Arts council promotes cultural programs for community schools

Although Scarborough may not be known for its art scene, the Scarborough Arts Council is trying to bring some colour to the east end.

Nestled in a cozy, single storied home, the council has been actively working to increase not only the number of arts-based programs in the city, but also the access that residents have to those programs.

“A lot of opportunities [to participate in arts-based programs] tend to be downtown or spread out geographically,” said SAC executive director Tim Whalley. “Our role is to really look at the communities and neighbourhoods and see how we can provide access to and opportunities.”

He also said the lack of art programs and events in the city is not because residents show an absence of interest in them.

“We see in the community that people want the access to arts programs, events and cultural programs,” Whalley said.

The many submissions the council got for its PULSE Youth Scholarship Awards for Art, which is open to high school students in Scarborough, shows the appeal of the arts in the community.

Ben Lopes, program co-ordinator for PULSE 2010, said he was impressed with both the number of applicants and the quality of the work they had submitted.

Programs like PULSE, which provide a venue for community artists to showcase their talents, are a vital part of a thriving community, Whalley said.

“Arts build skills, they build community, they build connections between people and they bring a sense of belonging,” Whalley said.

The council is passionate about pursuing new programs and initiatives that are geared toward building a sense of community through the arts, especially by giving access to certain programs and events to those who may not otherwise enjoy it.

Cultural Mosaics is a collaboration of seven different organizations, including SAC, with the goal of assessing which five schools in Scarborough most need new arts programs to be developed and which have the capacity to develop them.

The project will focus on what Cian Knights, director of the program, calls “underserviced schools.” These are schools that have a lack of programs and resources.

Since Scarborough is a diverse city, the program is also interested in how access to arts-based programs can be used as a medium for social change and an outlet for diverse groups of people to come together and feel empowered.

“We’re truly trying to find a very innovative way to look at issues of settlement and diversity, and trying to really develop an initiative that will really have an impact,” Knights said.

The project is expected to be completed by early next fall, as new programs will be initiated, based on the findings.