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Youth Outreach: Connecting to Community Through Art – for elementary and high school students with (dis)abilities

October 13, 2023 - June 28, 2024

This program provides arts programming to youth with intellectual and/or developmental delays in elementary and secondary school in the Life Skills/LRC classes.  We meet students once a month at Centre Wellington District High School and once a month at Elora Public School.  The sessions offer guided art instruction and ideas, led by an ECFTA Arts Educator, and assisted by classroom teachers.

The program is free to students.  Project themes are centered around community building and emphasize collaboration and success through personal artistic expression. The goal is connecting students to the community in meaningful and creative ways.

Why is this program important?

Students with developmental delays experience added challenges in feeling supported within the school system and the broader community. These children and youth also have limited access to arts-based resources within schools due to the continued erosion of arts funding.

This program strives to engage the emotional and social well-being of students through art making that connects them with community initiatives, helping them experience community life beyond school.

This project arose in response to teachers of LRC and Life Skills students in our area and aligns with our goal of supporting community needs through the arts. Our goal is that students feel more connected and included in their community through the art-making process!

The 2019 Vital Signs Report demonstrates the need for this program as follows:

  • Only 41% of students feel a sense of belonging to their community through school;
  • Accessibility to the arts continues to be a barrier for many;
  • Youth mental health is a particular vulnerability; and
  • Connection to the community is listed as a preventative factor against suicide.

Funding for this program is made possible thanks to the generosity of our community at the 2023 Elora Centre for the Arts’ Spring Gala Fundraiser.



Program Insights

Last season we found that as the year progressed, the students gained an appreciation for each other’s work. The collective art making environment allows the students to locate their individuality within a larger group context in a very direct way by comparing how they resolved their works, and how their classmates may have made different choices.

This is a form of communication and introspection unique to collective art-making, that allows for participants to see themselves in the context of others. It is a wonderful opportunity for those who often find it difficult to connect with groups, to find a common language when looking at and discussing each other’s works.

In particular, the ECFTA Arts Instructor noticed students who had limited verbal communication, being able to be a part of a visual conversation that values the uniqueness of perspective and diverse ways of making.



For more information about this program please contact us at:  programming@ecfta.ca

To help support this program by donating today please click here.


October 13, 2023
June 28
Event Category: