Created by Tasneem Dairywala, Bring To Light is a stencil light painting program where youth in the Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park area are able to design stencils inspired by images they feel cultural connections to.
Bring To Light was influenced by Tasneem’s journey as an artist living in Canada. Inspired by her Pakistani roots, Tasneem wanted to shed light on stencil and decorative art, a form of art that is not often recognized or celebrated as such in North America. The lack of recognition and validation of this art form made it even more difficult for Tasneem and her work to be taken seriously, as it is a “craft is often seen as primitive, feminine and ‘other’ in the Western art world,” says Tasneem. Tasneem discovered that there is a cultural smudging in what is considered Canadian art due to colonization- art created by European men is labeled as art without hesitation, whereas other forms of art that don’t fit the Eurocentric status quo is oftentimes labeled as craft, resulting in the loss of its artistic integrity.
The youth response to the project was positive. Tasneem found that they were engaged throughout the sessions and attended consistently every week. “Even their teacher was surprised at how involved they were.” said Tasneem. The project has allowed them to build new relationships with their peers, whilst learning a new way to express themselves. “I think creating spaces in which youth can form healthy relationships with their peers based on shared interests is crucial to building a strong community… so this project was definitely a success!” said Tasneem. The project is still running as Tasneem and the youth participants are in the planning stages of the final exhibit, to be held in May, that will showcase the art created throughout the program.
Youth have felt empowered and have shown interest in assisting with the other programs offered. Tasneem is thinking of expanding different variations of the project, as the seniors within the community have also found an interest in the art form. “I feel like it’s a first step to building spaces in the community that support growing communities of artists… havens where differences are cherished, wild ideas are cultivated, and strong relationships are fostered.” said Tasneem.
Being a member in the Flengdom Park community as well as an alumni of Marc Garneau Collegiate where the program runs, Tasneem has experienced how issues can easily form due to cultural differences. ArtReach’s grant has allowed Tasneem to “bring to light” these issues among her participants, as well as build her own confidence and self-esteem to apply for bigger grants and organize larger projects.
ArtReach’s financial, educational and mentorship support has also inspired Tasneem to start her own non profit community arts organization in her community called Art Ignite. She says “Art Reach is helping make my community stronger and livelier and helping me build opportunities for young artists.”
For more information on Bring To Light check out tasneemdairywala.com
Author: Jessica Bentu