MASC Awesome Arts


MASC Awesome Arts

MASC (Multi-Cultural Arts for Schools and Communities)
250 Holland Avenue
Suite 213
Ottawa, ON K1Y 0Y5 CA
Phone: 613.725.9119
Fax: 613.728.3872

Focus: Media Arts, Music, Spoken Word Poetry, Theater, Visual Arts

Annual Number Participating: 350–725

Ages: 5–18

Annual Budget: $150,000

Partners: Boys & Girls Club through the U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Embassy Ottawa; Centre de services Guigues; Drug Users Advocacy League; Lowertown Community Resource Centre, Ottawa Community Housing; Pathways to Education; Patro d’Ottawa; Sandy Hill Community Health Centre

Funders: Anonymous Donor; AOE Neighbourhood Arts 150; Canada Council for the Arts; Community Foundation of Ottawa; Department of Canadian Heritage; Leacross Foundation; Lowertown Community Resource Centre; Ontario Arts Council; Ontario Trillium Foundation; Sandy Hill Community Health Centre; TELUS Ottawa Community Board; The City of Ottawa; U.S. Secretary of State

The power of the arts and the humanities is universal. The pride on children’s faces as they take their final bow transcends the boundaries of both language and geography. For this reason, we also highlight the importance of arts and humanities learning around the globe. We are proud to recognize a Canadian program in the field of Creative Youth Development: Awesome Arts, an initiative of MASC, in Ottawa, Ontario. This year, as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, the country’s arts and humanities also take center stage. We are grateful to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, for their assistance with the International Spotlight Honor.

Youth often describe the people, places, and things that inspire them as “awesome.” Given the opportunity to learn how to express themselves creatively—for example, through visual arts or spoken word poetry—young people begin to feel awesome. These positive experiences can be the catalyst for further creative explorations.

MASC Awesome Arts after-school program provides such opportunities. It also aligns with the field of Creative Youth Development, merging life skills like collaboration and creative problem solving with learning experiences in the arts and humanities.

Awesome Arts partners with social service organizations and the community to engage underserved youth ages 5 to 18 in bilingual and multidisciplinary arts programs. In workshops that range from two days to five months, students work alongside professional artists, educators, neighbors, friends, and family to explore personal and community issues. Next, they generate creative responses through music, film, and video projects, among other art forms. By raising awareness of local issues and proposing solutions through their artwork, participants foster thought-provoking conversations and insights, helping to create positive change in their community.

In addition to training participants in the performing and visual arts, professional artists mentor youth interns on how to facilitate workshops. They also provide information about the diverse field of cultural programming.

The annual Awesome Arts Festival celebrates the community, as program participants and professional artists showcase their work. The results of these creative efforts include a legacy of murals and visual art exhibitions that beautify neighborhoods, plus music videos, animated works, CinePoems, and mini-documentaries. Youth have also performed in spin-off events, gaining city-wide exposure.

New Voice Video and then One World Arts initially spearheaded the first six years of the Awesome Arts program. Its current format began in 2009, and in July 2013, MASC (Multi-Cultural Arts for Schools and Communities) began operating the program. Under MASC’s leadership, more than 1,125 Awesome Arts workshops have been provided to 1,500 participants. At its festivals, more than 7,200 Ottawans have enjoyed performances by nearly 1,000 program participants, as well as 85 local professional artists.

For eight years, MASC Awesome Arts has had a positive impact on the communities it serves. Interacting with the same neighborhoods over a prolonged period allows participants to grow with the program, while creating new relationships through shared artistic experiences. Not only do Awesome Arts programs enhance the educational outcomes of underserved Canadian youth and promote ongoing engagement with the arts, but they also contribute to safer, well-rounded neighborhoods.