Patrick Walters is an active member of the ArtReach family, a two-time grantee and a key member of our Grant Review Team. In 2018, Patrick ran an 8-week course called Under The Banyan Tree, Phase 2, a follow-up to his 2017 funded project, that was designed to immerse participants in Caribbean art-making and storytelling with a heavy focus on Caribbean literature. The program also touched on other Caribbean art forms, using various themes such as sustainability, community, and identity. Phase 2 culminated in September 2018 with an online platform where participants and the public are able to access course work and participant art. The community also was encouraged and welcomed to submit their own pieces, information, and events after the course was completed to create a platform that was sustainable and helpful to the community.
When asked where the idea for the project came from, Patrick shares, “As a person who was raised in the Caribbean (but returning later to Canada, where I was born) my perspectives on migration and the evolution of culture are somewhat unique. I realized that while there were many Caribbean people (1st, 2nd and 3rd generation) here in Toronto, the evolution of Caribbean culture here had caused there to be a disconnect between the people here and the Caribbean cultural influencers that came before. Caribbean people here in Toronto have such a wide variety of artistic and community leaders that the Caribbean ones (particularly those who did not venture into the North American media sphere) can oftentimes be forgotten and have their contributions go unrecognized. That is why I felt there was a need for the re-introduction of Caribbean artistic leaders to the forefront of the conversation for diasporic people. I came up with a program that would invite the community to a central meeting space where we could learn about and celebrate in Caribbean artistic successes. I then needed to flesh out the logistics of the program and that is how I envisioned a workshop series that collects works as participants grow in their art form”.
With a lot of passion for the program, Patrick mentioned how the youth and community have responded positively to his program, “The response by the young people has been rewarding. Not only has it been successful over the past 2 iterations of the program for the youth that have attended, but it has provided me with a curriculum and a platform to move forward with the program in different and impactful ways. I also believe that there has been a positive community response to our project. A Different Booklist was happy to have us back again for the second set of workshop sessions and we were also able to expand out into the community to local restaurants as well as reach out to community leaders. I look forward to continuing to grow these bonds within the community as our partnership grows”.
Getting the opportunity to meet with Patrick, it’s easy to see that he’s a very forward thinker. When asked where he saw the program going in the future, he answered, “The next iteration of this program, I believe, is best done in schools across the GTA. After two successful iterations of this program, I realized that to operate it for as many young people as possible I would need to connect with folks in the education system who can put me in contact with Caribbean diasporic students who would benefit so much from this program in their classroom. To this end, I have taken some time from applying for funding to strengthen my networks within the school boards of the TDSB, YRDSB and PRDSB. Once I have widened my partnership base, I will be looking to run the 3rd iteration of this program”.
Under the Banyan Tree has not only positively impacted the lives of young folks and the community, but it also has supported Patrick’s individual skills as a leader. He stated, “Seeing this program come to fruition now for a second time is motivation to continue to push myself to affect serious and sustainable change in my communities. It has challenged me to sharpen my skills in planning and preparation of workshops that focus specifically on Caribbean artistic culture. It also gave me the opportunity to coordinate with a small team of people that were instrumental in the success of this program. There were several times where the steps that needed to be taken were outside my scope of expertise and the other young professionals that I worked with were vital in delivering the best version of this project possible”.