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Ontario Culture Days Launches Youth Arts Ambassadors Program

Ontario Culture Days launches an exciting new initiative called the Youth Arts Ambassadors Program (YAAP) aimed at fostering and supporting the next generation of community artists in our province. YAAP commissions five diverse youth artists to create new community arts projects in their respective regions that premiere during the 2016 Culture Days weekend taking place September 30, October 1 and 2, 2016.

Throughout the program, the five Arts Ambassadors will develop their professional practice and receive mentoring on a range of topics related to community arts while connecting with a broad network of arts leaders from across their regions and province. As Arts Ambassadors, they will share their learnings with peers and the wider community and wrap-up the first year of the program by attending the 2017 National Culture Days Congress.

Ontario Culture Days is pleased to announce the first cohort of the Youth Arts Ambassadors Program:

Amber Elisabeth Aasman, Hamilton
Musician, painter, jewelry maker and community artist devoted to engaging and empowering vulnerable youth through the co-creation of community murals, in collaboration with Art Forms Youth Art Studio in Hamilton. Her work is inspired by patterns of flow, movement and the dynamics of fluid media. 

Veronica Abrenica, Vaughan
Integrated visual and performance artist with a strong commitment to intergenerational community. Founder of I.AM Intergenerational Arts Movement. Collaborators on this project include I.AM artists, March of Dimes and Mirella Tersigni from the City of Vaughan. 
Veronica is receiving additional support for her YAAP project from the York Region Arts Council and the City of Vaughan.

Cyesha Forde, Toronto
Visual and community artist with a focus in photography. Her recent portrait project, FORTY ONE, featured immigrants from Pan-Am countries and was created in collaboration with Jamii Esplanade and residents of Toronto’s housing co-operatives in priority neighbourhoods. 

Mike Sheppard, Kingston
Director, producer and actor focused on producing youth-run creative events for participants aged 13-30 aimed at developing their practical skills. Mike is the founder of Blue Canoe Productions, a youth-run theatre company in Kingston, and the Juvenis Festival, a youth arts festival that got its start this past May 2016. Mike replaces Megan Piercey Monafu, who had to step down from the program due to unforeseen circumstances.

Rihkee Strapp, Sault Ste. Marie
Indigenous/Métis, integrated visual, performing, and community artist with a penchant for cardboard, found objects, storytelling, and site-specific, land-based installations. Collaborators on this project include Queer & 2spirit advocate Teddy Syrette and local community members. 
Rihkee is receiving additional support for their YAAP project from the The Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie & District / Arts Council of Algoma.

“The Youth Arts Ambassadors Program builds on Ontario Culture Days’ established track record of producing skill development resources and sharing knowledge widely through the Ontario Task Force and broader cultural sector,” said Warren Garrett, Chair of the Ontario Culture Days Board of Directors. He continues, “This program will help these five young artists take their careers to the next level. But even more significantly, the impacts will ripple out through their roles as Culture Days Ambassadors when they share their experiences with other youth artists, the media, audiences and their communities at large.”

The five Arts Ambassadors applied to YAAP through an open call for Expressions of Interest in August 2015 and were selected by a jury comprised of members of the Ontario Culture Days Task Force with representatives from all regions of Ontario. The jury included Astero Kalogeropoulos (City of Waterloo), Stephen Near (Hamilton Arts Council), Gregory Peddie (City of Brampton), Mirella Tersigni (City of Vaughan), Russ Disotell (Brockville Arts Co-operative), Melissa Foster (North York Arts), Susan Nagy (Lakeshore Arts), Kalsang Dolma (Drebu), Karina Douglas (Timmins Public Library/Porcupine Art Club), and Helen Yung (Independent artist, Toronto). 

Keep up with developments of the Youth Arts Ambassadors’ projects leading up to the 2016 Culture Days weekend by visiting this page, checking out Culture365 or by following the hashtag #YAAP on Twitter and Facebook.

The Youth Arts Ambassadors Program is supported by: