Artwork/Streetlives, Street-involved Youth in Thunder Bay: A Community-based, Art-informed inquiry

Artwork / Streetlives is a community-based, arts-informed, research project which addresses harm reduction amongst street youth in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Nine street-involved participant researchers (supported by a team of researchers and community organizations) used art making and storytelling as ways of understanding the risks specific to street-involved youth in Thunder Bay. Due to the heterogeneous nature of the participant researcher group and a majority of Aboriginal research participants, a novel approach was used to create principles of research collaboration, in pursuit of the principles of ownership, control, access and possession for ethical research with Aboriginal peoples. The participant researchers found that their most common experience was their vulnerability to governmental social services and law enforcement personnel and policies. They further agreed that the risk of losing their children to child protection services is a source of increased vulnerability and a barrier to accessing treatment. They all agreed that the process of art making was fruitful and were surprised by the clarity and evocative nature of their artwork, finding that meeting weekly to do art is gratifying and therapeutic. They were interested to discover that the art they created, just by telling their stories, contained strong prevention messages they would have been influenced by as younger people. As such the participants want to continue making art, and showing their work, particularly to young people, social service providers, and law enforcement officers, who they think are in the best position to learn from it. This project is building capacity in the community (by teaching artmaking, group work, organizing, critical thinking, and presentation skills), is contributing to scholarship, and significantly and positively impacting the lives of the participant researchers. This work is represented in traditional academic prose and as collaborative fiction.

Publication Date: 
University of Toronto (Canada)
Thunder Bay, ON, Canada