ArtReach Toronto was successfully launched on August 22, 2006 at the youth-run Whipper Snapper Gallery. The event was well attended by over 150 young people, community organizations, youth workers and funders.
Those in attendance were surrounded by art created by young people, representing a range of art forms. A showcase of young artists was presented, including: the Trethewey Youth Photography project, The S.T.E.P. U.P. dub poetry collective, DJ Michael Murray, and Colanthony Humphrey performing a live graffiti demonstration.
Special guest speakers included Amina Yassin-Omar, Chair of the Grassroots Youth Collaborative (GYC), a collective of culturally and racially diverse youth-led organizations, working in under-served communities. GYC was consulted on the design of ArtReach Toronto. Amina shared how pleased the GYC are that many of their key recommendations were implemented, including giving priority to youth-led initiatives.
Hip hop producer and songwriter Solitair spoke in support of the program and on the broader topic of youth engagement through the arts. He delivered a message from one of Canada’s most successful hip hop artists, Kardinal Offishall: “I am glad that art is once again being recognized as a strong component for our youth's future. I am proud to have been one of the many artists who feel that a change is needed, and this is a great start.” Solitair relayed a message from Kardinal about his positive experience with the Fresh Arts program of the 80’s, why arts programs are needed in Toronto, and how the arts are a great way to engage youth.
Shahina Sayani, program manager for ArtReach Toronto, spoke about her passion for the new initiative, because it recognizes the potential in young people. Shahina said: “It appreciates different forms of art for having value in and of itself – that arts lets you express yourself and be who you are. It also recognizes the power of using art as a tool to engage the most hard-to-reach youth”. She concluded with saying, “…it’s investing in youth, believing in them and supporting and empowering them to do what needs to be done that will effect long-term change. That’s what ArtReach Toronto is all about…”
Young artists who participated in the event spoke out in support of the new program that values the participation of young artists in all aspects of the granting process, “WHIPPERSNAPPER GALLARY WAS OFF THE HOOK! It was more than just an outreach - it was people coming together and realizing that the youth are the future and we can accomplish great things by doing what we do best and that’s getting out there and getting LIVE! Thanks to ArtReach Toronto for having S.T.E.P.U.P. perform and get out there with our goods”.