It is a hot and dry summer day on this Saturday in Parade Gardens, and the streets are alive with screaming children everywhere. But this activity is not a result of what many Jamaicans may typically know about the Parade Gardens community. This is not a violent or sad day. The children are screaming and alive because they are free to create, imagine, laugh, play, get messy and just be children.
On June 30, 2018, spearheaded by The MultiCare Youth Foundation (MYF), Parade Gardens was in full swing with the staging of the foundation’s Art on the Street Exhibition, where the creative works of the children who regularly participate in the MYF’s community art programme got the opportunity to showcase their talents through pottery, screen prints, paintings, Papier Mache masterpieces and so much more. The day focused on demonstrations from the participants guided by the volunteers who train them, as well as opportunities to purchase the pieces they created. All sale proceeds feed directly back into the programme.
Now, you may think this was a one-off event, but the MYF has been facilitating the weekly “Art on the Street” workshops for youth between the ages of 5 and 18 since 2001. The programme focuses on building skills, confidence and general hope amongst some of the most vulnerable and at-risk youth within the downtown Kingston area. Approximately 30-35 children are at the intersection of Gold and Barry Streets each week, bringing to life their latest creations.
Stanford Watson, visual arts coordinator at the foundation since 1999, as well as a graduate and now lecturer at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, shared that community members contributed to the preparations for the exhibition by painting the sidewalks and helping to set up for the day. When asked about the vision of the programme and the exhibition, Mr. Watson stated, “The vision was to get people to believe more in themselves and their abilities. Help them to find other ways to define themselves.”
Executive Director of the foundation, Alicia Glasgow Gentles, confirmed this by sharing some of the outcomes they have witnessed over the years. By offering an outlet for self-expression, participants display improved behaviours, better performance in school and develop increased soft skills such as discipline, teamwork and respect for others despite differences. “We have seen self-affirming things coming from the children.”
The programme is propelled by volunteers who are sourced by Mr. Watson across various skill areas to facilitate workshops with the children every Saturday between 10 am and 2 pm. Volunteers are always needed, and so persons are encouraged to contact the MYF to be a part of the creative genius happening in Parade Gardens. Visit their website at www.multicarefoundation.org for more details.
The MultiCare Youth Foundation is a non-profit, youth development organization that provides social intervention programmes to benefit approximately 2,500 vulnerable youth annually from more than 69 marginalized communities across Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine.