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Making a Difference in the Community: MakerLab Youth Immersion

Posted by annamaria on September 08, 2016

By Carolyn Holmes, Managing Director, Two Rivers Gallery

If you know me even a little, you will have heard me go on about the Gallery’s MakerLab program and how awesome I think it is, but you might not know about MakerLab Youth Immersion, my favourite MakerLab program.

In the fall of 2015 we launched MakerLab Youth Immersion, for a group of 12 youth between the ages of 15 and 20. Seven of these teens self-identified as Aboriginal and all committed to 9 months of making. From September to May they worked with Mentors who facilitated 3 week long modules in First Nations design, carving, wood turning, metal smithing, silver clay, 3D printing and laser engraving. It is a really nice mix of traditional craft, and new technologies. The youth learned skills that they then used to create their self-directed project on display in September and October, 2016, in the Rustad Galleria.

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The art in the exhibition is only a very small part of the program. It is the leaps and bounds some of them have made, the stories they have shared and their personalities that will stick with me.  I often think of Vernon who kept shooing his friends away so Mentor Cyndi could focus on him as she helped him with his silver clay rings. There is Erica and Mentor Ken who scheduled meetings outside of MakerLab to go shopping for wood or work on the lathe together.

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I won’t forget Stefanie and her determination to finish those two paintings before summer or Calvin who wanted to do everything and had such a hard time narrowing his focus. I am thoroughly impressed that throughout the summer Kobe, Tyler, Josh and Nathan have continued to work on their projects and still can’t believe that Marcus walked in at 5pm every Thursday, all summer long to design and print 3D letters spelling the name of rappers, under guidance of Mentor Darren. And as I write this blog Megan is working on her proton pack with Mentor Aisha. We have to keep her going with blended chai tea lattés.

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It was a big risk to invest so many resources into such a small group and something we have never done before, but when the youth ask me if they can still come each week to MakerLab, I know it has been worth it. Of course I tell them they are always welcome to drop in and work on a project here or just hang out. I really hope they do because I love to see them walk into the Gallery with a such a sense of belonging.

This first year of MakerLab Youth Immersion was funded by the BC Arts Council’s Youth Engagement Program with support from our MakerLab partner Integris Credit Union. The final projects and exhibition received additional funding from the BC Ministry’s Multicultural Grant and the PG Community Foundation. I also must acknowledge the School District’s Aboriginal Education Department which provided food for the group each week.

And I am so pleased to report that with support from the BC Arts Council’s Youth Engagement Program and the Vancouver Foundation we are able to continue the MakerLab Youth Immersion program for the next three years!

Please come and check out the exhibition featuring not only the creations by this year’s MakerLab Youth Immersion gang, but also art by the Mentors who worked with them. The opening will take place on Thursday, September 15 at 7:30 pm.

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