Art Starts – Bringing Communities together with art!

Art Starts is a charitable, not for profit organization committed to arts-based community development in the city of Toronto. Their mission is to build healthier communities using the arts.

They are effectivly using the arts as a vehicle to encourage social change in at-risk neighborhoods. They are running a number of awesome projects and we are stoked to have them as this week’s Cause of the Week.

Art Starts brings together professional artists with people from various neighborhoods and create projects and programs in all artistic media, with all ages, with artists and participants from various ethnic backgrounds. They reflect the cultures of the neighborhood and build bridges among them!

Look out for their tweets coming from our twitter accounts this week and make sure to follow them @ArtStartsTO!

How did the whole idea come about?

captured_Image.png Founded in 1992 by a group of artists under the mandate of building healthier communities using the arts, Art Starts uses the arts as a vehicle to encourage social change in at-risk neighbourhoods in the City of Toronto. We do this by offering high quality, responsive and relevant creative opportunities to those who do not have access – namely people living in under served and stressed communities, free of charge. We understand that the arts are a medium for engaging residents, creating a shared sense of identity, identifying challenges and collectively working to overcome them.

We ask. We listen. And then we design programs—based on the needs, interests, orientation, resources (or lack thereof), and make-up of the communities and artists with whom we work. We draw from all artistic disciplines, program in myriad spaces and places, partner with groups, troupes, agencies, libraries, businesses, police and others too numerous to list, provide translation, and deliver programs that are as varied structurally and artistically as the diversity inherent in the communities they serve.

Why is this cause close to your heart? Why should other support it?

captured_Image.png[4] Art Starts is close to so many people’s hearts! From the founders, the many members of staff to volunteers and artists that have worked with us, but most importantly to the thousands of community members of all ages that have participated in our programs and events over the years.

We have seen first hand the difference that engaging residents in these communities has made and the lasting effects on the individuals and families we work with. Part of our goal is to maintain lasting relationships and encourage community members to take the lead to secure funding and initiate their own programs, which would help to keep these programs sustainable in the long term.

Supporting Art Starts is in turn supporting and engaging these communities, residents and families.

Do you have any other events or fundraisers that you would like others to know about?

The holidays are a time for giving and this year we are asking that people think of giving back and make a donation to Art Starts in the name of a loved one. Receiving a tax-receipt for donations over $20.00 it’s a great idea and we guarantee that all donations made go into funding our programs. All donations can be given though at

What advice would you give to others that might like to take on such an amazing endeavor?

That community arts development is such a rewarding field to be in! Joining organizations like the Neighbourhood Arts Network can be an invaluable resource for meeting others in the same field, sharing ideas, getting advice and partnering on projects. Also getting out and learning about which organizations are already established will teach you a lot about what has succeeded in the past, what are the requirements to secure different types of funding and what communities are looking for and are in need of.

How has social media helped your organization?

Social Media has helped our organization have an up to the minute current link to community members, partnership organizations and media outlets. We are able to pass along relevant information to those who seek it and through networking have made some great connections and relationships with others who we may have never linked up with. One of the key questions we always receive at Art Starts is “What do you do?” but even before asking that question if you stumble across our Facebook page or Twitter feed you get a better glimpse into our day to day workings then what reading our mandate would be able to tell you.

What do you have planned for the future of Art Starts?

At Art Starts we are currently in the works creating fee for service programs to be offered in 2011 at our Yorkdale Community Arts Centre location. This new initiative of social enterprise will hopefully provide an ongoing funding source funneling back into running our free arts programs.

Art Starts has been undergoing such great growth and prosperity and we hope to continue this upward momentum and continue to keep offering the same high quality, engaging community arts programs while expanding and reaching more people and communities then even before.