In February we hosted ART at ARC: Stories of Resilience, Strength & Creativity, the youth art show and sale to celebrate the artwork created by youth in the YESS Art Connections Program. There were over 80 pieces of original art in 8 types of media and up to 100 pieces of printed art! This program is an important part of helping youth on their journeys towards healing, providing them with a safe space to express themselves and work through their trauma through the power of art. Their guide to exploring their creativity is Svitlana Kravchuk, art program facilitator. Svitlana is a multidisciplinary artist, mainly concentrating on painting, mixed media, and performance art.
“I feel like there are a lot of talented young people in our community who have a lot of passion and creativity that should be shared with others,” says Svitlana. “I wanted to be a part of their support system through making art together and finding way to visually express and communicate what might be going on for them.”
“Often when youth are traumatized, the first piece of them to disappear is their voice; being able to speak their truth, say what they feel, identify what scares them and reach out for help,” says Jessica Day, Director of Program Innovation at YESS. “When a youth is silenced through trauma, talking with a therapist or a friend or a youth worker can be intimidating and easier to just avoid, despite a system that pushes for youth to speak up and speak out. If youth do not have the tools to rebuild their voice, they will forever stay silent in their journey. Art and the art programming at YESS have been an incredible outlet for youth to begin to build a relationship with their feelings and their thoughts. It is a visual representation of their stories, their emotions, and their world view, and it allows them to see positive and healthy responses to their expressions. Art gives them back their voice and reinforces that their voice is important and beautiful.”
There are a lot of new experiences to come in the Art Connections Program with Svitlana at the helm. In April there will be a workshop with spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield. Buddy is a three-time world champion spoken word artist who will also be performing at Underneath the Stars, the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth.
Our partner in sharing this love of creativity with our youth is Simons, who have generously supported the YESS Art Connections Program for severalyears. Simons is committed to celebrating arts and culture in all their diversity and beauty. Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations in Edmonton, is very proud of how Simons champions the young artists and supports the Art Connections Program at YESS.
“Our continued commitment and support of the Art Connections Program at YESS is truly an honour for us at Simons,” says Yvonne. “Art evokes emotions, inspires conversations, and creates community. You can’t help but be inspired by these talented youth who take us on remarkable spiritual journeys. Their ability to convey messages of hope and healing in an honest, genuine, and pure form is courageous.”
The Art Connections Program also gives youth the opportunity connect with other artists, cultures, and communities.
“What I am most looking forward to is inviting Indigenous artists as well as other artists who represent our communities to share their own stories, knowledge, and experiences through art,” says Svitlana. “I’m hoping to engage more youth and more professional artists in the program, helping youth to be proud of their work and motivated to continue with their artistic endeavours.”
Svitlana uses her own art to explore concepts of displacement, trauma, and female experiences. She understands how art can be used as a powerful tool for expression and coping.
“Everyone’s experience is different. For me, art is a raw expression of heart, mind, and soul. Sometimes it can act as an emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual release and grounding. It can also act as an incredible communication tool that tells a story or reflects where the artist may be in their journey.”