Tucked behind shops in the vibrant James Street North arts community in Hamilton, Ontario, is RE-Create, a spacious studio space where youth on the fringes come to connect with their creative side.
For Brouwer, RE-Create is about making connections in real ways: “It’s really important the youth have a space to be themselves. We are creative people, it’s a vital part of who we are. RE-Create is somewhere safe to come and connect. We are impacted by their lives, and hopefully we impact their lives.”
Adam Burgess, a.k.a. Mouse, can attest to that. Living on and off the streets for most of his life, Mouse came to RE-Create in 2009 as a participant. “It gave me something to do and gave me a spot to come and really express myself,” he said. With the support of Brouwer and others at RE-Create, Mouse returned to school to obtain his diploma. Now he works part-time as RE-Create’s studio assistant.
RE-Create offers a drop-in art program with guided projects led by various art professionals. During the Christmas season, projects included Christmas cards and decorations. RE-Create also hosted a Christmas party for participants.
With initial funding from Diaconal Ministries Canada’s Operation Manna and various individuals and churches, Brouwer began RE-Create after inspiration from Sketch, an arts initiative that offers creative opportunities for street-involved and homeless youth in Toronto.
Meghan Hers, studio coordinator, came to RE-Create in 2012 after looking for a place where art and social justice intersect. “Art can be so elitist and inaccessible; God put it on my heart to become of part of this,” Hers said. “RE-Create is an important place for expression; it’s a youth positive space. It’s their choice to walk in and their choice to come back.”
RE-Create is an important space for youth in Hamilton, and, as Brouwer pointed out, it’s also important for those who work there: “God speaks and teaches us through the youth, showing how we’re the same, all image bearers of God.”