By Jenna Chisholm, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Eastern Ontario Health Unit
On May 8th, 2014, OBO Studios and Love My Life explored tobacco's presence in social and physical environments through the eyes of youth. Many attended the mixed media sculpture exhibition to be inspired by the beautiful expression of the youth voice.
Love My Life...Tobacco Free (LML) is a youth led campaign engaging youth in creatively expressing how they love and celebrate their lives tobacco free. Keeping a positive approach, LML's goal is to increase tobacco free environments supportive of health living for the mind, body and spirit.
Ten talented and creative youth came together with OBO Studios and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) in a three month project to shine new light on tobacco prevention and advocacy by creating and thinking outside of the box. The opportunity to showcase their creations was an opportunity for these young artists to influence others and spark change.
Vincent Films captured the entire process in a short documentary (view below). Read the rest of the blog to learn more about the project and some of its key learnings.
How this project came to be:
In the fall of 2013, the EOHU approached OBO Studios with an idea to build on their connection with youth. OBO's practice of engaging young artists in teen workshops seemed like a beautiful fit for the EOHU's Youth Engagement focus. OBO had access to youth and public health had funding and a theme.
From the initial partnership proposal to the final commitment agreement, there were fruitful discussions to find a project centered on shared core values. Traditional tobacco prevention initiatives have had negative nuances with shades of black and grey. Understandably, OBO couldn't identify.
True to OBO's name, Our Beautiful Obsession, the studio and the EOHU found harmony in the beauty of positivity and loving life. With the core values of celebrating life and protecting life's breath, the LML...Tobacco Free Project was born.
By January 2014, the studio had recruited the 10 young artists whose parents/guardians signed commitment forms. February through April, artists were provided three full sessions plus two bonus studio days to complete their work. Sessions were themed on LML's 3 healthy living components: mind, body and spirit.
Respecting LML's culture of positive self-expression, the studio facilitated the project and provided the youth with the sculpted mixed media concept and vision of the project. From there, the youth had free reign to be as expressive and creative as they could dream. Results were phenomenal and the artists were eager to share their voice during the public exhibition.
Some key learnings from the project:
- A post project debrief highlighted that the project was in fact double the work (hours, resources and effort) than initially quoted by the studio. Additional studio hours were needed in order to complete the project pieces. OBO recruited a seamstress to help; this was not in the quote/invoice. Luckily a local artist/seamstress was looking to barter with the studio in exchange for free studio time.
- It also was outlined that IT help and resources would have been a necessary component of the project to facilitate certain processes. Because of this lack, there were difficulties with the slide show during the exhibit and personal time outside of the quote was put into simply making due.
- The Exhibit was well attended however the media attention was underwhelming. Organizers used the EOHU media outlets to invite media to attend and pick up the story however it may have been better to connect with the media directly from the studio, using personal connections to solicit attention. Thankfully having documented the project on video allowed for the story to be shared with a wide audience online.
- The short timeline for the magnitude of the project didn't permit for most of the pieces to be solid enough for transportation. For this reason, a graphic designer was hired to create a banner display in which each artist is featured. This display will act as a traveling exhibit of this LML project. Thankfully the pieces will also live on in the documentary which also captures their pure essence.
- What is non-debatable is that the youth were amazed with how all of their individual voices came together for an explosion of beauty in the face of tobacco during the exhibit. Youth trusted the process and found out a little bit more about who they are. This is how we become critical thinkers with a good perspective; an important quality for young advocates.
- This project was made not only possible but a success thanks to teamwork. Each partner played a vital role. From the youth and parents to the seamstress and filmmaker; lead and supportive roles were essential.