Jason Samilski, Coordinator
About this organization
CUE is a radical, youth-led, high-access arts support initiative enabling young marginalized artists to develop arts project proposals, produce, and exhibit their visions, within an intimate and supportive community framework. CUE provides program and financial support for individual arts projects, and opportunities for professional, arts medium-specific mentorships, and exposure through CUE's online gallery. Project coordinators and youth facilitators mentor young artists in conceiving, proposing, budgeting, managing, and exhibiting multi-disciplinary arts projects. Young people in the community jury to review proposals, support one another's work, and mount a group exhibition each year.
CUE engages artists who:experience homelessness or instable housing; often lack formal education; navigate extreme poverty, isolation, addictions, a multitude of mental health issues, experiences with the criminal justice system; experience language barriers and literacy issues; are LGBTQ, racialized, stereotyped or deal with multiple stigma; have little, or no access to technology; are often eccentric, and disconnected from most mainstream arts communities and support networks.
CUE collaborates with community partners across the GTA and SKETCH on its Shared Platform to support youth leadership and organizing through community arts. SKETCH ensures administrative, financial, organizational and program support and oversight as well as governance and charitable compliance through its Board of Directors.
History of Organization
Created in 2008 in response to enhance arts project support for youth participants of SKETCH. CUE (with support from The Laidlaw Foundation) began mentoring youth through a basic proposal process; helped participants build project budgets and workplans; engaged youth in a democratic, criteria-based decision-making process (jury); supported youth individually on their projects connecting them with public exhibition opportunities. With additional support from Artreach Toronto and the Ontario Arts Council, in 2011, CUE launched its first major group exhibition, "Margin of Eras". Over four program cycles CUE has to date successfully supported 77 large-scale arts projects by youth artists living on the margins.
In addition to creating a high-access/low bureaucracy method for arts project support, CUE was compelled by the imperative for a youth informed arts support system that gives flex to creative exploration and the natural processes of art creation itself. Artists' visions are always shifting, changing, and evolving—working personally with CUE artists in formal and informal environments throughout the production process, the core coordinators of CUE were able to support free growth and the development of unique artistic vision for each artist. Through this innovative youth driven model of support CUE partners with marginalized youth directly to perpetuate culture, to ignite discourse and ideas, and ultimately, to build and animate community.
Accolades and Accomplishments
To date CUE has:
- Provided over $100,000 in direct project support
- Received 121 creative applications (totaling over $173,000 in requests) for CUE participation
- Directly supported 77 arts projects - Worked with artists to exhibit their work in more than 30 public events/venues
- Reached an estimated audience of well over 50,000
- Attracted over 400 audience members to Margin of Eras exhibition (CUE's multidisciplinary group exhibition—featured 20 CUE artists, 43 works sold)
- Supported coordinators to participate in over 500 individual mentorship sessions with youth artists
- Won the 2010 Identity N' Impact Community Arts Award
- Presented at the 2011 Changing the Face of Philanthropy Conference
- Participated in discussion about community arts with the Governor General, His Excellency David Johnston
- Has been chosen as one of Toronto's 2012 Vital Ideas by the Toronto Community Foundation
- Engaged approximately 400 youth participating in a more sporadic fashion (artist collaborations, volunteers, workshop participants)
- Supported projects in: painting/drawing, culinary arts, instrument making/wood-working, performance art, knitting, photography, metal-work, button-making, zine/street art, wood-carving/sculpture, book publishing, fashion design/fashion show, installation art, sound-art/radio play, hair-art, literary, script writing, music recording/performing/video, sound poetry, video-game design, creative business development, encaustics, jewelry design, nail-art, creative website design, biodiversity workshops, screen-printing, and graphic novel creation.
CUE provides a multitude of resources for youth artists who live homeless, street involved and otherwise marginalized (who participate with SKETCH and community partners in the GTA), to create large-scale arts projects in an intimate community support framework. CUE creates a peer-based learning environment throughout the entire process of envisioning, producing, and exhibiting art projects. Project support includes financial support, intensive one-on-one peer mentorship in conceptual development, proposal writing, work plan development, budget management, and artistic technical/logistical problem solving, marketing and quality finishing for exhibition/presentation.
CUE hosts group workshops in developing project proposals and project management, financial management, as well as regular CUE collaboration meetings where participants share their processes, and advise each other and collaborate on ideas, methods, and techniques. CUE uses a simplified application process (including the option of a verbal presentation), and several youth from the SKETCH and outside arts communities form a review panel to adjudicate the project applications, and democratically engage in the decision making process.
This process culminates in a large group exhibition and pubic celebration at the end of the art-making program cycle featuring the work of CUE artists. In 2011, 20 artists exhibited their work in a 2-week exhibition, "Margin of Eras". Three CUE artists participate on a curatorial team which takes on responsibility for organizing every element of the show. They are mentored by arts professionals in curating, promotion/marketing, and gallery-setup and installation. CUE coordinators are available to participants throughout the entire process to help them connect with future opportunities, and to consult on the development of their artistic careers (grant proposal editing, external exhibition opportunities, etc.) The program is directly shaped by the youth artists involved, and our organic, and intimate framework allows us to gain intimate understanding of, and respond directly to the needs of our community of young artists.
In 2012 CUE will implement two program cycles engaging up to 10 youth artists per cycle. Each cycle includes:
An introduction to CUE; Workshops and support in concept development, project budget and work plan development, and basic 'proposal writing'; An accessible application process for direct project support (including option of verbal application); A peer jury process to choose 10-12 projects per cycle; 4 music production bursaries (CUE Demo Initiative—a resource sharing system between CUE and SKETCH, enabling youth musicians to secure a one-week session in SKETCH's recording studio, with a professional engineer, and mentorship from established musicians); Intimate peer support and mentorship throughout the entirety of the art making process on technical and production issues, on project budget expense management, finishing work for exhibition, and preparation for sale of work; Opportunity to promote work on CUE's online gallery and blog; Opportunity for direct, medium-specific, mentorship from professional artists; Community meetings where participating CUE artists share and provide constructive criticism, resources, and support for each other's projects;and personal support to navigate barriers and challenges while in production including constant encouragement and affirmation about the work itself.
Funding and Program Partners
In 2012, with SKETCH as our shared platform partner, CUE is forming partnerships with Central Toronto Community Health Centres, LAMP Community Health Centre, East Metro Youth Services, and Native Child and Family Services to bring CUE to youth artists in diverse communities of the GTA. We will be partnering with Artreach Toronto to connect CUE artists to its funding opportunities in community engaged arts, to share resources, and to strategize around organizational development. SKETCH is a collaborative program partner connecting CUE artists with educational partners at George Brown College and Ryerson University. SKETCH connects CUE artists to over 90 community partners to support basic and primary needs such as housing, food, employment, mental health and other related needs.
From 2008-2011 CUE received Youth Organizing support from the Laidlaw Foundation, with extra support from Artreach in 2010 for its curatorial opportunities, and the Ontario Arts Council Multi-disciplinary Grants in 2011 for the production of its annual exhibition. Base funds for project creation support come from SKETCH through the TAC, OAC, and its Youth Social Infrastructure program suported by Laidlaw. CUE currently has pending requests being considered by the Ontario Arts Council Multi-Arts Projects, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Laidlaw Youth Organizing multi-year funding.
CUE has engaged 77 marginalized youth artists to create art projects, conducted over 500 one-on-one mentorship sessions with youth artists and engaged over 400 youth participating in a more sporadic fashion (artist collaborations, volunteers, workshops). CUE artists have exhibited their work in over 30 public events and venues. Many youth artists use CUE as a launching pad into education and artistic careers; applying for future funding; connecting with media and public audience; networking with arts professionals; forming collaborations and collectives; and selling and exhibiting work. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and CUE is garnering participation requests year round from an array of youth experiencing exclusion.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
“Young adults (aged 20-30) have a weaker sense of belonging than older adults…”; “Toronto youth face barriers to accessing safe and welcoming public space in which to play, develop skills, generate youth-led enterprises and nurture civic engagement.”; “Youth lack the partnerships and mentorships with existing institutions that they desire in order to hone skills and access resources.” (Toronto's Vital Signs, 2011)
“The goals of educational programs (in the arts) include building future audiences, ensuring exposure to the arts and community building (through the arts)”. (Toronto's Vital Signs, 2011)
"The CUE project has opened so many doors for me. Previously, I hadn't thought I could be successful in getting arts funding. CUE has helped me gain the confidence I had once lacked to achieve goals to the greatest of measures. Through peer mentorship they taught me how to properly complete a strong grant application for their last cycle in 2010. Since then I have continuously received support in grant writing for other councils and arts funding. One was funded by Artreach Toronto in September 2011; in addition I have received another grant for producing music, and another from the Ontario Arts Council for a organizing a visual arts exhibition."
- 2011 CUE Artist
Activities a donation will support
All donations will go directly to support youth artists' projects, and to allow project youth leaders to work individually with these artists. We welcome direct artist sponsorships and commissions (also gift certificates to art supply and music stores). Please contact CUE for art work samples. Grants to this program will enable CUE to enhance the resources provided to artists, as well as support coordinators and team members in delivering programming.
Tax receipts for donations are available though SKETCH.
With financial support, CUE will be able to directly support projects from marginalized youth artists in the GTA, refine its program framework of peer mentorship and public exhibition which builds personal and professional capacity in youth artist participants, and ultimately introduces unique visions from marginalized creators to mainstream audiences - bridging the gap between "marginalized youth" and "mainstream" arts scenes, shifting perceptions and stereotypes associated with marginalized communities—effectively building a more connected and inclusive culture.