City Centre Mirror
Yonge-Dundas Square will play host to more than 100 of Toronto’s finest up-and-coming young performers and a series of special guests when Youth Day returns for a sixth year July 22.
The not-for-profit arts festival was founded by downtown Toronto resident Tylaine Duggan after the city’s notorious Summer of the Gun in 2005.
The idea behind Youth Day is to give youngsters an incentive to channel their energies into positive activities and strive to meet their potential in performing and visual arts.
While the event has traditionally brought crowds out in droves – some 30,000 audience members were estimated to have attended last year – Youth Day 2012 promises to the biggest and best yet.
“This year, we’ll have a live fashion show by young designers that will show what’s cool to wear for youth and we have an amazing lineup of performers on the stage,” Duggan said. “The whole day is a celebration of the positive effects of youth finding a new passion instead of making some bad choices.”
Duggan said the arts offer a perfect opportunity for teens and young adults to get involved given how accessible it is.
“The arts don’t exclude anyone because they’re not competitive,” she said. “Anyone can find a way and a moment to shine.”
In addition to watching some of the city’s rising talents sing, dance, rap and otherwise perform on the Yonge-Dundas stage, audience members will have a chance to meet local athletes, enjoy a vendor’s market and learn more about arts programs at a variety of information booths.
There will also be a gallery-type space where youth will be able to showcase their talents in the visual arts.
“We’ve somewhat expanded the gallery presence,” said Youth Day executive producer Penny Nicholls. “We’ve always had a place for kids to exhibit their work, but this year it’s bigger and the public is welcome to add to a mural montage on a giant dry-erase board that we’ll be photographing throughout the day.”
Youth Day 2012 will also feature a kiddie corner with a bouncy castle, face painting, balloon animals and other fun activities.
“What we’ve noticed is that Youth Day was becoming more of a family event,” Duggan said. “Youth would come to see the show and they would bring their mothers and fathers, uncles, aunts and little brothers and little sisters. The kiddie corner makes sure there’s something for the younger kids.”
While the day will serve as a celebration, there will be a somber moment at 6 p.m., when the crowd will observe a moment of silence in honour of youth who died due to violence.
Young performers such as 21-year-old Cheyenne Salmon – who goes by the stage name Chizzy Bashment – and 24-year-old Church Chizzle will return once again to perform at Youth Day after successful shows last year.
Both said the show gave them a great opportunity to both gain exposure and show fellow youth there are positive ways to express themselves.
Chizzle is a prime example of the positive impacts the arts can have. He started rapping in earnest after being stabbed 12 times three years ago.
“That was my moment of realization that I had to find something else to do with my life,” he said. “I want to show young people there’s a lot more you can do with your life than your environment might provide. You don’t have to take a negative approach with your life.”
Chizzle, whose early recordings have earned him a solid following, said Youth Day is an inspiration for young performers.
“It’s a great example of some of the things youth in Toronto are doing – rapping, singing, dancing,” he said.
Salmon said Youth Day is a great step in overcoming a lack of positive outlets for youth, giving them a chance to take the stage and strut their stuff in front of a massive crowd.
“There were a lot of community-based events for young people to perform at in 2005 or 2006, but all of that’s pretty much disappeared,” she said. “This is a great, sustainable talent show that’s organized for youth in Toronto and it gets bigger and better every year.”
Youth Day 2012 will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 22 at Yonge-Dundas Square. Yonge Street will be closed between Queen and Dundas streets for the celebration. For more information on the event, visit www.youthdaytoronto.com