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13 Oct 2023

UrbanArts helping Weston residents realize creative potential through community programs

By Nick Westoll | CityNews

At ArtScape Weston Commons, many community organizations involved in the arts call this building home. UrbanArts is one of the core groups here and for 35 years they’ve been working to build up Weston and the surrounding neighbourhoods, and help residents realize their creative potential.

On Thursday night, the sounds of music and community members are gathering fill3: the bright studio space during Shine Bright Open Mic Night, meant to celebrate local talent.

“We tweak our experience to be able to benefit the community. So I listen to what community members want and then I’m able to develop programming workshops and accessibility for them to be able to learn new art skills, to meet other people, network and express themselves,” Natalie ‘Rare’ Chattargoon, an UrbanArts program coordinator and a Toronto creative, said.

Music production and digital media is big for UrbanArts. But there’s other forms or art that are prevalent here as well. “Culinary arts, visual arts. We offer summer camp program during the summer months, and we also do dance and a variety of other programs,” Marlene McKintosh, the oeganization’s executive director, told CityNews.

She said the programs meet a wide variety of interests.

“This is a place for kids to come and have a safe space to be to, you know, stay busy and focused to create and and then we have programs that are specific to our budding artists,” McKintosh said.

“But also working with those who don’t have a passion for the arts … it’s something that keeps them off the street, and it’s something that actually helps with their academics, because you know, they have that other creative outlet,” she added.

And they don’t just work with youth. There is also intergenerational programming. When it comes to Weston, McKintosh said the community is as special as those who walk through the doors.

“Weston is so rich in history, in culture, in diversity, in creativity, in nature. The Humber River runs through our neighborhood basically. And so the people who live here, who work here, who play here. It’s such a very welcoming neighborhood and talk about a community where residents are engaged,” she shared.

As for the future of UrbanArts, McKintosh says they’re working to evolve and hopefully will be around for at least another 35 years.

“We went through the pandemic, and we had to turn on a dime, to really do things differently. And so we want to look at preparing ourselves so that for the future,” said McKintosh. “It’s about shoring up our our base, looking at building and growing the organization even further.”

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