By Globe and Mail |
For the past four weeks, 10 highly skilled professionals, all of them recent immigrants to Canada, have been gathering at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood. The cohort hail from countries as varied as Afghanistan, Brazil, Nigeria and Vietnam. In their homelands, they were IT experts, engineers, psychologists and project managers. Their CVs include work for the United Nations, the royal court of Jordan and Hollywood’s DreamWorks studio.
And what have they been doing? Writing poems. Singing and dancing. Learning how to “remix and chill” from a hip-hop DJ.
They are participants in a project backed by the Luminato Festival, which aims to help them land a job in Canada commensurate with their skills.
Dabbling in the arts might seem like a strange way to do that. But these people are looking for more than advice on how to write an eye-catching cover letter. They want to plug into Canadian society and culture to better understand themselves and how they can fit into the country in which they’ve settled.
The project, run by the Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence, intends to do that by stimulating their imaginations and making them think more creatively. And who better to guide them than a bunch of artists?
For the project, dubbed Newcomer Innovations and Interventions, the group has been working with a team from an array of artistic disciplines, including performance artist lo bil, DJ and music archivist Mark Campbell, storyteller Sharada Eswar and visual artist Nava Waxman. Leading the team is the laboratory’s dynamic founder, Dora Award-nominated theatre designer Helen Yung.