The St. Paul and District Arts Foundation is hoping to reduce crime and vandalism in the region through a new artistic mentorship program for at-risk youth and adults.
The program would be implemented over two years. In the first year, professional artists in the community would partner with an at-risk youth or adult to train them in the process of putting together a public art piece and completing an art project.
In the second year, successful participants would go on to become the mentors in training to a new at-risk individual.
“So eventually the artist would be phased out and the program would keep growing from there,” said Valerie Pratch, treasurer, St. Paul and District Arts Foundation.
According to Pratch, the most unique part of the project is that the mentee would be paid during the process of learning, training, and executing the project, something Pratch says is a little bit outside the box as ideas for addressing crime go.
“The idea is to try to get to the root problem of why the crimes are occurring, and to get buy-in, or ownership in the community is number one. Number two is to be able to give that at-risk youth or adult the idea that being an artist can be a viable career,” said Pratch.
The foundation won’t hear back on if the project will be funded or not until the end of March, but Pratch is hopeful they’ll get at least something and noted they did receive a number of letters of support for their application including from the St. Paul and District Chamber of Commerce, Victim Services, Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre, and Alberta Justice.
The County of St. Paul Council discussed the grant application during their Jan. 12 regular council meeting and voted in favour of a letter of support for the initiative.
According to County of St. Paul CAO Sheila Kitz, the Civil Society Fund is the same program that County of St. Paul and Elk Point FCSS had received some funding through last year and ultimately returned to the government.
“It was a very difficult process to find the at-risk youth and then to put them into any kind of a program,” said Kitz.
Div. 4 Coun. Maxine Fodness said she thought if the Foundation were successful in applying for the grant, they would be able to provide some support and opportunities in the community.
Pratch declined to specify how much money the Foundation hopes to receive for the project, but said their goal was to be able to mentor approximately 10 people each year.
“Another thing I should mention is that part of the idea with this grant is that if it’s successful in your community they [the government] want to know how to apply it into other communities in the province,” said Pratch.
To that end, she said local filmmaker and documentarian Eric Spoeth, who is also an artist in residence at the Arts Foundation, plans to document the process and make a film which could then be shared with other communities.