In downtown Niagara Falls, Ont., children are learning about art and social justice through a series of summer day camps run by Christian Reformed Church plant The Bridge. The six camps focused on one social justice issue and one art form each week from mid-July through August.
“It’s my belief that these social justice issues not only matter to kids, but kids are capable of talking about them. They just need to be given the right space and way to explore them,” said Charissa Sanche, a university student running the camp. “Art is the most accessible format for that to happen,” she said.
Sanche, working on a Masters of Arts degree in social justice and equity studies at nearby Brock University, has been a part of The Bridge community since last September. She and church planters Allen and Freda Kleine Deters developed the weeks of camp programming with topics like Love Our Earth, Beating Bullying, and Sharing Is Caring.
“We first came up with what kind of [social justice] themes we wanted to have for each week and then paired those with different art forms that we wanted to use to explore them,” Sanche said.
For example, in Love Our Earth week, campers created terrariums with visiting horticultural therapist and Bridge member Karin Vermeer while discussing the rainforest being in danger. The finished product “is a really powerful symbol for them to talk about a justice issue without it being so complex and abstract,” Sanche said.
Camps ran from Monday to Thursday in the afternoons, beginning with lunch provided by The Bridge, neighboring Faith Fellowship CRC, and two local bar and grills, The Old Crow and Grand Central. Thursday nights are a gallery open house for parents.
Sanche’s salary has been funded by a Canada Summer Jobs grant. The rest of the summer art camp’s needs have been supplied by donations of art supplies and the $40-per week registration fees. Bursaries were also offered to participants.