribute her conquest to the skills offered by the staff and programming of DAREarts.”  Justin Borsato, Britannia Elementary School Teacher


It reminds you of all the things you fear.
Giving you reasons to run.
Wishing you could disappear.
Words cutting deeply in your skin releasing forbidden tears.
Knowing there dripping down your cheeks scare you.
It’s one of your fears.
For you remember learning as a child that crying represents weakness.
So you grew up as a ship in a hurricane above a pitch black sea of irrational fears and thoughts.
This ship being thrown each direction until your vision is accompanied by black dots.
For some reason no matter what you do it won’t stop and it wont stop and you don’t know what to do.
Weeks to months you feel as if you’re in a void.
Then you realize your alone and there’s no friend for you.
And you just need a moment to breathe.
There are always an unexpected day.
Where you feel no harm can come.
It feels like it all just went away.
You found your place.
You found your friends.
You found your space.
So in the inside you need to think, just for a moment you’re thinking…
This is not the end.
You can just feel yourself sinking…
We just have to keep believing there’s more good to come.
You see, we all just have to learn to cope.
It’s difficult, trust me I know.
Yet someday I know you’ll once again learn how to have hope.

DAREarts is a children’s charity that empowers at-risk young people to be leaders. DAREarts is grateful to all its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne LivingstonBank of America Merrill Lynch, Scotiabank and TD Bank Group; and Vancouver Education Partners Britannia Elementary School, Britannia Secondary School, and Presentation House.

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“What is a DARE? What Do You Think?”

Guest post by DAREarts artist-educator, Glenn Marais.

“What is a Dare? It’s a challenge, a risk, a step into the unknown that requires courage and determination.  To take a DARE on is to embrace discipline, action, respect, and excellence. These four tenants are the cornerstones of DAREarts, an arts and leadership program that takes children and youth from marginalized communities and gives them an opportunity to become leaders by developing belief in themselves.

How do they do this? DARE challenges you to uphold these principles of character with one hundred percent consistency in all activities and interactions throughout their programming. Whether it is the 10 week, All the Arts Program or their ground breaking First Roots program that works with First Nations youth in the north, DAREarts’ artist educators, teachers and teaching assistants embrace founder Marilyn Fields credo of responsible leadership through action. We live the DARE principles in how we treat each other, how we treat our students and our communities.

DAREarts changes lives and saves lives for youth who come with stories that read like the most incredible fiction only they are all too real. They are often painful, sometimes tragic and always inspiring. When students stand tall at the annual DAREarts leadership awards and tell their stories to a captivated audience, they are stirring, riveting and emotional accounts of their journey from lost, confused, angry youth to motivated, inspired and determined leaders, ready to take the DARE principles out into the world and change it for the better.

DAREarts is possibly the most important youth program running in the country right now. This is no understatement. Too often we throw our troubled youth into a convenient container of hyperbole and bias and assign the blame to society and yet offer no way out. In a world that favors the few, DARE serves the many and brings forth youth leaders that will revolutionize the way we look at youth education through the arts. Visit DAREarts at www.darearts.com and join our team. Make a donation, share our website and help us tell the kids’ story.

Help them change the world.”

Glenn Marais
DAREarts Artist-Educator
Music in Mind

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Standing Ovations for Local Young Performers Alongside Renowned Musicians at DAREarts Holiday Cheer

View all photos courtesy of Pete Paterson here.

On Friday, December 8th at Chateau Windrush in Hockley, DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field and Vice-Chair J.C. Pennie hosted an evening of spectacular music and camaraderie to welcome the holiday season.

Guests holiday-shopped by purchasing art cards by local kids, jewelry by Air & Earth Design and stunning new stoneware from Farmhouse Pottery by local potter and ‘Canoe North’ leader, Allan Pace.  An original painting by local young artist, Ricky Schaede, sold in live auction.

Tenor Mark DuBois accompanied local teen singers, Darcey Baker and Duncan Lang as they wowed guests. Both were leads last summer in Theatre Orangeville‘s ‘Les Mis‘.

Juno-nominated Glenn Marais sang ‘Spirit of the North’ that he and Indigenous youths in the remote community of Webequie had composed as part of the DAREarts program.  Pianist, 21 year old Jesse Karwat stunned everyone with his formidable talent in Glenn’s original songs.  The caroling by all raised the roof!

Local leaders – MPP and Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition Sylvia Jones, Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson, Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock  and Theatre Orangeville’s David Nairn – inspired all with their insights into DARE’s Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.

With Scotiabank generously matching donations, the evening yielded over $10,000 which will help DAREarts empower many more under-served children across Canada. Visit www.darearts.com.

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DAREarts Documentary “Fill My Hollow Bones” Screened on Parliament Hill

From left to right: DAREarts National Director of Development Natasha Morano, Senator Dennis Patterson, DAREarts Founder & President Marilyn Field, and Senator Lillian Eva Dyck

On November 28th DAREarts proudly hosted the Ottawa premiere screening of ‘Fill My Hollow Bones’.  The film chronicles a DAREarts program that challenges youth in the remote Indigenous community of Webequie FN to find their voices through the arts, guided by teachers, artists and community elders. This special event on Parliament Hill was co-hosted by Senator Dennis Patterson and Senator Lillian Eva Dyck and sponsored by Bell Canada. Additionally, DAREarts would like to thank Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for supporting DAREarts’ recent trip to Webequie FN and this event.

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, MP

The evening began with inspirational remarks by The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Simon Dwyer from Bell Canada introduced Senator Patterson.  Government and industry leaders gathered to watch the documentary and join DAREarts in paying tribute to the late Cathy Elliott, DAREarts’ Indigenous Program Associate.  CTV news also made an appearance to capture the evening.

DAREarts First Roots Webequie Graduate & Mentor, Eric Shewaybick

Following the screening, there was an interactive discussion featuring a DAREarts graduate youth from Webequie, Eric Shewaybick; Senator Patterson, DAREarts Artist-Educator and Juno nominated songwriter, Glenn Marais, and DAREarts Founder and President, Marilyn Field. The session was moderated by Natasha Morano, DAREarts National Director of Development. Our youth, Eric, spoke from the heart and shared his personal account of how impactful DAREarts has been in his community over the last ten years and in his own life. He has become a positive role model to show a path for those who need it most.  He proudly stated his two girls are now participating in the DAREarts program and eagerly awaiting the return of DAREarts next year.

Those in attendance saw firsthand the power of the arts.  In this year of Canada 150 and reconciliation, DAREarts was proud to share the voices of our Indigenous young people who are pouring their talents, intelligence and enterprise into their future.

The main message that was imparted upon guests was to both individually and collectively take bold steps forward to further empower Canada’s Indigenous youths with confidence, courage and leadership, using the arts which creates self-sufficient young adults.

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Happy Anniversary, DAREarts Webequie!

Written by Marilyn Field, DAREarts Founder.

I remember that night 10 years ago like yesterday.  As we gathered around the campfire at the Junior Rangers Camp, Webequie traditional teacher Bill Jacob invited DAREarts to come to the community.   Three months later, in our first circle in the school there, twenty youths and the DAREarts team started creating together.  Over the years, look how much we have accomplished together!  Youths, we learned so much from you. Meegwetch.  We are so proud of you.  You have the power within you to DARE to speak to the rest of Canada about things that really matter – like love, and caring for each other, and the land.  Your songs say it all.  Here are two:

Spirit of the North

Don’t Stop

We hope to continue walking with you for many more years to come.  “One step at a time” as you say, towards a strong community.  The future is yours.

We measure our success by your words:

“…The school has been fortunate to have had DAREarts in the community for 10 years, presenting an empowering youth leadership workshop that builds on the roots of self identity, resiliency, and strength to forge challenging future pathways and choices that are built on the local knowledge, teachings and traditions of community. In these 10 years I have seen a ripple effect. Proof is in the workshop this year; there is a mix of both alumni members and new youth and it is this kind of collaborative and mentorship process of combining the old with the new that the power of voice and the unity of self advocacy can ignite the kind of change that has a visionary power and sense of becoming that creates sustainable change: a future of visionary possibilities underscored by inclusion and diversity. The youth of today are the change of tomorrow. They are strong in who they are, they are responsible in giving back to community and they are diverse in their unique contributions to society. DAREarts is built on this philosophy and their consistent and ongoing dedication to Webequie youth over the years has been relentless.  The connection grows stronger each year. I do hope this partnership continues. Thank you!”  Mary Gardiner, Principal, Simon Jacob Memorial Education Centre, Webequie FN


DAREarts is deeply saddened by the loss of Cathy Elliott

We mourn the loss of our dear Cathy Elliott, DAREarts’ Indigenous Program Associate, a Mi’kmaq playwright, composer and visual artist. When asked 10 years ago by our Founder, Marilyn Field, to use her talents to help empower Indigenous kids in remote communities, and to help bring Indigenous culture to kids of all cultures, she embraced the challenge as her journey and never looked back.  She will be greatly missed by us all.

Cathy was with DAREarts for 10 years as an Indigenous artist-educator and writer.  With DAREarts, she found her Indigenous roots and reached beyond her talents as an artist, playwright, musician and actor to be an educator. From our very first sharing circle with the youths in Webequie FN, she embraced and practiced the DAREarts way of learning together from each other. Over the years, thousands of kids, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, found their voice and an inspired appreciation for our Indigenous culture by creating with Cathy.

Last year, Cathy returned to focusing on writing and performing plays and musicals across Canada about Indigenous culture.  She quickly became an effective leader in communicating our country’s traditional culture.

Her creative work remains to help us all carry on the conversations that will strengthen us as individuals with values to uphold.  That includes the thousands of DAREarts young people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that she inspired to ignite change through the power of the arts.

Dream, Believe, Achieve, Lead.

Donations made in tribute of Cathy will go the the Cathy Elliott Tribute Fund to Empower Indigenous Youths.

Read her DAREarts blogs here.

View the documentary she co-created with DAREarts kids and team here:
Fill My Hollow Bones” – Trailer
Fill My Hollow Bones” – Full Film
Girl and the Raven” – Short Film

View some songs she wrote with kids here:
Don’t Stop” with the youth of Webequie FN and Glenn Marais
Swimming in a Fast Current” with the youth of Marten Falls FN
Melkikno’ti (Courage)” with the youth of Sipekne’katik FN
Muskego Land” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Volcano” with the youth of Winnipeg, MB
We Are One” with the youth of Webequie FN
The Land Speaks” with the youth of Marten Falls FN
Roads of Webequie” with the youth of Webequie FN
Nation’s Creations” with the youth of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT
Keen Sabiko” with the youth of Webequie FN and Glenn Marais
Akimiski Island” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Déjà vu” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Goose Call” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Random Dreams” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Smoke the Wolves!” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN