Supporting and Engaging Youth in the Arts through the Guelph Arts Council Youth Opportunities Award

122964134 1418658295005145 1223275589858055308 n 002

By Ahmri Vandeborne

Guelph Arts Council is currently accepting submissions for the Youth Opportunities Award, a fund dedicated to supporting youth in the arts by initiating, enhancing, or expanding opportunities for children and youth to experience or become engaged in the arts. Having been initially established as a result of the financial success of Youth in Performance presentations that Guelph Arts Council sponsored between 1980 and 1990, additions to the fund were made over the years, including being extended to graduating Guelph high school students. The award was briefly discontinued from 2005-2009, and re-established through funds generated from Guelph Arts Council Youth Opportunities Fund at The Guelph Community Foundation. The deadline to apply this year is November 15, 2020.

Embroidery Basics Example from 2019 Recipient Workshop. The Guelph Tool Library

The Youth Opportunities Award has seen many recipients of various disciplines including mounting a youth art show, teaching youth soundboard technology, a workshop series in conjunction with youth poetry slams, and various other youth workshops. Visit the full list of previous Guelph Arts Council Youth Opportunities Award Recipients online.

Last year, Steph Clarke from the Guelph Tool Library was the recipient of the award for which Thirza Armstrong took over the facilitation when Steph began a Merry Mask Makers project near the beginning of COVID-19. We had a chance to hear from the two of them about their project, a series of programs and workshops dedicated to upcycling and creative reuse for art making, including a Basics of Embroidery workshop that ran in the summer, and two upcoming workshops on bookbinding and fabric dying. “We hoped that the workshops encouraged skill building and sustainable artistry practices. We found out about the award on social media, and we felt it would be a great opportunity to engage young artists and get them involved with the tool library” notes Armstrong. The Guelph Tool Library, a treasured spot in Guelph Ontario with a recently new location in the old Quebec Street Shoppes, is a lending library full of tools and equipment for various tasks, crafts and occasions, including anything from a beeswax wrap making kit, to camping gear, to saws. By purchasing a reasonably priced annual membership, you have the ability to borrow any tool you want, in the same way you would check out a book at the library.

Screen Shot 2020 10 29 at 8.47.35 AM 002
Guelph Tool Library Website Homepage

When asked how the award helped them with their project, Armstrong and Clarke said “The award helped offset the cost of supplies and facilitator fees for our workshops, which we price on a sliding scale. Without the assistance of this award, we wouldn’t have been able to offer these workshops at an accessible price point while paying our facilitators for their time and talent.” Guelph Arts Council is proud to present such an opportunity to not only Armstrong and Clarke but to the past and future recipients as well, to develop and execute projects that wouldn’t have otherwise happened prior to receiving this award.

123032704 271916344181529 5534313328231137347 n
Bookbinding Example from 2019 Recipient Workshop. The Guelph Tool Library

COVID-19, as you would expect, changed the path of the 2019 award winners’ workshop series. “The pandemic certainly changed the shape of our plans for these workshops, as they originally required tool sharing and spacing that’s not possible during this global health crisis. But with the assistance of GAC, we’ve been able to adapt the way we deliver programs while still working to engage youth and support their artistic growth” Armstrong notes that even if there wasn’t a pandemic, “the best piece of advice I have for anyone applying for the award this year is to develop a clear plan that maintains flexibility.”

For more information on the Youth Opportunities Award and to apply, visit the awards and bursaries page of

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top