How Raising Artists is Encouraging Creativity and Imagination

Raising Artists is an art program designed for children and parents held in SKETCH at Artscape Youngplace and the Centre for Social Innovation (Regent Park) at Daniels Spectrum. We spoke with CEO and founder, Alessandra Moretti, to learn more about how Raising Artists nurtures creativity, imagination and self-expression.


Artscape: How did Raising Artists come to be?

Alessandra: One day, I was challenged to think about how I could combine my two dearest passions: children and art. I thought about the environment I was raised in and how art was part of that, and had a lasting effect on my life. Then, I thought about children who are denied opportunities to experience art, and an idea emerged. What if we created a parent-and-child based program, where all participants could experience the joy of the creative process?


How do you see the vision of Raising Artists in action?

We have had the pleasure of meeting many students and parents; they come to our workshops and return home with myriad new art techniques. Parents tell me all the time how their child uses our class techniques and set-up at home when they paint. This warms my heart and really hits home that what we are doing in the studio is being absorbed by the children. I see them develop confidence in their art and continue to explore their creativity at home. These are skills they can take with them forever.

“We breathe inspiration into each project and let them run wild with it. The end product is one which inspires awe in all of us.”


Raising Artists clearly believes in the transformative power of creativity. Can you speak more about that?

Deep inside of each of us is a still pool of creativity.  Raising Artists attempts to create a whirlpool in that still pool by promoting imagination as a guiding force, suggesting ideas and teaching the participant to transfer the intangible onto canvas. In this environment we do not allow self-criticism, encouraging artists to hit the reset button on how they see themselves and interpret beauty.

How has Raising Artists been a tool of self-expression or creativity for your team?

The budding artists at Raising Artists have taught me to approach art and life from all angles. There is no one route to beauty; there is no one way to create; there is no one method of design. It is not a one-size-fits-all world, but it is a world that fits all sizes.


What risks have you taken to establish Raising Artists? Do you have any advice for starting a creativity-oriented business for other entrepreneurs and small business-owners?

Personal time, personal finances and personal advancements were all at risk when I created Raising Artists. But it was the best investment of my life! To other creative entrepreneurs I’d say don’t give up. Every day is a struggle; remember that if being an entrepreneur were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Also, be open to everything! We all have our practices, habits, sequences and schedules.  Throw that book out the window. Be flexible and embrace the unknown and unusual and find beauty in that. There are no rules to creativity, only inspiration.


What do you think blocks children’s creative development?

A child deprived of experience is a child barred from creativity. Each experience is a seed of creation: galleries, books, magazines, interaction with others, foods, smells, sounds.  We learn from everything we see, hear, eat, touch; this is a physical world.

How can parents and caregivers encourage children to be more creative at home?

By talking, describing, sharing ideas, designing together, group interactions with extended family and friends, and undertaking silly projects, grand projects, small projects, large projects, funny projects, household item projects, pieces-of-the-environment projects, investigations of the natural world together. The potential to create is all around us.  Parents and caregivers need to recognize this before they can encourage children to embrace their potential.


What do you enjoy about hosting Raising Artists in Artscape buildings?

Raising Artists in Artscape buildings… could it be any more ideal? Artscape buildings are environments that inherently foster creativity through their involvement in local communities. Combined with the boundless young creativity at Raising Artists, Artscape spaces come alive.  The fact that I can carve out a little niche in Artscape for my budding artists tells me there is a place in this world for everyone.

Learn more about Raising Artists at and follow them on InstagramTwitterFacebook.

Florida Highwaymen Exhibition at Daniels Spectrum

Florida Highway Men

For the month of February, Daniels Spectrum is celebrating Black History Month by mounting a major selection of original paintings from the historic and celebrated Florida Highwaymen. The exhibit will be supported by 26 commissioned portraits of each of the Florida Highwaymen, created by contemporary Canadian contemporary artist Peter Shmelzer. Together, their work represents the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship and personal and civil resilience.

An Opening Reception for the exhibition will be held at Daniels Spectrum on Thursday, February 9 from 6pm to 10pm. The exhibitions are open to the public daily (Mon–Fri 8 am – 9pm, Sat–Sun 10am – 6pm) from February 9 – March 12, 2017 in our Hallway Galleries.

The exhibition brings together 30 original pieces created by the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 self-taught African-American landscape painters that formed during the mid-1950s in Fort Pierce, Florida. Their careers took shape during the violent social conditions of the Jim Crow South, where pursuing a career as an artist presented an alternative to working in citrus groves and labor camps. The name “highwaymen” stuck because their work was originally shunned by local galleries during segregation, forcing these entrepreneurs to sell their art from car trunks along Florida’s highways and door-to-door. To keep costs down, the artists used Upson board for their canvases, and window moldings for their frames. Between 250,000 and 400,000 of these paintings were sold, typically for no more than $35 each.

The artists developed a mode of impressionism with an undeniable and necessary social consciousness. The remarkable use of colour, interpreted as a form of escapism from the racial tensions of the time, give each seemingly neutral image a spectacular, almost ethereal quality. Each work becomes an emblem of longing, looking towards nature to envision a new American life.

All works in this exhibition have been generously loaned to Daniels Spectrum by Tony Hayton, an Ottawa-based Canadian art collector who was introduced to the Highwaymen in 2000.  “I call them the last great American art movement of the 20th century”, Hayton says in admiration. “I believe that people are going to look back on these artist 50 years from now and say that was a special period of time.”  Hayton and the only female Florida Highwayman, Mary Ann Caroll, will be present at the at the opening reception.

From his collection of 80 original Florida Highwaymen paintings, Tony has lent individual works to a number of small shows and exhibitions, but longed for an opportunity to show to a larger group. His persistence caught the attention of Vicki Heyman, wife of current US ambassador to Canada and an enthusiastic patron of American art. The opportunity manifested itself into two widely received exhibits at the Montreal Art Centre (May 2016) and the SAW Gallery in Ottawa (February 2016).

We thank Mr. Hayton for his dedication to the preservation of the legacy of the Florida Highwaymen and are honoured to have been chosen as the final Canadian stop for the exhibition. Daniels Spectrum’s Hallway Galleries aims to support and showcase underrepresented artists and artists of colour from a variety of disciplines. The exhibition intentionally coincides with Black History Month as a means to encourage cross-cultural dialogue on topics that range from black history, contemporary racial politics, and strategies for social justice in the future.



2017 Ada Slaight Youth Arts Mentorship Program

Are you a youth (age 14 – 24) interested in the arts and taking your talent to the next level? Well this is the program for you! We have started recruitment for youth interested in the arts from the Regent Park Community to join the 2017 edition of the Ada Slaight Youth Arts Mentorship Program.

Through this program, you will

  • Connect with other professional artists in the city and beyond
  • Get partnered with an industry mentor
  • Visit the city’s most influential arts and cultural institutions
  • Deepen their artistry and get plugged into Toronto’s arts community
  • Put together an amazing showcase for the community

The program will run from mid-January to mid-May 2017.

If you are interested, get in touch with Tomas “Tom Tom” Kanene  or visiting the Artscape office on the 2nd floor of Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St. East). Deadline to sign up is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10TH @ 5PM.

Get a sense of the energy and benefits of this program; check out our 2016 wrap-up video below!


Artscape gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Slaight Family Foundation that makes this program possible.

Youth Workers Make Change in Regent Park

Jason and Jermyn Creed talk mentorship, loving their community and how the next generation is giving back

By Karen Whaley | Photography by Yasin Osman | Sound Recording/Editing by Candice McCavitt


Jason and Jermyn Creed are practically celebrities in Regent Park. Teens mob them for high fives outside of the Pathways to Education office where the twins are employed as youth workers. “We call it being a hood superstar,” says Jermyn with a laugh. In their years working at Pathways (Jason: 12; Jermyn: 7), they have helped countless youth navigate their way through high school, both inside and outside of the classroom, and pursue their post-secondary goals.

The Creed brothers are part of a strong tradition of youth mentorship and community leadership in Regent Park. They follow in the footsteps of other legendary youth workers like Kenneth Slater, Nation Cheong and Lucky Boothe, all of whom have been employed at one time or another at Dixon Hall.

Jason credits the persistence of Debra Dineen for getting him his first full-time job with benefits at the health centre and later for hounding him into applying for his current position at Pathways. “She saw something in me that I didn’t know I had in myself,” he says. Jermyn says that Nation actually saved his life, offering him work at Dixon Hall’s homeless shelter when he was one paycheque away from being homeless himself. It was seeing his brother Jason’s success as a youth worker at Pathways that eventually convinced him to make a career change.

“We did walk the rough road that we tell kids not to walk,” says Jermyn. “But when we were ready to be the men we were supposed to be, our community was fully there to support us.”


Jason and Jermyn’s personal history in Regent Park is not just what fuels their passion, it’s what gives them credibility. Young people trust the Creeds because they have experienced the same challenges and overcame the same barriers. “I didn’t learn this from no teacher. What we do comes from the heart. One thing I’ve always said is, real recognizes real. That’s the reason we can get to so many youths,” says Jermyn.

As Student Parent Support Workers at Pathways to Education, Jason and Jermyn are responsible for monitoring a student’s grades and school attendance, helping them choose a career path and motivating them to succeed. That can mean tough love for students who show up to their offices with poor grades and bad excuses. But, as Jason explains, youth need strong adult role models to hold them accountable for their actions. “When I stop cussing you, or congratulating you, it means I don’t care,” he says.

Though the brothers have built a career helping students achieve academic excellence, neither have a post-secondary diploma; in fact, Jason dropped out of high school after grade 10. They took some classes at Ryerson School of Social Work but decided not to continue because of how the program discouraged social workers from becoming too personally invested in their work.

“I don’t want the system to corrupt my passion for doing this,” Jason says. “I’ve been told, you’re too passionate, you can’t save them all. Maybe I can’t save them all, but I’m going to try.”

“Is that what you tell the fireman when he’s running into the building?!” Jermyn interjects.


Jason and Jermyn don’t consider the work they’re doing a typical nine-to-five job. They feel that it is essential to make themselves fully available to the youth in Regent Park, 24 hours a day, so that they can intervene in times of crisis.

“Some of my students who are in danger, who have risky behavior, those kids have my number and when they need me I’ll pick up my phone. Why? If Kenneth, Lucky and Nation didn’t pick up their phones for me, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” says Jermyn.

For the Creed brothers, one of the most rewarding things about being youth workers is watching the youth they mentored become mentors themselves. The current generation of youth in Regent Park are finding new ways to achieve their dreams and give back to their community. “They’re kind of living the way I wanted to live growing up, but we didn’t have those outlets,” Jason says.

The new crop of youth mentors includes people like 23-year-old Jamal Burger, aka. Jayscale, who has achieved Instagram fame with his daredevil rooftop photography. Last year, he used his connections in the streetwear industry to organize a shoe drive for kids in Regent Park. Fellow photographer Yasin Osman, 24, has combined his love of the lens with his skills as an Early Childhood Educator to start a photography program for youth called #Shoot4Peace. Trevlyn Kennedy, 23, uses her talents as an actress and spoken-word artist as one of the stars of The Journey and as a dance and drama instructor at the Regent Park Community Centre and Dixon Hall.

“This is the new Regent Park,” says Jason. “You know, at one time everybody was chasing money. So it’s great to turn around and see people chasing passion and actually wanting to help youth… Mentorship is everywhere around.”

Jason and Jermyn Creed are two of the community builders who inspired The Journey: A Living History of the Regent Park Revitalization, a spirited musical based on the story of three young people living in the Regent Park neighbourhood. Find out more at

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