DAREarts Uses Creativity to Empower Rexdale Area Kids

Last night, March 2nd 2017, DAREarts, a charity that empowers kids using the arts, held its annual DAREarts Winter Showcase at North Albion Collegiate Institute (NACI) in Rexdale, ON. 

The event showcased over 130 children, grades 4 through 8, from 13 Rexdale area schools.  With the theme “Promenade Through Time,” the Showcase features visual art, fashion, drama, dance, music and film, created by the youths with arts professionals, that time-traveled from the past to the present: from the Renaissance to hip hop.  Highlights included Juno-nominated musician Glenn Marais performing alongside Grade 8 students, and David Wall, blues artist and Jazz.FM91’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, alongside Grade 7 students. Community leaders attending included Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor Michael Ford, TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih, TDSB SOE Glenford Duffus and TDSB System Superintendent Annie Appleby.

This event is critical at a time when many young people face difficult choices. Bullying, peer pressure, youth violence and delinquency are just a few of their harsh, daily realities. With a severe lack of leadership opportunities or creative outlets, kids often become targets of negative influences. DAREarts closes the opportunity gap by giving these kids artistic, learning and personal development opportunities.  Participating schools were Albion Heights JMS, Beaumonde Heights JMS, Boys Leadership Academy, Chalkfarm JS, Claireville JS, Cookstown Central PS, Elmbank JMA, The Elms JMS, Greenholme JMS, Humberwood Downs JMA, Melody Village JS, Smithfield MS and West Humber JMS.

DAREarts operates nationally and is centred around the power of the arts and the DARE principles of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.  DAREarts’ Toronto program works with 9 to 14 year olds from schools in high-priority neighbourhoods, empowering them to become leaders.  Select schools choose two students from Grades 4 to 8 who are in need of broader opportunities. DAREarts Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, and a team of arts professionals take the children to many arts venues across Toronto, including the AGO, the Aga Khan Museum, DAIS, Ballet Jorgen, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Toronto School of Art, where they explore cultures and then themselves create.  After each DAREarts Day, the student ‘delegates’ are tasked with going back to their home schools to peer teach their classmates what they have learned, becoming sharers of knowledge and cultures in the process. The annual Winter Showcase is a celebration of all they have learned in the program and a testament to their potential as future leaders.

“I’m incredibly proud of what these children have achieved in building their confidence and courage to be leaders through their DAREarts experiences,” says DAREarts founder Marilyn Field. “Their inner discipline, talent and creativity is truly admirable.  It’s proof that, with the right opportunity, our kids can achieve anything.”

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Established 21 years ago, DAREarts has a proven track record of inspiring at-risk kids to reach their full potential. DAREarts has reached over 200,000 kids, giving many the necessary skills to avoid the pitfalls of drugs, guns and gangs and, instead, take up the arms of paint brushes, voices, instruments and acting. DAREarts’ success stories include young adults in business, medicine, law and education who may have been lost without the program.

DAREarts thanks its national supporter Northbridge Insurance and its lead supporters Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Anne Livingston and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.  Local Education Partners include the TDSB –The Toronto District School Board.

Photos courtesy Alan Dunlop.

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