Congratulations to The Artists Mentoring Youth (AMY) Project for winning the Toronto Arts Foundation’s 2017 Arts for Youth Award. The award honours an individual, collective, or organization that makes a significant impact in engaging youth through the arts and in artistic creation in Toronto.
The AMY Project provides performing arts education and mentorship for young women and non-binary youth in Toronto. Since 2006, The AMY Project has created an accessible, anti-racist, queer and trans inclusive space for participants to develop their confidence and learn to tell their stories.
“As an organization, the award honours the ongoing work that we’ve been doing. It’s emotional, soul work,” says Julia Hune-Brown, Session Co-Director at AMY. “It speaks to the legacy of the work AMY has been doing with the wide range of artists for over a decade. In many ways, our work is bigger than a job; it’s part of our own identity and experiences as young women especially racialized women, and non-binary folk creating theatre.”
The AMY project has an interesting connection to the Metcalf Foundation as Julia, as well as Nikki Shaffeeullah, AMY’s Artistic Director, and Rachel Penny, AMY’s General Manager, have all been Metcalf Performing Arts Interns. Julia is currently a Metcalf intern with Jumblies Theatre in community-engaged theatre direction. Nikki was an intern in artistic direction for Jumblies Theatre. And Rachel was an intern in arts administration at Peggy Baker Dance Projects in partnership with Volcano Non-Profit Productions.
Nikki cites the importance of mentorship for those facing barriers to employment or training in the performing arts. “There are so many talented, creative, and smart people with important stories to tell. Because of systemic inequities, some have to work three times as hard to get a foot in the door. Mentorship means sharing skills, passing on knowledge, having open conversations, and building relationships. It’s how we nurture our artistic community and build equity-seeking practices into day-to-day life within the arts.”
Rachel mentions that she can’t imagine being where she is today, without mentorship. “Having mentors who have found their own way to success take the time to invest in you and your creativity is a way to imagine possibilities, and is a huge boost to your confidence.”
In addition to its ongoing commitment to develop new programming for youth, The AMY Project will be performing at Summerworks this summer, as well as focusing on building new opportunities for past participants through its Alumni program.