Opinion: How Indigenous and Asian artists can uplift the Downtown Eastside

Sep 9 2023, 5:16 am

Written for Daily Hive Urbanized by Jesse Gouchay, who is an Indigenous artist and co-founder of the Miska Creative Society, and Lorraine Lowe, who is the Executive Director of the Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

What do Miska Creative Society’s Jesse and Jenna Gouchay, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden’s Lorraine Lowe and Sam Shem, and Digital Hopes’ Sarah Blyth all have in common?

They share a passion for nurturing creativity and empowering youth in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES).

It goes without saying the DTES faces a myriad of challenges and struggles. Although there are many systemic challenges, this diverse neighbourhood has remained the beating heart of our city. By celebrating the intersection of arts, culture, and community, we aim to cultivate hope and uplift the creative spirit of the DTES.

Our organizations collaborated on an Indigenous-led art workshop series for DTES at-risk youth and children. We merged the backgrounds of two distinctive cultures — a showcase of local Indigenous and Asian Pacific Islander artists to guide and inspire creativity that brought out the best of the universal language of storytelling. We used it as a medium to transform human energy into uplifting expressions of beauty, vision, and resilience.

In our workshops, we created welcoming spaces where all children could experiment through different mediums of art. It brought out their creative potential with the support from accomplished mentors without judgment.

dr sun yat sen classical chinese garden art workshop

DTES Youth Art Workshops with Miksa. (Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden)

As guides, we offered encouragement rooted in our cultural values of unity, empathy, and compassion. We aimed to nurture each child’s unique artistic voice to inspire self-confidence and success.

Our programs aimed to counter hardship with hope and nurture personal growth by exposing youth to diverse artistic perspectives.

Many of the challenges DTES at-risk youth and children typically face go unnoticed, even though such issues could have long term detrimental effects on their mental health and well-being. The program promoted self-confidence and gave these young artists a platform, as their work will be featured in an upcoming exhibition during the Mid-Autumn Festival at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

We felt this event would be a meaningful opportunity for the children to share their creativity and spirit with the community.

dr sun yat sen classical chinese garden art workshop

DTES Youth Art Workshops with Miksa. (Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden)

The DTES has long been stereotyped as derelict and dangerous, but beyond the headlines there are powerful and personal stories of struggle, survival, and dreams.

Powerful things can happen when youth are given the opportunity to make organic connections. While diversity shapes who we are, the driving force in bridging communities comes from identifying our similarities.

The participating DTES youth will exhibit their artwork at the upcoming Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden’s annual hosting of the festival aligns with their mission to unite people through cultural outreach. In addition to bringing community together and celebrating rich Chinese cultural traditions, the festival also serves as a platform to highlight and uplift these young voices while encouraging intercultural connection.

We warmly invite you to join us and appreciate the incredible talents of these youths at this special celebration. Your support will uplift their spirits and bring our community together. Visit this website to reserve your ticket today.

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