Creative Paths: Local youth to participant to emerging artist
Mindy Huynh is a North York resident, growing up in Jane and Finch, and was a participant in the 2021 edition of Mapping Our Neighbourhoods and describes herself as an “avid supporter of North York Arts ever since”
Mindy first discovered North York Arts during Covid when she was looking for ways to reconnect with her creative side. Something she felt she had lost a long time ago.
“I remember my parents telling me art is just a hobby. In kindergarten, I would paint literally every day to the point that they would get annoyed with how many paintings I would bring home. Even at a young age, I knew I wanted to pursue the arts. But I was told being an artist was not an option. ‘It’s a hobby, it’s not stable,’ or ‘you can’t make a career out of it.’ I’m sure a lot of people hear this at a young age. So that’s also why I went into law. There’s stability, it’s interesting and I’m still helping the public, which I’m really passionate about. But yeah, I think from an early age, there were so many barriers to being an artist from being constantly told “it’s just not possible” or ‘don’t do it unless you can guarantee success’, I kind of suppressed that part of myself. I suppose during the pandemic since there was nothing else to do, I started doodling again and something ignited.”
Mindy participated in a program that ran during the pandemic called Mapping Our Neighbourhoods. This was a North York Arts produced program where artists and youth from the Jane and Finch and Black Creek neighbourhoods gathered over 6 sessions to create an illustrated map that gives audiences a glimpse into their neighbourhood.
“When I saw the Instagram post for Mapping Our Neighbourhoods, I was shocked that this is for my neighbourhood and that I was actually eligible to be a participant. When I saw that it catered to Jane and Finch and to young artists it felt like I was finally seen. Especially coming from a neighbourhood that is often met with wincing or ‘you’re gonna get shot’ or other negative narratives and stigma, it is so incredibly special being given a spotlight especially when you’re often told you don’t deserve one.”
For Mindy the opportunity to pursue art and engage with her community was a healing experience.
“I felt a lot of myself was hiding and just going through the motions of going to school and then getting a job, and transitioning into adulthood. I’d describe it as very grey, very monotone. But whenever I’m able to pursue the arts, artistic outreach or just get an email from NYA talking about the arts, I feel reignited.”
During the program Mindy built up her confidence in order to pursue art more seriously and described this as a catalyst for more opportunities. This included being a featured artist with B Current’s “Wheel of the Year Walks”, facilitating a community mural with youth from The Spot in Jane/Finch and creating another interactive map for an Jane and Finch Initiative Open House hosted by the City of Toronto. Most recently she has received a grant from the Cultural Hotspot program to run her own art project.
Mindy credits the support of the people around her starting with NYA as the push she didn’t know she needed.
“It’s really hard to describe how grateful I am for North York Arts. This program really is one of the highlights of my life. It gave me confidence to talk to other people in the arts. It was really cool talking to Julian, the program coordinator, about his experience with mentorship. I remember I had a couple meetings with him about developing my artistic profile and he was helping me describe what my audience would be or what I’m trying to express, which was really impactful. Also from talking to Daniel, who was the architect of the entire project, it was really cool seeing how even though he had a very professional job, as an architect, he was still able to meld that into his artistic work and geographic artistry.”
Mindy is now inspired to add more creativity in other areas of her life. At her workplace where she recently organised a carnival event.
“I made posters and little tickets for everyone. And it’s not something that you usually see in this environment obviously, but when my colleagues and even Judges came down they were super engaged, saying, ‘We love this! It brings some joy to the space’. It’s just a blip in the week but it’s something that helps us keep going.”
“I love how much art can bring out emotions, and bring people together in joy or sadness and everything in between. It’s so impactful in ways I can’t quantify. Art just brings me so much happiness and really motivates me to get up every day.”
“Bureaucracy is a pain. The fact that NYA is sending out those emails and having all those behind the scene meetings so we can have programs like Mapping Our Neighbourhoods and skating events or local art events at Downsview Park, is beyond amazing. I hope NYA keeps up this incredible advocacy because I recognize it’s work we don’t often see, but knowing this organisation tackles all those things, to provide us with the opportunities to make art, collaborate with our community and pursue forgotten dreams, is really special. As an emerging artist, I truly appreciate how dedicated NYA is to advancing artistic outreach in North York. It is awe-inspiring how you guys continue to really nurture this community and grow this organisation, so we can do what we love and rediscover things we’ve lost. I am beyond grateful”.
Follow Mindy Huynh @dasmingle (Instagram)
Checkout the 2021 – Mapping Our Neighbourhooods