Bringing arts back into the community

All the world’s a stage for students at Fort St. James Secondary School as the Youth Empowerment in the Arts Project continues.

  • Nov. 23, 2016 5:00 p.m.

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

All the world’s a stage for students at Fort St. James Secondary School as the Youth Empowerment in the Arts Project continues to be a huge success.

And now in its second year, it only seems to be growing.

Shauna Hesse, grant writer for the District of Fort St. James along with the Community  Arts Council and various other community members are excited to see all of the new opportunities unfold for local youth within the arts.

And this year certainly does bring something new.

“The original theatre program is offered with 15 students currently taking part and this year the students can take a digital media program which is so exciting. There are 25 students enrolled in that program right now,” Hesse said.

Hesse could not be more thrilled with all of the student interest the program has received as well as all of the community support that has helped get the program running.

It all began with the student led SONAR group at Fort St. James Secondary School.

“It was the SONAR group at Fort St. James Secondary school who voiced their opinion. They wanted to see more opportunities in the arts in the community,” Hesse said.

Local organizations jumped on board including: Nak’azdli Youth Council, Music Makers, FSJ District, Nak’azdli Band, Theatre Northwest, the Community Arts Council, local and regional arts organizations, the public education system and various businesses as they helped bring the project to life..

“We have funding for up to three years now,” Hesse said. “And my role is to work towards long term sustainability.”

The Vancouver Foundation issued a grant in support of the project and funds have also been received from the BC Arts Youth Engagement Program and the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James.

The project also allows students the opportunity to earn elective credits towards graduation.

And a definite spotlight for students includes the unique opportunity to learn from professional performers where they will learn to create their own projects and perform their own creations once completed.

“And we are so lucky to have Lauren Brotman from Theatre Northwest work with the kids. To have a professional artist come here, it’s really amazing,” Hesse said.

Brotram brings a world of experience to her students in Fort St. James.

She is the recipient of the Dora Award Winning performer/creator and received the Christopher Plummer Fellowship Award through which she trained and performed at The Globe Theatre in London, England.

She has performed all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe and is thrilled to be making a home in Prince George as an Associate Artist with Theatre Northwest.

The program is now in full swing as Music Makers in Fort St. James continues to contribute the learning space and the Arts Council coordinates the program.

According to Hesse, the program has now evolved into a mentoring project as well because of its success.

What was once a simple pilot project has now branched off into many directions and a youth led Arts Strategy is currently in the works.

Hesse says this will allow young people to take initiative and help make a difference in the community.

“And to see what these kids can create. It’s amazing to be able to see it and support it. We should all be supporting it,” Hesse said.

All in all, for Hesse and for the rest of the Fort St. James community, the project has now become all about working together; for arts, for youth and for the community.