Despite many obstacles, the future looks bright for many North End youth.
In September, Inner City Youth Alive (ICYA), a non-profit ministry, put out a call to youth ages five to 25 to create a piece of art, of any artistic medium, that expresses their dream future, regardless of any adversity they currently face and might confront along the way.
The result is North End Dreams, a 57-piece art exhibition which opened Wed., Nov. 27 at Neechi Commons (865 Main St.) and runs until Dec. 18.
"We’re always aspiring to be more, but when you’re in a difficult circumstance — say, with a family member that’s being abused, or you’re being abused, or maybe you’re in a situation where your family is fairly poor — you basically think day-to-day," said Laurie Kozak, director of development at ICYA.
"They don’t think ‘What am I going to do in 10 years?’ We wanted them to think past their circumstances, think about the future and what they want to do with their lives or what they want to do to make the community better."
North End Dreams runs the artistic gamut, from drawings and paintings to poems, clay work and dream catchers.
"One young man did a painting of skyscrapers where one side was really dark and one side was really bright. He said his world was the dark, but he wants his world to be the light," Kozak said.
Kent Dueck, executive director and one of the founders of ICYA, said the idea to elicit visual representations of youths’ dreams came when putting together a video piece for the organization.
"We were interviewing kid after kid and we would ask them ‘What are your dreams? What do you want to do when you get older?’ and it was like the whole interview just shut down," Dueck said.
"Kid after kid couldn’t articulate their dreams. This (North End Dreams) is maybe the answer, because they could picture it, but not articulate it. I’m hoping having that picture of what could be is going to draw kids towards that dream."
Bailey Alexson, Heaven-Leigh McCallum and Chelsea McCallum are all dreaming big. Alexson, 11, hopes to be a professional ballerina. Heaven-Leigh, 11, wants to have her very own farm and Chelsea, 16, would like to be a professional photographer.
"I have an iPhone and my teacher always looks at my pictures and every time I take a picture of some random thing, he says ‘You should be a photographer,’" said McCallum, a Grade 9 student at St. Aidan’s Christian School who plans to take photography in university.
Kozak said having a supportive person in one’s life is key to accomplishing one’s goals.
"You just need one adult, one role model, one mentor to be there and support you and tell you ‘You’re good enough to dream,’" she said.