Funded by ArtReach previously in 2016, Beautiful Minds’ 2019 program, I.D.E.A (Inspire, Design, Explore, Apply), is an arts-based workshop series for youth 13-29 that focuses on developing painting skills and using creative writing as a means for youth artists to describe their visual pieces. Through their time in the project, participants were able to learn and develop a variety of creative and life skills, including collaboration, collective decision making, creative concept development, time management, and project management. The program concluded with an online reveal party for the project’s digital zine (check it out here!), which incorporated both the painting and creative writing skills that they had been working on throughout the program.
Beautiful Minds wanted to make this project accessible for youth and explained, “The reason we chose painting is because it may be easier for people to express themselves through art vs. verbally. Participants could choose to write their explanations of their pieces in their mother tongue, emphasizing the importance of their multiple identities. Art can be used as a medium to overcome language barriers, which is important, as we serve a lot of newcomer and refugee youth”.
Beautiful Minds built the I.D.E.A project to serve Scarborough youth, specifically those from Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park. They chose to serve these particular communities because, “There is a lack of free art programs, youth spaces, and mental health support. Through living and working there, we noticed that these communities have a high population of youth, and that this program would provide a safe space for youth to access”.
While this iteration of I.D.E.A. originally aimed to offer three rounds of in-person programming, after a successful first run in Flemingdon Park, COVID restrictions forced the team to move programming online. The goal here was to be able to continue to provide a safe space for youth to explore art, while still meeting and talking with other people, and participants shared that the program was a “great way to beat the sense of isolation” that came with the ongoing lockdowns.
While arts-based programming was the primary focus of the project, I.D.E.A. evolved to incorporate a much-needed self-care feature to the program, further supporting the mental health of participants. Activities included yoga, mindfulness tools, coping strategies, and open discussions on mental health. This made for a creative, safe space where youth felt comfortable to not only share their art, but also their mental health struggles. Beautiful Minds additionally supported participants’ well-being outside of the program by connecting them to helpful resources and employment opportunities.
Meet Beautiful Minds
In operation for over five years, Beautiful Minds was founded by Nicole D’Souza, a Scarborough-based social worker, yoga instructor, and community leader. Beautiful Minds uses contemporary forms of self-care, such as art, mindfulness, yoga and physical activities to engage youth in wellness, and the goal of their programming “is to have youth build on various skills that they learn throughout the program and hopefully continue using these skills in their life as a healthy way to express themselves”. The typical age range of 13 to 29 for their programs is intentionally wide because “having older youth allows for a mentorship piece for the younger participants”, further empowering both emerging and experienced participants.
Since their inception, Beautiful Minds has run a variety of programming and events focused on supporting youth artists, and are currently running V.I.E.W (Vision, Idea, Exploration, Wisdom), a free eight-week introductory course to watercolour painting. Follow @beautfilminds.to on Instagram to learn more about their incredible work and to stay up-to-date on their latest offerings!