“I knew I was taking a risk creating such a niche program- Black women/ femme mental health, arts and beauty for folks in the west side of the city, does anyone really care? But everything from the grant writing stage (which required lots of research), to outreach and eventually running the program confirmed to me that the need is there. This group of youth, we deserve spaces for us to process and heal collectively”.
It is a cold November night when I step into the warm and inviting space just off Trethewey Road, nestled in the community of Black Creek. Four beautiful, black women are intensely engaged in two sets of photography shoots, and I'm told by program coordinator Tanya Turton that two of the women, program participants, are working on their final exhibit pieces. The creative energy is high, vibrating throughout the space as the participants adjust their photography subjects, make jokes, laugh, and indulge in their art-making process.
Since July 2018, ArtReach grantee Tanya Turton has been running Adornment: Stories of Transformation, a space committed to prioritizing the healing of Black women and femme-identified black folks in the unique ways they relate to art, beauty, and wellness. The program explores storytelling in the forms of digital arts, media, writing, and body adornment for improved wellness, self-care, and healing.
When asked where the idea for her program originated, Tanya tells us, “Adornment as a project was birthed from a workshop tour I did in Toronto, New York, and Detroit that focused on media, arts, and wellness. After having many conversations and hearing Black women and youth share similar pain, it sparked an idea in me to create a safe space in my own neighbourhood for healing and community-building. Our main goal was to build collective care that reminds people there is transformation in our stories.”
From this initial idea, Adornment developed into a community of Black women and femme youth artists, educators, and change-makers with in-depth community artist experience who wished to cultivate a space for others like them to safely tell their stories. And through listening to the narratives of healing and growth that program participants have shared, it’s easy to see that Adornment is well on their way to achieving this goal.
Tanya notes that, “youth in the program have expressed that it has helped them find ways to care for themselves and become confident. They started out questioning themselves and their skills, and each seemed a little isolated in their experiences. Many of them prior to the program were never exposed to professional equipment or a method to share their stories. However, since joining the program, youth have said that they now feel confident in identifying as artists, and are more assured and clear in their expression of self. We have all grown together and I can see the impacts of having a safe space”.
Reflecting on next steps for the Adornment project, Tanya shares, “I believe the pilot project was successful in introducing the relationship between mental health, adornment, and digital storytelling within the lives of Black women. Our next step is to incorporate more digital skills and a facilitation certificate portion that allows the youth in our program to go into community and facilitate workshops, sharing the valuable information they have learned”.
Tanya tells us that she had the idea for this program for five years before applying to ArtReach’s 2018 granting round, feeling unsure as to how to fund it or make it possible. She shares, “I am deeply grateful to ArtReach for believing in my vision and turning my idea into reality”. ArtReach is so proud to have funded this deeply impactful and much-needed project, and we can’t wait to see what magic comes next!
Learn more about Tanya and the Adornment program at tanyaturton.com/adornmentstories