Exhibition of photos by Jane and Finch youth opens tonight

The opening reception for Black Creek United, an exhibition of photographs documenting a two-month interdisciplinary art workshop organized by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) for youth in the Jane and Finch community, takes place tonight at York Woods Library, from 5 to 7pm.

Black Creak United is presented by the AGYU, York Woods Library and The Spot, a youth drop-in centre located in Yorkgate Mall, and features the photographic work of nine budding community artists. It runs until Feb. 29 at York Woods Library.

Left: Students Camielle Harvey (left) and Yolanda Miller working on bird sculptures at The Spot. Photo by Allyson Adley.

Artists and York graduates Liz Forsberg (MES ’07) and Laura Reinsborough (MES ’07) led the bi-weekly workshops in the fall of 2007 at The Spot, but also took the young people on exploratory walks through the community and along the creek to develop their visual and auditory awareness. During these walks, they learned not only about art, but about the history and ecology of the creek and the culture surrounding it. Some of the youth took photographs during the walks, while others documented the various stages of the workshop.

"Together we explored the creek and researched its multiple histories through the arts," said Reinsborough. "We had the luxury of time to delve into collaborative arts-based research with the youth artists who became involved and we had the insight of multiple perspectives and experiences to enhance its richness."

Through workshop activities and the production of new works, participants came to recognize the public role that contemporary art can play and the ways in which it can serve as a catalyst for community dialogue, collaboration and pride.

With time, the artworks produced increasingly reflected participants’ growing connection to the creek and its habitat as well as an increasing sense of environmental awareness and responsibility.

Right: Jane Street, a photo taken by Dominic Francis, a Brookview Middle School student

"The work leaves a humble legacy behind," said Reinsborough. "The participants, for starters, have acquired new skills and have made great strides in expressing themselves as performers and artists."

In addition, a new relationship between the AGYU and the youth and staff at The Spot has been forged.

"This type of connection represents a large shift in the world of galleries, universities and other institutions to weave themselves into the fabric of their immediate neighbourhoods," said Reinsborough.

The AGYU’s experience delivering arts education programs to youth in the Jane and Finch community has demonstrated how contemporary art can serve as a much-needed platform for creative self-expression and validation that contributes to youth empowerment.

The nine community artists featured in Black Creek United include Brian Durson, Dominic Francis, Anthony Harvey, Camielle Harvey, Vanessa Harvey, Yolanda Miller, Cassie Morris, Kasey Morris and Shanniel Thompson.

York Woods Library is located on 1785 Finch Ave. W. It’s open Sept. to June, Monday from 12:30pm to 8:30pm, Tuesday to Thursday from 9am to 8:30pm, Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday 1:30pm to 5pm.

For more information, contact Allyson Adley, AGYU education assistant, at 416-736-2100 ext. 88608 or by e-mail at aadley@yorku.ca.