The COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program: Creating pathways to joy during hard times through 1:1 creative mentorship
“I think this has been a really lonely period for a lot of people and the opportunity to learn something new and to really focus your energy on something is incredibly valuable and I think therapeutic in those kinds of moments.”
Over the past decade, Project: Humanity has been volunteering at Youth Without Shelter to bring free arts education to youth residents. When COVID-19 put our weekly Drama Drop-In program at YWS on pause, Project: Humanity imagined a new way to mitigate the increased isolation youth shelter residents are currently facing, while also creating meaningful work opportunities for artists impacted by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program (CAPP) pairs youth at YWS with artists for weekly 1:1 online mentorship sessions in a discipline of their choosing, such as poetry, guitar, song writing, and visual arts. So far, the program has been a resounding success; CAPP has given six youth at YWS a weekly opportunity to exercise their creativity and learn new skills with the guidance of a professional artist.
While CAPP originated as a response to COVID-19, the program will exist beyond the pandemic as a way for youth and artists to build resilience and connection during a time of ongoing instability. Project: Humanity is fundraising to include up to 24 youth and artists in the program by the end of the year.
To donate, please visit www.projecthumanity.ca/support.
YWS Youth Impact
One youth in the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program is developing her skills in visual arts through daily practice. Together with her mentor, multidisciplinary artist and designer Justin Broadbent, she is “learning skills when it comes to drawing and painting … stuff like landscape, watercolour, and different sketching techniques using pencil crayon and just regular pencil”. Her mentor, Justin, is continually impressed by her dedication to her art and the depth of her knowledge: “I was really stuck on how to describe an abstract process, and I couldn’t come up with the words, and she sort of stopped me and was like, ‘Oh, like a Rothko.’ And I was like, ‘yes, exactly!’ And she nailed it right on the head, that’s what I meant.”
Over the past months, another youth in the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program — through mentorship with acclaimed singer-songwriter Peter Katz — has progressed from holding the guitar for the first time to learning every chord he needs in order to play his favourite songs. In the scope of their sessions together, Peter always makes sure to set aside time for “pure joy” in the form of playing songs the two of them enjoy. In recent sessions, these songs have included “Country Roads” and “Shallow” — Peter shares that “we had a lot of fun, and he was singing his heart out too which was so nice to see”.
“…the youth sometimes feels a bit shy and scared to share their voice, and it sort of reminds me that even as adults, really with all community members there can be moments where even when we have great capacity, if we don’t have someone to encourage us or to put us in the kind of contexts where we can flourish, we have all of these latent kind of gifts that can end up not being shared.”
To the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program artists…
On behalf of all staff and residents at YWS, we’d like to thank the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program artists who have taken the time to mentor our youth during such a difficult period for all of us. To say that “youth in shelters are feeling increased anxiety as their usual social and support networks become inaccessible” is an understatement. But with the support you’ve shown our youth, they have had such a wonderful opportunity to grow, to heal, and in the words of one of our youth; have had the ability to “take my mind off the chaos”. We are so grateful for your support.
Thank you to Mike T Kerr, Peter Katz, Linda McRae, Justin Broadbent, Khari Wendell – McClelland, Malia Rogers, Daniel Chapman-Smith, and all the new artists joining Project: Humanity as they work to expand this initiative in the coming months.