As a twenty-year-old university student who has been interning at the Culture Days National Office for a little over a month now, I’m still processing everything I’ve learned so far. Attending the National Congress on Culture on May 23rd-24th has gone a long way towards finally driving it home for me just how big the scope of Culture Days and its impact is. It’s also inspired me to go even bigger, and I think that one of the best ways to increase the growth of Culture Days - and of Canada’s cultural scene as a whole - is to appeal to a demographic that definitely knows how the whole growing thing works: youth.
With the launch of Culture Days’ new blog Culture365, a new opportunity to reach out to this demographic has arisen, and that’s where I come in. This summer I’ll be developing youth-related content for Culture365, in which you’ll find tips on engaging youth in culture, information on youth participation in the arts and its benefits, success stories, and more. So keep coming back!
When it comes to youth and arts/culture, a Congress on “The Art of Engagement” couldn’t have been more aptly named. It was great to see already-engaged student/youth in the form of fifteen Congress registrants who identified themselves as students from such institutions as the University of Toronto, Oshawa’s Durham College, and Ryerson University, and consequently received a complimentary spot. Engaging youth seemed especially crucial to me that day because young people were brought in as a topic of discussion. Panelist Marc Lemay, Director General of the Arts Policy Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage, for instance, highlighted the importance of starting arts education at a young age, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. I also think, however, that we can expect more of young people as not just recipients but also providers of arts education. Students and youth are a talkative, knowledgeable bunch with loud voices – speak to them, and they’ll speak back; they’ll speak out for you. In other words, they’re great promoters! Culture Days and associated events, such as the Congress, need to reach out to youth, whose highly active and powerful voices in turn extend all over the Internet, campuses, and communities. They can make you go viral.
A statement from the Congress that I took to heart with this in mind was the assertion of Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival and Chair of the Culture Days National Executive Committee, that passivity and arts/culture don’t mix: we can’t wait around for someone to “enable” us to make art, we have to take action ourselves. I see that willingness to take the initiative every day among my fellow students - my fellow artists, I should say – who spend their free summer evenings meeting at bars to have reading group discussions, submit their artwork to student-run journals, go to local theatrical and musical events and write about them to encourage others to go to them as well.
I’m new to the scene, but I already detect a similar sense of initiative and multiplicity of voices in Culture Days. The entire Culture Days movement is still growing, after all – still in its youth, you could say. Personally I think that Culture Days and Canadian young people can bond over that point of common ground. We’ve seen productive relationships between arts/culture and youth before: take ArtsSmarts, an organization that has been launching arts projects in classrooms all over Canada as innovative new approaches to learning the school curriculum since 1998 – in 2011-2012 alone, its projects involved more than 25,000 students. There’s National Youth Arts Week, seven days a year during which arts events are organized by and for youth all over the country and whose recent second May 2013 edition was a resounding success. Initiatives like the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and Carleton University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ upcoming Power of the Arts National Forum aim to increase the positive impact of art on youth and society. And Culture Days itself provides a framework within which Canadians can take steps in that direction: Dr. Rosemary Polegato gives her students at Mount Allison University a great opportunity to spice up cultural life in Sackville, NB by organizing a Culture Days event every year.
Things will only get bigger and better from here on out, which is why this is just an introduction; stay tuned for a series of upcoming posts highlighting the existing and potential links between youth, Culture Days, and Canadian arts/culture in general. Already know of some exciting youth initiatives – festivals, programs, etc. – in the arts/cultural sector? Do tell: post about them in the comments below or share your experiences with them by submitting your own article for publication on this very blog.
2013 CULTURE DAYS HIGHLIGHT: YOUTH ACTIVITY
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