By Audrey Wang, AGGV Volunteer

Young artists from Stelly’s Secondary School, Shoreline Community Middle School and Lambrick Park Secondary School spoke with eloquence and wisdom at the AGGV’s New Extreme celebration on April 5. With support from their mentor artists, teachers, community engagers and parents, the program embraced the empowerment of youth by pairing artists with groups of students. Together, they explore the various aspects of being an artist, using various contemporary art practices and techniques, and engaging in an exploration of issues close to their heart.

The celebration began with Norman Garry Sam of Songhees Nation performing a heartfelt welcome song. This was followed by an introduction of the work by the Indigenous Girls Group at Stelly’s, led by mentor artist Chesa Abma in collaboration with Jennifer Dreyer from Surrounded by Cedar Child & Family Services. In the early stages of their project, the group of twelve young women brainstormed numerous ideas, but the main theme that stood out and shared unanimously among the group was the idea of being silenced, resulting in their installation #STOPSILENCE. Their group manifesto stated:

… we can all feel silenced for similar or different reasons. This project was an opportunity for the group’s many valuable voices to be heard.

Central to the group’s work is a mannequin painted in rainbow colours¬†symbolizing the women in their lives, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The mannequin’s mouth is covered by duct tape, referring to the silence women suffer. The social media hashtag #stopsilence is used correspondingly to encourage others to join in the conversation. An aspect of community participation includes viewers writing messages on the mannequin. The video component of the installation touches on ideas of stereotypes, self-image, empowerment and intergenerational trauma. The young artists spoke from the heart about all these issues, plainly showing wisdom beyond their age.

From Shoreline, students from grades 6 to 8 joined mentor artist Kay Gallivan in creating a wonderful mural with an environmental message. Installed on the exterior wall of the AGGV, “The Journey of Making a Change” tells the story of Earth past, present and future, as represented by turtles, and the impact of water pollution on the future of our planet. The compelling introduction by the students at the New Extreme celebration clearly demonstrated their passion for the issues at hand and the fun they had making the mural. Artist-mentor Kay was impressed by both their technical proficiency, as well as the speed at which they worked in completing the large and demanding artwork.

The spoken art workshop by Ann-Bernice Thomas for the grade 10 students at Lambrick Park culminated in a fun collaborative work in poetry and scrapbooking. The chapbook “Spoons” is a compilation of the students’ favourite¬†poems created during the workshop series. The students shared their experience of the workshop with funny anecdotes and heartfelt enthusiasm. The work in the chapbook is amusing, touching and challenging all at once, as it is “our way of giving our honest words over to the world.”

Thank you to all the youth who participated, the supervising teachers (Tracey Murphy, Sonia McRae, Miss Gabriella and Ms Cunningham) and the mentor artists (Chesa Abma, Jennifer Dreyer, Kay Gallivan and Ann-Bernice Thomas). We are truly in good hands with this next generation of artists rising up to lead us!