Charmaine Arellano-Chua, Prachir Pasricha, Tiffany Sun, and Maxwell Tran of Ink Movement come together to highlight ways in which their organization encourages young writers to get creative and develop their skills.
1. Tell us about how your organization got started. What inspired you to establish Ink?
Ink Movement Founder and Executive Director, Maxwell Tran: I was an avid spoken word poet and essayist throughout high school. As a result, I recognized that there was a severe need for more creative expression opportunities targeted at youth. For example, aspiring poets, novelists, and journalists require a portfolio of writing, yet publishing opportunities are few and far in between. I wanted to create a book that would showcase talented young writers. My first step was to contact each City Councillor and pitch my idea for the project. Through Councillor George Carlson’s office, I was connected to City of Mississauga’s Culture Division. With support from the City and a dedicated team of students, Ink Movement published the inaugural Mississauga Youth Anthology with Coach House Books. We then held a book launch at the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM) during Mississauga REBEL Youth Week; the AGM has been a fantastic partner for us as well. After the launch, excitement surrounding Ink Movement grew rapidly and the organizing team grew accordingly. I knew that we just had to plan more initiatives to celebrate writing and creativity.
2. How has Ink helped to promote literacy, as well as skills like critical thinking and creativity?
The Mississauga Youth Anthology promoted literacy, critical thinking, and creativity. Youth were challenged to submit poems, short stories, and essays along the themes of overcoming adversity and finding beauty in everyday life. With such broad themes, it was neat to see the vastly different directions that the authors took. The quality of the submissions we received was exceptionally high. The fact that Ink Movement helped 30 young writers become published authors received a lot of positive attention from the literary community. We are turning the anthology into an annual endeavour in order to impact as many students as possible.
There are several other initiatives that Ink Movement has undertaken to benefit the community. During the summer of 2013, the “Write Now” series of experiential writing workshops at the AGM was launched. Guest speakers lead youth through fun and educational writing activities, with topics ranging from spoken word poetry to resume writing to anti-oppression writing. Through these workshops, the importance of literacy, critical thinking, and creativity is emphasized. In fact, published author, poet, and York University English professor Priscila Uppal will be leading a Found Poetry workshop on Sunday, February 23 from 2-4 PM. Found Poetry incorporates bits and pieces of text from any medium you can think of: public transit adverts, washroom stall messages, novels, etc.
Most recently, Ink Movement promoted literacy by organizing a Holiday Book Drive in Peel District School Board schools. Over 1,000 books were collected in support of Goodwill and Peel Youth Village. As for what is to come, Ink Movement is currently finalizing details for Project Inkwell 2014, a one-day conference that will strive to empower youth through the arts. Youth attendees can expect inspiring keynote speeches, entertaining performances, and engaging workshops in writing, music, and other art fields. Project Inkwell is generously funded through a $1300 Youth in Action grant from United Way of Peel Region.
3. What are some of the lasting benefits your participants experience? Do they continue to be involved as they get older?
One lasting benefit that participants experience is greater knowledge of writing forms such as poetry or short fiction. Participants can advance their craft by learning from experts through Ink Movement’s Write Now workshops. Another benefit to participants is heightened appreciation of art in general. Ink Movement is grateful to have access to the AGM, a spacious facility with a number of wonderful art exhibits on display each year. Besides that, many participants have noted improved confidence and communication skills after taking advantage of performance opportunities at workshops. Ink Movement always fosters a safe, respectful environment for anyone who wants to share their work. In addition, Ink Movement provides a support system, which is important because writing is generally a solitary art. Participants can make friends and valuable connections, often with established artists. Lastly, Ink Movement grants participants with the ability to leave a legacy, through projects such as the Mississauga Youth Anthology. Thirty young authors now proudly possess a book that they can keep with them for the rest of their lives. For this reason, many Ink Movement participants do continue to be involved as they get older. Several Ink Movement members who have graduated high school maintain their involvement through design and online and word-of-mouth marketing.
4. Besides helping young people to become better writers, how does participation in Ink help them in their academic and personal life?
Art is a powerful tool for self-expression. Ink Movement aims to help youth overcome their struggles through constructive means such as writing or other creative mediums. Since creating art can invoke a therapeutic release, youth who participate in Ink Movement can relieve stress and improve their mental health.
Furthermore, Ink Movement generates a network of students who share a passion for creativity. For example, Ink Movement recently ran an open mic and coffeehouse event with another youth group, AIM: Aspire, Innovate, Motivate. At the same time, Ink Movement connects artists with role models and mentors. Many Write Now workshop leaders and Project Inkwell presenters are professionals in their respective art fields, with decades of experience. Networking can facilitate important learning and job opportunities, especially for young artists.
With regards to academics, Ink Movement helps students improve their communication skills. In particular, the Write Now workshops provide opportunities for attendees to both learn and perform. The workshops, along with the anthology and the conference, will assist young writers in building a portfolio they can use for school or future writing pursuits.
5. What’s next for Ink? What new and exciting initiatives do you have planned?
The Ink Movement team has numerous exciting initiatives planned for this year. Our “Write Now” workshop series, which is free and open to the public, will continue to run at the AGM and at Mississauga Central Library. As mentioned, our next workshop on February 23rd will be hosted by Priscila Uppal. Ms. Uppal has started a project, titled “Your Mississauga”, to which Ink Movement is contributing by compiling “found poetry.”
Considering the immense success of last year’s Mississauga Youth Anthology, Ink Movement will be launching its second Youth Anthology this year. In collaboration with the City of Mississauga Culture Division, we will feature poetry, short stories, photography, and artwork produced by students across the Greater Toronto Area. This time, our goal is to publish 50 young writers instead of 30.
The organization’s signature event for 2014, Project Inkwell, will take place on Saturday, April 5th. The arts-focused and youth-driven conference is bound to provide an unforgettable experience for Mississauga youth. The list of presenters include Shawn Micallef, an author and Toronto Star columnist, Anna Yin, an award-winning poet, and Matthew Jones “Testament,” a spoken word artist with UNITY Charity. More information on the conference can be found on: http://projectinkwell2014.com/.
Ink Movement itself is expanding. Founder and Executive Director Maxwell Tran, now a first-year university student at McMaster University, is building Ink Movement Hamilton. He recently established community partnerships with the Hamilton Arts Council and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Ink Movement chapters in Brampton, Toronto, and Richmond Hill are on the way.
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