3.5 Beautiful trouble: Possibilities in the arts with street-involved youth

 Beautiful trouble makers who remember, resist and reimagine. 

—Min Sook Lee, OCAD University, Art and Social Change 

Offering Crys a ride “home” after a jewelry-making workshop led me to a makeshift “shanty town” under the Bathurst Street bridge in Toronto. I was struck by the vivid colour and detail in this woven compilation of blankets, boxes, and condo sales sandwich boards, used to create multi-storey structures, walls, doors, beds, tables, and chairs. It looked like a theatre set. Crys told me that over 20 youth lived there, and it had taken months to construct. Everyone had a role in this “under-the-bridge” community. Someone fed the dogs and another created the schedule for their walks; someone held the alarm clock to wake people for jobs, school, or appointments; others led study and support groups for those in school, and those wanting to “stay clean.” And of course, many of them were musicians, poets, and artists who made things to sell instead of panhandling and who entertained each other in the evenings. They shared their earnings and combined costs, especially for meal-making that happened over their custom-made Bunsen burners. They met weekly to make decisions and talk through problems. Crys was pretty proud of that place and it evoked a kind of envy in me for creative, cooperative, and alternative community. 

Sean Kidd, Natasha Slesnick, Tyler Frederick, Jeff Karabanow, Stephen Gaetz
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press