Five years ago, I curiously walked over to a group of art makers at Out of the Cold; I was greeted warmly and handed a paintbrush. I was new to the group, and was touched by the attention and praise I received from other artists and volunteers. I created two paintings that season, but did not attend the art show. I returned to the art program the following year, and learned that both my pieces had sold and that I had earned money for the works.
This news from the volunteer made me feel valued and respected as an artist, and motivated me to spend more time creating art—paintings and drawings, creative writing, and ceramics.
Embracing this challenge has changed my life. I have become more involved in the Art Circle, creating its logo, and initiating individual and group art projects that engage fellow artists and pay tribute to program volunteers and donors. I have also become involved with The Illuminator, a downtown community newsletter committed to bringing positivity to our community through stories, poetry and artwork. Here I have submitted personal stories and artwork, and am thrilled that fellow contributors are also cultivating their individual talents.
Personally, my career as an artist has flourished and I have grown as a Canadian citizen. It is not easy for a refugee to feel comfortable in Toronto, Canada. I left my home behind to confront a new world, a new language and a new culture in Canada. It’s been difficult for me working as a labourer for minimum wage – $10.45/hour. My zest for life and drive to be a better person enabled me to transform the frustrations I felt working as a labourer into creative works of art. I devoted my spare time to portraying the beauty I found in the world around me through my art and making my art a reflection of how to live a better life.
The Art Circle, the free ceramics classes at First Interfaith Community at the Wichwood Centre, and my contributions to The Illuminator at Lawyers Feed the Hungry Program, have allowed me the opportunity to develop in the artistic world. Honing my artistic talents has been a cure for me. I have been able to recover my willpower to leave behind a life on the streets and a life of addiction. I have gained the strength to finally focus on a reason to live a better life. Not only have I been witness to the suffering of our people on the streets, I have been one of those people on the street. I have turned myself around and dream to be a role model for my fellow human beings in similar circumstances.
Meanwhile, I keep learning. The Art Circle, and my other supportive creative groups are my inspiration to perfect my skills, my inspiration to live better.
I now have the strength to understand Canadian culture and face it head on. I am no longer interested in escaping from reality. I embrace reality. Through paint, pen, and clay, I express the challenges faced by my friends and colleagues on the streets of Toronto. I illustrate the stories and ideas that constantly erupt in my mind. At the Art Circle’s annual show, I am able to showcase my work and fulfill my mission to bring the beauty that is all around us to light.