A Missing Voice
Stephen Near

This is a blog post by Tanya Pineda who is a spoken word artist living in Hamilton. As part of Tanya's Grade 13 Co-Op Student Placement, she worked with the Hamilton Arts Council as our Arts Outreach Assistant.

During my time at my Co-op placement I learned the importance of communication not only through speech but through text and visuals. In an age where we are at our peak of communication technology, it feels like nobody is listening. This where the role of the Artist comes in a play.

As artists we aim to be multilingual to convey messages to our audiences or transcend feelings of emotions through the cognitive walls of our mind. Consequently, our audiences love it because we feel as though someone is listening. It is always satisfying to hear someone articulate the feeling you couldn’t describe.

Additionally, we have ways of getting our voices out there from the safety of our own handheld ”verbal bullet” proof screens. Yet with all these really important conversations going on, especially about the future of Hamilton and the artists residing here, there is something missing. I would check the lost and found box at your local high school if I were you; because you keep forgetting the 14-19 year olds who have no idea what’s going to hit them in the next eight years.

To be fair not many of us have the clairvoyant ability to even predict what will happen in the next hour, but these kids are too big to sit at the kiddy table. You could argue that if they really wanted to know they will do research. But how do you know what questions to ask if you don’t even know what you're looking for?

This thought came up during the Microfunding meeting held by the Hamilton Arts Council to begin the process of creating a microgrant for the artists in Hamilton. Before that meeting, I didn’t think much of grants let alone know what they really entail. During that meeting, I realized how important they are and that I will most likely end up in a position where I will have to apply for grants. Actually a lot of us will end up in that situation. But how will we know how to deal with it if we don’t even know that's something we are going to end up dealing with? I’m not trying to make this easier for us. But if you’re trying to change the future, you should include the future.

It would be extremely beneficial if the local arts community reached out to the schools. The school board wouldn’t really be ideal to teach this kind of stuff especially since the arts is usually the most ignored department in a school system. In the same way, you need to make it known that these adolescents are welcome to the conversation, and that these conversations are happening.

It can be as simple as making a poster and hanging it in a guidance office. Following this further, don’t exclude voices because they don’t have experience, include them so they can develop an experience. Communication isn’t just one way or the other. It is multidirectional.