ANCY was created in 2001 at a time when Canada’s children and youth art sector was in its infancy. Several innovative organizations had recently been created that were delivering multi-disciplinary community arts-based programs, most notably Art City in Winnipeg, Sketch in Toronto and Arts Umbrella in Vancouver.
Traditional arts institutions such as galleries and theatre were beginning to expand their outreach work to involve children and youth communities. Artists and arts organizations were starting to create programs in far north communities across Canada, contributing to the growth of arts programming in First Nations communities.
As a response to this collective emergence of like-minded work, a number of individuals and organizations identified the need for an organization that could be a resource to local communities and arts organizations in the development, implementation and expansion of programming for children and youth in the arts. ANCY was formed in 2000 to play this role, and was incorporated in Ontario in 2001 as a non-profit arts service organization.
Research from other countries on the importance of the arts in after school programming began to emerge and several Canadian research projects took place. The initial programs developed and grew, bringing together research and experience to form a picture of what the “sector” would look like.
In 2002, ANCY held the first of several forums in Ottawa. This was the first time that many practitioners working in community settings had come together as a group. From 2004 to 2006, ANCY hosted another five forums - two in Toronto, one in Halifax, and one in Vancouver, bringing together arts organizations, artists and policy staff from different ministries, as well as funders. The intent was to create awareness for the need to expand arts based programs for children and youth in community settings.
In recent years the expanded discussion on the subject has taken place at all levels - from the community to the federal government. The cross-province (Ontario) creation of municipal cultural plans raised awareness of the gaps in program delivery and of the importance of supporting children and youth in the arts.
Over the past 12 years, staff and board members have been involved in over 75 national round tables, conferences, and consultations with the arts, justice, education, health and social sectors. ANCY has also served as a member representing children and youth arts programming on several provincial and federal boards.
In 2007 ANCY began gathering and cataloguing existing international research which informed a series of case-making documents about the importance of youth arts in communities. The organization has consulted with over 30 communities across Ontario to facilitate youth arts mapping sessions and discuss the role of youth arts in their communities’ development. Through this process, ANCY has collected wise practises from across Canada in the field of children and youth artistic program delivery. This observational learning has led to increased knowledge of what the “children and youth community programming framework” should look like.
Photo credit: Paul Balite