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Program Highlights

Over the past eleven years, YouthVisions has served as a crucial nexus for artistic youth and their career-building aspirations. This section describes important program benchmarks.

One of the earliest events shaping the development of the YouthVisions concept was participation in the Fine Arts Festival des Beaux Arts. This annual event features the work of district high schools in a gallery setting (Surrey Art Gallery/White Rock Art Gallery). Surrey students and their teachers are able to receive curator support to organize displays, contact media outlets and host opening night festivities. For most students, the yearly show provides a rare opportunity to be accorded treatment befitting a professional artist. This event and subsequent invitations to carry out Christmas window art painting at Surrey City Hall (1994) and an Eracism art show at the Surrey Tax Centre (spring 1995), set the stage for the Queen Elizabeth Art Partnership Program (1994-2000) - which later evolved into YouthVisions.

Marc Pelech and his Queen Elizabeth Senior Secondary students began to initiate year-round projects to showcase their skills in important venues such as Surrey City Hall (1996-1998) and the Provincial Legislature in Victoria (1995 & 1996). The winter holidays saw them decorating Surrey Memorial Hospital and Whalley businesses with Christmas window art (1994-1999) and painting plywood festive characters for Bear Creek Park's Winterfest light display (1998). Although the primary goal was to provide students with opportunities to refine their artistic skills, such projects came have a positive effect on local area residents. Shannon Schaefer, a student artist describes the experience as: "If other people see volunteers getting involved in the community, then they might see that it can be fun. Volunteering helps you develop a more positive attitude."

The Legacy project (1999) led to a series of stunning paintings on the theme of BC landscape. Pelech states: "the show promotes environmental responsibility through establishing a sympathetic bond between people and the land." The exhibition drew rave reviews from visitors and praise for the students' dedication. As expressed by Alison Bassaw: "I never expected how many revisions it would take to achieve the final result."

Pelech's students were regularly exposed to commercial art ventures. On many occasions they entered and won top recognition in selected poster and logo contests. These events and others helped students to establish growing confidence in their abilities - particularly when projects included design commissions, published works and offers of employment. For example, throughout much of its existence, Queen Elizabeth Art Partnership had a working relationship with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Beginning with the art show, Use Your RoadSense (1996), which toured the province and resulted in four published posters, students went on to create two other ICBC sponsored art shows: Are You Road Wise? (1997) and RoadSense Makes Sense (1999). Moreover, they created three road safety murals in partnership with ICBC and Mr. Lube (1996 & 2000-2001), and a 2001 Road Safety Calendar funded by the province and Autoplan Insurance Brokers of B.C. (2000).

YouthVisions students strive not only to produce high caliber commercial work, but also to address social issues with rare sensitivity. Perhaps the most groundbreaking of these projects were the anti-violence and earth day initiatives.

The art show Rage-Nikki's Story (1998), sponsored by Surrey community policing stations (RCMP), proved student artists were up to tackling a challenging topic. Through creating a storyboard series of paintings, drawings, photography works and mixed media artworks, they created a fictional account of a girl's life transformed by bullying, domestic violence, pregnancy, drug abuse and suicide. This delicate subject matter demonstrated the students' commitment to exploring provocative issues that most youth would shy away from. The show received favorable reviews in the Vancouver Sun and Surrey/North Delta Leader and kudos from social services. Rage-Nikki's Story also helped to rally awareness and political support for school district intervention policies concerning bullying.

The Earth Day exhibitions promoted environmental awareness and firmly established the program's stellar reputation for artistic excellence. Starting with a highly successful Earth Day Walk and art show, A Corridor of Possibilities (1995)-sponsored by eight financial institution partners, they went on to create art shows for City Hall (Renewal, 1996) and Surrey Place Mall (Speciocide, 1997 & Classical Revisionism, 1998). In reviewing the Speciocide art show, Peace Arch reporter, Alex Browne said: "A ground-breaking exhibit [that] attempts to overcome preconceptions both in the public eye, and among students, about what high school level art is-and what it can be." Surrey/North Delta Leader reporter, Brant Drewry added: "what stands out most is the sophistication and subtlety with which the students dealt with the subject matter."

The crowning achievement in Youth Visions history is the Spirit of Youth Mural program (1996-2002) - the largest and most successful youth art initiative of its kind in North America. Starting with four student artists painting two heritage murals in 1996, the project came to involve over 100 youth creating 56 murals in Surrey, Delta, Langley and Ottawa. The Spirit of Youth was a joint partnership involving numerous individuals and organizations. The administrative team was comprised of: Marc Pelech (1996-2005), Surrey School District; Jim King (1996-2005) and Peter Maarsman (1997-2001), Surrey Crime Prevention Society; Dianne Watts (1997), Judy Villeneuve (1998), Judy Higginbotham (1999) and Gary Tymoschuk (2000), Surrey City Council; Bev Sommer (1996, 1999 & 2005) and Dan Nielsen (1997-1998), City staff; and Al Cleaver (1999) and David Klassen (1999), community representatives. The Spirit of Youth artists - which came from district high schools, regional colleges and universities - learned the importance of communication skills, design process and teamwork through interacting with project executive members, clients, media and the public. The program remains an important fixture of the Mayor's Clean, Safe and Active Campaign-providing urban beautification while deterring graffiti vandalism.

The YouthVisions program has been recognized with over 150 awards from government, business and community organizations. Its achievements have been regularly chronicled in the press with over 100 features. Presently, the program is based at Sullivan Heights Secondary, where Marc Pelech serves as the school's Fine Arts Department Head.

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