Limitless Designs, started by youth artist Saranka Parameswaran, is an aesthetics program that centres around teaching youth ages 13-18 about the practices of henna, nail design, and makeup. It’s primarily targeted to women of colour, and offers a safe space where youth can discuss anything from personal issues to future aspirations. Saranka says that for participants, the group “became a portal to a world of creativity, empowerment, and safety.”
When Saranka discovered ArtReach, she found what she needed to bring her project vision to life. In 2017, she received the grant, and began her journey in developing Limitless. The youth response to the program has been clear, with their consistent participation in the program showing their eagerness to learn.
Saranka’s program allows youth to access training to an art form that isn’t commonly treated as an art form, or taught much in community settings. Aesthetic art is usually associated with females and is rooted in non- Western traditions. Through engaging this form of art, it gives youth the opportunity to learn to express themselves in new and “alternative” ways.
Youth have especially appreciated the program’s ability to connect aesthetic arts to their cultural backgrounds. “I have also come to know that many of the participants do henna for religious and cultural events, just like me! They are excited to show their families the new techniques and designs they’ve learned through Limitless Designs,” says Saranka.
“Aesthetic arts may not be as popular as other art forms, but they can open up doors to new possibilities,” says Saranka. The project served as a catalyst for the youth involved to become more self-motivated to find jobs in the future, as they realized “the possibility of turning their hobbies and passions into an economic opportunity.”
The growth journey of the project also affected the Saranka herself. The project helped her elevate her leadership skills and become a role model for her community. “I have a huge responsibility, to inspire the next generation of leaders, who will work to strengthen the community,” said Saranka.
In the future, Saranka hopes to bring on more professional tutorials, meet with more aesthetic artists, and allow youth to gain a deeper understanding about these artforms. “I also hope to add more participants and a have a longer timeframe for the program”, Saranka adds.
Author: Jessica Bentu