The arts are ladders to the soul, putting into other forms what can’t be expressed through words. Art can also be a powerful tool to stimulate conversation about important topics, which is what the ArtQuake team aimed to do at their 3 April 2015 event, Colour Your Canvas: Democracy, Art & Dialogue, held at Skylight Studios in Vancouver.
ArtQuake is a youth-driven non-profit organization that empowers young artists with the tools, resources, and mentorship required to transform their art into action. Its website alone reflects a dynamism and vibrancy much needed in the often stale environment of tired discussions about democracy by an increasingly cynical population.
Colour Your Canvas created an opportunity for the community to hear what up-and-coming young artists and tireless activists had to say about the role of art in democracy and catalyse conversation about the impact the arts have on their communities. Because if the answer can’t be found in our conversations, perhaps it can be inspired by the imagery of a well-thought-out canvas.
The exhibit included the unveiling of the Democracy Mural project, a two-piece mural created by a group of youths between the ages of 13 and 25 portraying their vision for the future of democracy. It culminated in a Q&A session with a panel of artists and activists, all young women of colour: Romila Barryman (editor-in-chief at Textbook), Ishaval Gill (co-founder of Azaadi), Teeanna Munro (spoken word artist and activist), and Nur Shodjai (artist-in-residence).
The event was a great success, evidenced by the significant number of attendees, the richness of the conversations, and the positive response to the murals. Many left with one of Shodjai’s paintings, the proceeds of which have been donated to ArtQuake.
The team is already engaged in its next project: a Democracy Handbook that will crowdsource content from artists in their community to create a manual meant to help individuals in mobilizing their art into grassroots action. Interested in participating but don’t live in the Vancouver area? There are a number of options available. You can blog about these ideas, spreading them around the world and increasing the number of people involved in this important conversation. You can provide financial support to ArtQuake’s free youth programmes, and share your thoughts on ArtQuake’s activities on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. And most importantly, you can hold conversations with members of your community about the power of art in inspiring change.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0764138111]