In the autumn of 2014 I worked with youth in downtown Toronto to understand the effects of creative expression, and its celebration, on the development of resilience. The project was a great success in many areas, most importantly, youth engaged with the design mantra of enabling creation and confidence in context. Over 8 weeks they found aspects of their real lives that they could connect with, merged them with fantasy elements and used those as jumping off points for the development of their final pieces in the workshops.
Together we developed and created 3 virtual environments complete with characters and reactive elements that were brought to digital life through processing. The youth expressed feelings of pride and confidence as their works were showcased at the final celebration and, in final comments, they noted the value of discussing the impact of the government led revitalization taking place in their neighbourhood.
It should be noted that this project involved only a small group of participants (3) but the results justify expansion of the project to include more participants in Regent Park and partnership with other at risk communities in the city and elsewhere. There are also potential applications for other groups experiencing diminished quality of life including hospitalized youth and children and those coping with divorce, abuse, homelessness and other challenging situations. These avenues and partnerships will be explored and the data derived from this research may be used to contribute to future iterations of the Create & Grow Strong program series.
As Joseph Chilton Pearce once said: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” The goal of Create & Grow Strong is to steal that fear away from youth and children and to replace it with feelings of excitement, competence and curiosity, leaving them feeling empowered as they face a changing world. In order to fulfill this mission the series will grow and change over time, adapting to each group and learning from every community with the goal of helping generations of children and youth to face the challenges of the world they inherit with confidence, self-knowledge and hope.