Launch of new urban youth magazine Young Inspirations at AGYU

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) and the Medina Collective this month will celebrate the launch of Young Inspirations, an urban arts magazine featuring articles and artwork by a group of young women from Brookview Middle School called Ladies First.

This is the second initiative for the AGYU-Medina Urban Arts Mentorship Program, a collaborative, after-school and artist-led education program at Brookview Middle School. Ladies First, for female youth in Grades 6 to 8 at Brookview, was designed and led by Medina Collective co-directors Tonika Morgan and Kemba King, and Toronto visual artist Sandra Brewster with the support of Brookview Middle School teacher Darlene Jones.

The launch of Young Inspirations will take place Thursday, June 18, from 5 to 8pm at the AGYU, 116 Accolade East Building, Keele campus, and will also feature an exhibition of recent artwork, a commissioned mural by Ladies First, music by DJ L’Oquenz and spoken word performances by Rita Nketiah and Keisha Monique Simpson.

Right: Members of Ladies First participating in the AGYU-Medina Urban Arts Mentorship Program at Brookview Middle School, 2009. Photograph by Allyson Adley

Through visual arts and writing, Ladies First participants explored how hip hop serves as a vehicle for self-definition, empowerment and social justice. Mentored and taught by Morgan, King and Brewster, participants learned to generate visual and textual content, which led to the production of their own urban arts magazine.

Participants were introduced to the various streams of hip hop, including graffiti art, rap music, spoken word, DJing and MCing which inspired them to write stories and produce the artworks featured in the magazine. Collectively, Ladies First wrote three articles on hip hop as a cultural practice as well as articles on the creative space and musical form of dance hall, a step-by-step guide on how to break dance and individual pieces on foster homes and civil rights.

These emerging urban artists practised their interview techniques and developed their journalistic skills by interviewing, videotaping and photographing acclaimed choreographer and b-girl Lady Noyz. At the end of the program, participants selected, interviewed and wrote a feature article on their favourite female urban artist.

Ladies First also had the opportunity to hear first-hand from the editor of Vervegirl magazine what it is like to edit Canada’s leading in-school magazine for young women between the ages of 13 and 24. Other highlights included a field trip to Chatelaine magazine, where participants met with the Chatelaine team and got an insider’s look into what is involved in publishing Canada’s leading women’s interest magazine.

Working with Brewster, Ladies First participants experimented with a gel medium transfer technique, producing compelling portraits of notable African-Canadian historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd, Rosemary Brown and Marie-Joseph Angélique among others. With Brewster’s guidance, these young artists collaboratively painted a hip-hop-inspired mural in the AGYU gallery that will be on view along with other artworks during the launch of Young Inspirations.

In the largely male-dominated sphere of hip hop, young women rarely get to see their experiences and visions reflected back to them. The AGYU-Medina urban arts program addresses this invisibility by establishing a creative platform for Ladies First to give voice to their views, and by valuing and validating their perspectives and insights into urban art forms. A lasting record of these emerging artists’ accomplishments, the magazine will also serve to facilitate a dialogue and connections with young hip hop artists and enthusiasts from across the city.

This arts education program was produced by Allyson Adley, AGYU collections assistant & education coordinator. For more information about the AGYU-Medina urban arts magazine launch and the AGYU’s educational programming, contact Adley at ext. 88608 or