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RaY Youth Participants with artist Leah Decter
Program: Youth WITH ART
Location: 195 Young Street
Medium: Various media; Website
RaY is a street-level, non-profit agency that works with homeless and street-entrenched youth in the West Broadway area of the City of Winnipeg. The mission of RaY is to provide youth with what they need, on their terms, to better their lives. While the main area of focus is providing basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter to impoverished and street-entrenched youth, RaY also provides a continuum of services that address the whole individual including, but not limited to, addictions support, advocacy, prevention workshops, street outreach, mental health support, odd jobs and employment support.
RaY applied to the WITH ART program that matches artists with community groups in order to provide an outlet for youth to tell their own stories. For the most part, they are shut out of the conversation or are misrepresented by the dominant voices in society. Artist Leah Decter, who has worked extensively in socially-engaged art practice, and particularly with street-entrenched youth, guided the process of creating an art project that resonated with the participants. The result was the development and implementation of an ongoing weekly youth art drop-in and accompanying website. Developed with youth involvement in all aspects of decision-making, the drop-in has been named The Gutter Art Space or The G.A.S.. Youth continue to be involved in its operation, assisting in facilitating the drop-in, initiating and developing project ideas and contributing to the website. The project has given the youth a vehicle for self expression and an opportunity to share their experiences through digital connections.
Leah Decter is an inter-media artist currently based in Winnipeg, Canada; Treaty 1 territory. Her work integrates video, audio and other digital media, installation, textiles, performance, critical collaboration, social practice and writing. Decter has exhibited, presented and screened her work widely in Canada and internationally. Her social practice has included performative activist interventions and large-scale pubic art and dialogic projects across Canada. Decter holds an MFA in New Media from Transart Institute (Berlin) and is currently a PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies at Queens University (Kingston, Canada).