Youth, Arts, and Engagement in the City
This course is a collaboration with the organization Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre, which is a not-for-profit organization that was established to counter negative stereotypes about the Regent Park community and provide media literacy and production programming for youth living in the area. Specifically, we partner with the organization’s Divas Girls Group, which provides spaces for reflection to young Muslim women (ages 12-17) living in the neighborhood.
Together, University of Toronto students and Regent Park Focus youth from the Divas Girl Group learn about media projects initiated by young people across the world, and analyze how these creative forms of communication, organizing, and expression spurred change and social movements in their respective communities. Next, the two groups of students work together to envision and produce their own media project addressing a specific issue in Regent Park. This project can be designed on any platform: radio, television, photography, print, or social media, etc. In 2019, the course focused on gentrification and neighborhood revitalization, and in 2020, the course focused on the role of religion and faith in the city.
The location and composition of the class was chosen based on the belief that bringing together students of urban studies with Regent Park youth will create a unique and valuable environment in which to generate new knowledge about our social world, social processes, and the ways in which we understand cities, specifically Toronto. Often in universities, entrenched social norms and established institutional structures may silence different types of knowledge, and this course aims to shake that paradigm. The course design draws inspiration from Fine and Torre’s (2004) concept of “contact zones” or a social space where multiple experiences and cultures clash and blend, and in which individuals learn from one another’s situated knowledge.