Art at the Centre of Movement Building

Posted on December 12, 2022
By Karenveer Pannu

This resource is also available in French. Click here to access the French version.

Tamarack’s 2022 Annual Communities Building Youth Futures (CBYF) Gathering in Montreal was a huge success!

Face mural
This event was conceived for partners to share learnings with one another, share ongoing work, and celebrate successes. The pride and optimism were palpable as communities proudly shared their accomplishments and excitement for the future.

Art and Ideas

Throughout the gathering, different forms of artistic expression were woven into activities, workshops, and conversations. Participants were struck by how art could be used to share ideas and impact a broader and more diverse audience.

A striking photo gallery comprised of all the youth winners of CBYF's 3rd Annual Photovoice Contest was held in the foyer of the venue. Beautiful photographs depicting and representing numerous communities were displayed side by side – and attendees were given the space to enjoy these photos and capture a glimpse of the photographed community through the artist’s perspective. This was just one example of how various artistic mediums can be used to tell stories. There is so much we can learn when we encourage youth community residents to produce symbolic representations of their communities and homes through photography. Such an exercise allows us to recognize the varied stories and perspectives that make up the landscape of a community.

Art as a Tool for Systematic Transformation’

An evening plenary titled; “Art as a Tool for Systematic Transformation” was held to close the first day of the gathering, and engaged participants through the arts. A local collective, “Rap Battles for Social Justice,” hosted the evening and led participants through a workshop on how to use rap as a storytelling medium. Participants enjoyed the sharing of music and enthusiastically workshopped their ideas within their groups. For many, this was their first time engaging in rap this way and for others, this was their normal. To inspire attendees, the facilitators offered a chorus to ground their efforts in:

"We are all stars

We light the way

To a brighter day

Our youth will lead the change”

At the end of the workshop, there was a sharing of music. Many participants chose to use their raps to explore their feelings around changemaking and community. In the end, we had a beautiful collection of raps that reflected the collective vision for change and impact that all the communities shared.

Engagement through the arts gives individuals the space to explore new ideas and feelings in an embodied way. It allows us to turn abstract concepts into processes and actions that feel tangible and real. Throughout the gathering, attendees were encouraged to lean into the arts as a way to honour and share their impact stories. This effort fostered an environment grounded in connectivity and community.

For additional inspiration on the role of art and creativity in systems change, please see the following resources and examples:

Social Movements, Youth, Communities Building Youth Futures, Youth Engagement, CBYF Blog, Homepage Blog

Karenveer Pannu

By Karenveer Pannu

Karenveer received her BA from the University of Toronto, where she double majored in political science and diaspora studies and minored in English. She is in the process of completing her M.Ed at OISE (U of T), where she is specifically studying curriculum and pedagogy. Karenveer is particularly passionate about liberatory education and knowledge-building processes grounded within community.

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