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December 12, 2019

ArtStarts Highlights of 2019

2019 was busy for us at ArtStarts as we continue to advocate for how art in schools is essential for young people. All year we have been collaborating with complementary organizations, providing unique opportunities to new and underrepresented artists, and developing innovative arts programs for young people.

Here are some of the efforts we are particularly proud of this year:

  1.   We introduced our new Guiding Principles

Inspired by reading the Springboard for the Arts’ values, we wanted to have a resource that we actively use as our decision-making tool while clearly articulating the values we already have in place. This newly defined lens helped launch us towards some of the meaningful accomplishments we achieved this year!

Take a look at our nine guiding principles here.


  1.   Showcase 2019

We made it a priority to ensure young people see themselves in the artists who perform in their schools. This year's Showcase we committed increasing the representation of marginalized artists who performed at this two-day event. Artists we prioritize included:

  • Artists of colour, especially Indigenous and Black women 
  • Artists who identify as LGBT2QIA+, especially LGBT2QIA+ artists of colour 
  • Artists living with a visible or invisible disability, especially disabled artists of colour

We’re proud to share that with these changes, 65% of the artists featured were brand new to Showcase and are now featured in our Artist on Tour Directory! We will continue to prioritize artists from these backgrounds for our upcoming Showcase happening April 8th and 9th 2020!


  1.   New Funding Partners for the Artists in the Classroom Grant

We were able to increase the impact of our Artists in the Classroom grants by adding funding partnerships from TELUS STORYHIVE and the Columbia Kootenay Council of Arts. These new relationships allowed us to fund projects using film and working in the Columbia Basin region respectively. We hope these partnerships will continue in the future to provide even more support to art projects that engage with curriculum in schools across BC!


  1.   Creative Spark Vancouver Continues

The City of Vancouver renewed the Creative Spark Vancouver Grant following a successful four year pilot program. Below are some highlights from artists who completed projects during this past funding cycle:

This project has really helped me to focus my platform more on working with youth. It was so rewarding to see youth that otherwise struggle with focus in school excel when they were encouraged to be themselves without any judgement. Every student in the course had their own unique style and this was a safe, fun, inspirational platform for them to explore their creative imaginations. I learned so much about how to connect with communities of youth and hope to be able to deepen my connections to create even more diverse classrooms of youth.”  - Cydney Pattern - Pattern Nation Imagination Exploration 

These youth did not have a space to explore movement improvisation and expression. For some, their experience is within structured dance classes and led to some anxiety around performing "correctly" and "perfectly". It feels so rewarding to see these notions soften and to witness a connection with one’s true movement expression, without the imposed techniques and structured postures of technical dance.- danielle wensley - All Bodies Dance Youth

The most rewarding part of this project was being able to work with so many talented, funny, lovable young people! I have experience teaching in workshops geared towards dancing and have been exposed to that kind of energy from young kids but to see them be focused and so delicate with their expression was amazing. Learning what gets kids excited is always challenging because the group dynamic is always different; your goal is always to get to know them so that you figure out what they are like and how best to engage with them more intimately.-Chase Keetley - Black Arts Vancouver


  1.   QTBIPOC Showcase Intensive

With generous support from a City of Vancouver Creative City grant, we hosted a weekend intensive exclusively to prepare five queer & trans artists of colour to apply for our annual Showcase and perform in schools across BC. Artists Nancy Lee, Mamarudegyal MTHC, and Jojo Zolina provided mentorship as part of the Intensive. As a final offering we hosted a community photoshoot with photographer K. Ho and were able to equip twelve QTBIPOC artists with free, professional headshots, eliminating this very expensive barrier to arts applications for marginalized artists.

Here are some of the meaningful ways the QTBIPOC Showcase Intensive supported our participants

[The QTBIPOC Showcase Intensive] made me feel so much more at ease and I felt more relaxed since it was such a warm & special space- Mason Meghji, poet & spoken word artist

I think it's a rare opportunity to be in this kind of space so it made me feel safe to really ask questions and get the most out of the workshop”  - Romi Kim, interdisciplinary artist & drag performer, "Skim"

I felt safe to ASK QUESTIONS!!!!”  - Nite Sun, hiphop artist and storyteller


  1.   Artist Learning Lab Workshop Series

In an effort to make our Learning Lab even more accessible, we offered the Fall 2019 Learning Lab to artists of all disciplines on a free, by-registration basis, adjusting the format to stay in touch with the everyday realities of working artists. Over twenty artists attended this drop-in, evening series to hone their skills and prepare to work in schools, with seventeen artists attending a requisite number of sessions in order to watch an artist in action in the classroom!


  1.   The Premiere of Drag Story Hour at ArtStarts

We piloted a Drag Story Hour for our November programming in the gallery and it was a huge hit! We were delighted to have Rose Butch and Bo Dyp join us on Saturday and Mx Bukuru and Thanks Jem on Sunday at River Market. 

Bo Dyp brought Indigenous languages to the space and read books in English, Plains Cree, and Bush Cree! Thanks Jem delighted the kiddos with 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Mx Bukuru lead us in a dance party/80s workout to Lizzo’s, 'Juice'. Rose Butch encouraged us to purchase two new books for ArtStarts: 'Red' by Michale Hall and 'When Aidan Became a Brother' by Kyle Lukoff. You can find these books in our reading nook or soon at the VPL! 

Stay tuned for our next Drag Story Hour in 2020! 


  1.       Maker Space at ArtStarts

It took a community to create our current exhibition, Maker Space at ArtStarts. We transformed our Gallery space to be an open studio for families to try drawing, designing, photography, printmaking, drafting, and more. Thanks to the generosity of our network of artists, families, educators, and arts influencers, we were able to raise funds to make it happen!

So far we have hosted 9 school groups for workshops in the Maker Space since it launched in October and have requests for 5 in the new year, with new bookings coming in each week! We have seen an increase in the amount of time families spend in the Maker Space compared to past exhibitions. Young people are drawn to creating their own ideas in our space and leaving them here when they are done!  


All these efforts have only motivated us to continue to build on the foundation we created this year! We’re excited to advance into 2020 with the momentum we have built to further our mission: to expand the role of art in education to activate learning and nurture creativity in British Columbia's young people.

If you are inspired by the initiatives we have been working on and wish to support the efforts to help more young people access arts-based learning, we invite you to get involved with ArtStarts! Whether it's becoming a monthly donor, joining our volunteer team or sharing the word about our organization, your help is appreciated!

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