by Focus on Nature
Focus on Nature is a local Community Benefit Organization that connects kids to nature through photography. With early support and guidance from the Guelph Arts Council (GAC), we have evolved from one mother’s great idea for encouraging her own kids to spend more time outdoors into the popular school program that we provide today.
In many ways we are a child of the GAC, as the Council nurtured Focus on Nature through its early steps of defining itself as an arts organization – while we linked with other like-minded community groups, writing successful grant applications, and piloting workshops in local elementary schools. Under the umbrella of the Arts Council, we were able to attract sufficient funding to get to the point where we are now: a thriving social enterprise with our own Registered Charity number from Revenue Canada.
From the beginning a core concept of Focus on Nature was to awaken a love of nature in children. An appreciation of the arts has always been an important way of discovering beauty in the natural world. Put a camera in the hands of a young person, show them how to shoot a well-composed image of nature and you open their eyes to new ways of seeing. “I never knew what a tree looked like before.” “I love exploring my backyard with my camera as soon as I get home.” These are some of the comments we receive from kids who have taken the day-long Focus on Nature workshop. A window of creative possibilities is opened, often for the first time, and the young photo artists are very proud of their work.
As a volunteer-driven organization we bring the community into the classroom. Volunteer mentors share their love of the arts, of science, of photography, and the joy of being outdoors, with the class. We are building bridges between generations that help build bridges to an appreciation of the natural world.
We teach them how to find the beauty of nature in their own neighbourhood, and then how to share that with their friends, families and community. Recently, the Guelph General Hospital Foundation commissioned 60 of the students’ photos as a tribute to their retiring CEO. These photos now hang permanently on the hospital walls to forever brighten the lives of patients, visitors and staff alike. The idea that their work will make a positive difference in other people’s lives is something that the students won’t soon forget.
Today Focus on Nature is touching the lives of thousands of young people, and reaching the wider community as well, with the message that our connections to nature need to be nurtured. The arts are an important way of achieving that and we thank GAC for helping to make this reality a dream come true!
Thank you, Focus on Nature, for helping us to celebrate our 40th anniversary, and for all you do to make Guelph a rich artistic community!