TD Arts Diversity Award Finalist Profile: Sheena D. Robertson
Empowering Local Youth through an Artful Approach
By: Parul Pandya
Sheena D. Robertson is dedicated to providing an outlet for youth to express themselves. One of the ways she achieves this is as Artistic Director of Kick Start Arts, a nonprofit organization using the arts to empower youth to express themselves through the creative process, and in doing so engage diverse communities in thought and collaboration.
“I am interested in showing different perspectives,” she shares. In fact Sheena finds deep satisfaction in the complexity of being an artist and an educator, and finds her passion for social justice drives her to develop projects that engage youth to partake in rich, sometimes difficult conversations. Empowering youth to speak about their own experiences is a vital to her track-record of collaborating with young people for over 20 years.
“There is a great value in how we engage with the world, and through the arts we are given an opportunity to make people have an emotional response.” She goes on to explain that having an emotional response suggests that people are at least thinking about what they are experiencing, and this is vital to successful community-engaged arts making.
Sheena has also enjoyed success as a director, producer and photographer, confessing that she is very much rooted in a multi-disciplinary approach and often has numerous projects on the go at once. Currently she looking to spread the word about The Regent Park Project, a collaborative initiative telling the stories of youth in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood.
The Regent Park Project incorporates writing, film and theatre in a collective creation process between local youth and professional artists, to find interesting ways for the youth to share their own stories. Through this workshop series participants are presented with opportunities to develop their acting, writing and filmmaking skills, which are then filmed as a web series. Through 2 years the project engaged 25 youth participants and Sheena is currently seeking ways to best share their work with wider communities.
When reflecting on being a finalist for the TD Arts Diversity Award, she says she has so much respect for the other finalists. “ I am honoured to be nominated for an award about diversity. It is meaningful to be acknowledged for the work I have been doing in social justice.”