The impressive collection of artwork wasn’t the only display of vibrant youth potential at the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council’s Second Annual Youth Art Gala. The hard work of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) in preparing the event was equally as impressive as the artwork contributed from secondary and post-secondary students throughout the city.
The Youth Art Gala, held February 25th at the Sault Civic Centre between 7 and 11 pm, was the second Gala hosted by the MYAC. Showcased at the Gala were over 80 visual art displays, 3 short films, and 8 musical performances. The high school bistro programs from St. Mary’s CVS and Superior Heights CVS worked in collaboration to serve hors d’oeuvres. By the end of the night, over 380 people had attended the Gala. This showed an incredible growth in attendance and interest compared to the previous year. The mood of the event was pleasantly formal, yet exceptionally lively. Youth artists exhibited their art and performances with pride to patrons who were truly eager to see their work. The coordination of the evening Gala was thanks entirely to the 12 members of the MYAC: a City Council initiative in its second year having been created by Mayor Provenzano in the fall of 2015.
Rick Borean, City Supervisor of Community Services and Liaison for the MYAC and City Hall, shared the philosophy of the MYAC. “The main purpose of [the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council] is to bring a voice of the youth to City Hall and the City Council. [The MYAC] offers a lot of empowerment, improves decision-making skills as well as collaboration skills, and is a great opportunity for youth to work together.” The MYAC offers an invaluable platform for City Hall to have direct access to the concerns and opinions of the youth. The Council also serves as an ideal place for youth to propose changes within their community, and show a different perspective that City Hall may have overlooked otherwise.
Camile Irwin, a member since 2015 and Council Chair of the MYAC, sees the council as a tremendous benefit for the youth of Sault Ste. Marie. “I was always involved in community events through my high school tenure,” she said when asked why she had chosen to join the MYAC. “I just wanted to stay involved, because I love Sault Ste. Marie. I find it very easy to work with [City Hall] staff members. They’re really receptive to youth; we’re treated like adults, and I love that.” Irwin says that the MYAC has helped her to grow a deeper appreciation for what it means to be active in the community. She enjoys providing similar outlets of empowerment to her fellow youth. It was in hopes of continuing this youth empowerment that Irwin and her peers at the MYAC first conceived the idea of the Youth Art Gala last year.
“Last year, we were thinking of how we can celebrate all types of students. We know that there are lots of events for youth that celebrate athletics, and we hadn’t yet seen an event that did the same for young artists. So we wanted to look at a different perspective and a different spectrum. That’s how the [Youth Art Gala] was born.”
The preparation of this year’s Youth Art Gala was a 3-month venture, having begun in December. It involved spreading the word via social media networks such as Facebook, calling for artwork submissions from students, marketing, advertising, and ensuring the support of City Hall.
Rick Borean says that City Hall was just as enthusiastic as the youth council members. ““The city is always on board. It’s a great collaboration between youth and city staff and the city’s facility itself. It goes hand-in-hand, as we’re working together [in the preparation of the Youth Art Gala]. There was great support from all of the different departments, and many city staff come to the event, because it’s such a great showcase of what the youth are all about,” he said.
Camile Irwin also shared this opinion on the Gala’s benefit for youth artists. “I think it’s a good opportunity for [youth] to put out their own work and show their creativity. It’s a unique opportunity. It’s the entire city and it brings everyone together, too. It’s also something you can do on a Saturday night that isn’t school related, as it has nothing to do with credits or classes. They’re just coming out for fun and they’re bringing their friends, and we love to see that,” she said.
Juliana Regan, a Grade 12 student at St. Mary’s CVS, also had a positive opinion about the Gala as the contributor of 2 digital photography pieces, a short film, and a musical performance: “It was such an elegant evening! It was so nice to see the art community coming together because it was such a lovely opportunity for all the young artists to showcase their work and to meet other people who share their passion. It was so lovely and so well done, and it was such a positive environment. This was so nice because it was so inclusive and everybody could submit their work.” Regan had contributed to last year’s Youth Art Gala as well. She is incredibly thankful to the MYAC for both opportunities to showcase her artistic talent across several mediums.
Dozens of youth artists shared the same success in exposure as Juliana, thanks to the Second Annual Youth Art Gala and the youth who worked to see it become a reality. The event was a true triumph for youth on both sides.
“It’s hard sometimes to know if people are going to like your idea, or will want to show up. We kind of went on a whim and hoped that people will come. So that was a challenge. But when it was 7:15 and we had 200 people come through the door, we realized the preparation had worked, we knew it was another successful year,” said Camile Irwin on the Gala’s success.
The MYAC has plans to continue hosting a variety of youth events throughout the year, such as smaller coffee house style events featuring youth musical talent. “It’s our dream at the MYAC to keep doing more events, and bring the city together to celebrate the youth,” Irwin concluded.
100% of the Gala’s profits, made from $10 admissions, are being donated to Children’s ARCH in Algoma.