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What's out there for Young Artists in Guelph?

By Elly Grant

Guelph is a special place for young artists.

Whether you’re like me and call Guelph home or are new to the area, there are endless opportunities for artists aged sixteen to twenty-five. I recently returned to Guelph after time away, and was proud to see many programs and artists continuing to thrive, with new opportunities for youth arts constantly emerging. Below, I hope to share some inspiring connections, possibilities, and words of encouragement for young creatives who wish to find their stride in Guelph’s interconnected arts community.  

Since landing back in Guelph, I reconnected with an old friend, high school classmate, and artist Laura Vautour. I was curious to know what motivated Laura to stay in Guelph and pursue Fine Arts at U of G. Laura explained that early introductions to events like Hillside and Graffiti Festival were influential to her relationship with Guelph’s art community, and led to her desire to expand connections both on and off-campus. Laura’s exposure to arts programs at Necessary ArtsOtherwise Studios and Art on the Street have been important experiences that have helped her feel supported and encouraged to build an arts career in Guelph. 

Just last month, I was delighted to see Laura’s work featured in the Juried Art Show (JAS) at U of G. JAS celebrates emerging artists and offers professional development opportunities for students through silent auctions, interview series and award ceremonies. For students or community members, supporting JAS’ events is a great way to elevate emerging artists in Guelph. JAS has been supported by the greater community for 53 years, and I hope this support for student artists continues.


For budding highschool artists not quite ready for post-secondary, there are a couple of arts-based, experiential learning programs you may want to know about. There’s the Urban Arts Program, as well as The DaVinci Program. I had the pleasure of being a DaVinci student in 2010/11 and would recommend this program to any Grade 11 student in the public system interested in art, the environment and social justice. DaVinci’s coordinator Martin Lacelle highlights that students receive guidance from local artists and arts professionals throughout the program, and also independently organize their own art show. The experience of organizing an art show opens students up to the arts community in Guelph and “helps them to see how easily they could create their own shows”, says Lacelle. 

My DaVinci class hosted our 2011 art show at Ed Video Media Centre, a space which provides new media arts programming. Ed Video caters to youth in a variety of ways, including internship opportunities. Maddie Lychek, who currently fills the Digital Education internship role, helps organize programs for young people including animation workshops and curating exhibitions which feature emerging artists. As a practicing artist herself, Maddie hopes to see more grants, awards and scholarships appear for youth artists in the city. 

Some other opportunities out there for youth include GAC’s Youth Opportunities AwardGuelph Emerging Artist Mentorship Project (GEAMP), and Otherwise Studio’s and Bumaroo’s Co-Create Residency. As a GEAMP participant in Fall 2019, I found this program so helpful to reintegrate into the local art community and learn tangible cultural management skills. To prove just how full-circle Guelph’s art community is, my GEAMP mentor was Ed Video Program Director, Scott McGovern, and I ended up giving a tour of our final exhibition to DaVinci students.  

At its core, Guelph’s art community is intertwined and full of opportunities for young artists. While it is difficult to build in-person connections at this time, youth artists can expand their networks through tools like Instagram. Until in-person events return, there are several online programs for young artists to part-take in. JAS Coordinators and emerging artists Maeve Hind and Emma Ongman advise the following for young artists: “Don't wait! Go to workshops! Participate in art community events! Surround yourself with people who make things, and you will be constantly inspired to continue making things yourself!” 

About the author
Elly Grant runs an upcycled clothing business, Double Dipped, and is an aspiring art educator currently pursuing a Master’s degree at NSCAD University. As part of her practicum at NSCAD, Elly joins GAC as a Communications and Outreach Assistant. 


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