Art in the Parking Lot: Youth Supporting Youth in the Arts
by Rihkee Strapp, Sault Youth Association for local2 sault ste. marie
August 18th, 2011 at 10:57am | Last Updated at 10:58am
Since I was very young my passion to work in the arts was clear, which can be a major initial roadblock for many youth and in this respect I was lucky. The next task was seeking a community of peers and mentors at a variety of career stages with whom I could get advice, gain important skills from, and in conversation share ideas and general enthusiasm for all that art has to offer society. This was not something I experienced in my educational institution, I found this community in the Arcadia Project, an artist run center that had existed in the downtown of Sault Ste. Marie. This is where I met Rebecca Stuebing, a hard-working social entrepreneur, who was working for the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie & District at the time as the events coordinator.
Following in her footsteps, I wanted to become more involved in the institutions that fund and support artists. This summer I have had the privilege of working for the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie & District organizing their two major arts festivals, Art in the Parking Lot Saturday August 20th and Art in the Park, Sunday August 21st. I caught up with Rebecca to gain insight from her experience.
“In 2007 I started working with the Arts Council of SSM and District to organize the annual Art in the Park festival – at this time I was still relatively new to the community but had experience with community organizing... I had started up the food bank at Algoma University along with some other initiatives... In approaching organizing in the arts community I came with this diversity as my background. I saw how the festival had been organized in the past, how it had achieved great success in bringing together a number of artists from across the district to display and sell their works. Of course I wanted to make the festival bigger and better, to engage more creative people, more kinds of creative work, more young people and community members in the process... This grew even further in 2009 when I organized the festival again, and created accessibility subsidies for youth and emerging artists to participate as featured artists. There were even more artists involved in that festival, including a lot of young people. I think there has been a shift in who participates in summer festivals in this area… a lot more young people are coming out and they are forming relationships with those who have been involved in the sector for a long time. There’s a lot of potential in that exchange.”
From this experience Rebecca was inspired to create Art in the Parking Lot, a festival specifically orientated towards youth and emerging artists. Rebecca discusses the process of building this new festival from the ground up.
“There was a need in this community for a space to engage people who might not find the daytime, family focused event – art on display, a couple of performances – so interesting… In 2009 I think we pushed this event to be something really amazing, working with the Arcadia Coffeehouse and a number of local artists who were interested in supporting the Art in the Parking Lot idea, they were interested in making it what it became. The event is just a venue, all we did was organize and the people came out and made it happen. It was incredible. There was diversity of ages, art forms, energy and overall it was very inclusive. We held a preview exhibition involving artists who served to push the boundaries of “what is art” and “who are artists” in this area – filmmakers, musicians, poets, dancers, gardeners… this brought more people into its process.”
With the closing of the Arcadia Project, and the Cornwall building which both housed several local artists, a new community of artists and artisans has congregated in the BushPlane Heritage Centre complex. This year Art in the Parking Lot will be held at this location, on Church Str. at the rear of Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Several artists working out of this warehouse like complex will be opening their studio doors to the public allowing a glimpse of their work environments. The intent is not only to connect the community at large to the life and work of local artists but create access points for artists participating in the festival to make new connections with other artists working in their field.
Rebecca Stuebing was also one of the creators and organizers of the completely youth run, Awaken Arts Festival, which paid out generous artist fees to participating artists. Rebecca is currently involved with the Canadian Roots Exchange - two 3-week cultural exchanges that bring together diverse Native and non-Native youth (ages 19-35) to engage with each other and communities in Northern Ontario. Rebecca is finishing her Masters degree in Language, Culture and Teaching at York. This past May and June Rebecca was involved with the Mother Earth Water Walk – walked from just outside of Sudbury to Bad River, Wisconsin (www.motherearthwaterwalk.com)