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Canvas of Change Combines Art and Social Justice

Posted by SVP Vancouver
Canvas of Change

Vancouver artists create real-time masterpieces to support a program that gives high-risk youth the opportunity to speak out—through art—about issues of sexual exploitation.

On September 12, 2019, a dozen of Vancouver’s best live painters will go head to head in a live art competition at SVP Investee Children of the Street’s annual Canvas of Change event. As the DJ spins, the artists will put brush to canvas and be surrounded by an audience weaving between easels for a better view. At the end of the night, each piece will be auctioned off, and all proceeds will go to support Children of the Street’s 2020 Youth Art Engagement Project.

Now in its 10th year, the Youth Art Engagement Project has over 300 participants to date (an average of about 40 per year, with a notable uptick in 2018 and 2019). Working with three partner schools, the Project presents an opportunity for high-risk youth groups to participate in an artistic project that raises awareness about the issue of sexual exploitation.

“These are issues that many of the kids have experienced or witnessed in their lives,” says Children of the Street Events Planner Neely Yuda. “[The Project] empowers them to raise awareness of the issues and to be agents of this message in the community.”

Students who volunteer for the Project participate in nine two-hour sessions, which are one part activity-based learning and one part social justice art creation. Sessions are facilitated by young adults who provide mentorship and guidance. Says Yuda, “The facilitators are very relatable. They see the kids every week for nine weeks and learn the topics that impact the children’s lives.”

This creates an atmosphere for discussion and, as Communications and Development Manager Jen Graham describes it, a great deal of reflection.

“Art is a creative outlet that allows participants to reflect as they go through the process of generating their piece,” she says. “They have to decide what message they want to portray, and that offers a lot of internal expression. They also have to choose the medium for their expression. And then they write a statement explaining why they chose to depict the piece in that particular way.”

The popularity of the program is evidenced in school attendance, which the partner schools note is higher on Project days. For participants who suffer from anxiety, the opportunity for non-verbal expression that the Project provides can be particularly liberating. And a few past participants, realizing an artistic talent, have even gone on to studies at Emily Carr.

Like past years, the 2020 Youth Art Engagement Project will take place in spring and culminate with the creation of a notebook featuring the artwork created and artists’ statements. Notebooks are distributed to partners, funders, and the community.

You can support the 2020 Youth Art Engagement Project by dropping by the Canvas for Change event. Tickets are $35 (early bird) / $40 (regular) and include food, music, a cash bar, live and silent auctions and, of course, the live paint-off. Tickets can be bought online or booked by calling 604-777-7510.