“Bringing people together, inspiring soothing and sharing: these are the powers of art, the importance of which has been made emphatically clear during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
– Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
From January to March, ELAN’s ArtEd program is engaging Artists in an action research process designed to identify why and how Teaching Artists support youth mental health in and through the Arts. After reviewing an evidence base and guide prepared for ELAN by PhD candidate, visual artist and arts educator Tiina Kukkonen, twenty Artists will engage in learning conversations to explore how they can support youth during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Kukkonen’s research review tells us, “arts engagement has the potential to relieve stress, build resilience, support identity formation and empowerment and develop vital social connections among youth… arts programming can provide a safe space in which to cope with hardships and find joy in the process of making art.”
Surveys of Quebec’s English-speaking youth indicate that the need for supportive activities is significant. Youth reported experiencing higher rates of moderate to severe depressive symptoms and lower levels of mental wellness compared to the French-speaking population. The Artists who are gathering are working virtually and in-person with youth during the school day and in extra-curricular programs this winter and they want to make difference. The learning conversations Artists are participating in aim to help them express their needs and concerns and engage in generative dialogue with their colleagues on approaches to their role that are helpful in practice. The group conversations will be facilitated by Artist, Filmmaker and Social Worker/Teacher Alyssa Kuzmarov from Productions Oracle, who brings her experience in educating social service students at Dawson College and her work as a teaching artist together in this role.
The Community Health & Social Services Network is funding this project with the goal of equipping people who can share mental health resources and destigmatize youth mental health. They recognize that Artists can interact with youth in unique ways to engage them in sharing their lived experience through art. This kind of support is particularly critical in rural and remote communities that tend to lack access to adequate mental health resources. The resources created through this project including “Supporting Youth Mental Health in and through the Arts will be available on ArtEd’s webpage.