Throughout Summer 2019, youth artists Jessica De Vittoris, Samantha John, and Ben Wood lead Melodies & Colour, an interdisciplinary community art program based in Toronto that paired together visual artists with emerging musicians in a joint arts project. Participants of the project were all young emerging artists, aged 16 to 29, that self-identify as navigating poverty, living homeless or on the margins. Through a series of outdoor workshops at Trinity Bellwoods Park, artists explored the creative process of co-designing an instrument that reflected their core interests and told their story. This collaborative approach explored the use of art as a tool for empowerment and community-building for youth living on the margins.
When asked where the idea for this unique, multidisciplinary project came from, Jessica shares, “Back in 2018, Samantha and I collaborated in creating illustrations on their guitar that spoke to the images and stories they would want to work with in their music practice. Through this process, we spoke to how we would love to see more workshops that involve musicians and visual artists collaborating and co-creating work in a cross-disciplinary approach. When we about the ArtReach grant, we decided to propose our process as a broader workshop series for emerging visual artists and musicians to connect, be commissioned, and collaborate in”.
In exploring how the project was received, we learned that within the participant group, the Melodies and Colour team “saw a lot of enthusiasm and exploration in the sessions. People were really excited by the workshops, but also seemed excited to have a reason to gather and engage in art practice, song writing and skill sharing”. The project was also a success in terms of the community response. “Through conversations and social media, the response was generally very positive. People wanted to know more, they wanted to join in. I think posting process pictures and final images of the pieces [online] was a great way for people outside of the program to engage with what we were doing. And during workshops, onlookers and passersby were curious what we were up to”.
Through funding provided by ArtReach and in-kind supports offered by SKETCH, the project was able to successfully engage and pay eight artists, cover the costs of program supplies, provide honoraria for project leads, and ensure that workshop attendance was accessible for participants.
So what’s next for the project? Jessica shares, “I know more people are excited to be a part of this, so I'm thinking the seeds are planted for this to make a bigger impact in the community as time goes on. I would love to see future workshops, with different artists, instruments and materials. I would also love to follow up with previous participants and see and hear how they're using their instruments. It might be fun to host an open mic!”
Check out Melodies & Colour’s Instagram page here to learn more, see great photos, and stay up-to-date with the project!