What is the future of this project and have you been working on any other interesting projects recently?
It is special to me to be able to share the outcomes of this research project with the St. James Town community. Thanks to everyone’s support, my research is currently showcased at the Corner, including the beautiful artworks of youth participants in the project. I hope this project was able to highlight the importance and the need for more community arts programming with long-term, sustainable funding. These programs strengthen our communities and promote our well-being.
Maryam and I have also collaborated with my former professor, Dr. Laura Bisaillon, who is a sociologist of health and illness; she also lives in St. James Town. The three of us co-authored two academic publications together about St. James Town. The first piece is a photo essay in the Health Tomorrow journal, called“Committing Sociology: Being Healthy, Happy, and Up-High in St. James Town.”The second piece is a photo essay that will be available soon in Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies; it is called “Being from a Bad Neighbourhood: Confronting Bad Decision Discourses in the Impoverished Inner City.”
What made you choose the St. James Town Community as the area to facilitate and conduct research on the program you helped create?
The more I learned and explored St. James Town, the more I became fascinated about the neighbourhood that I call home. I have lived in the St. James Town community for my entire life and I feel a deep connection to it. My volunteer experiences and community involvement with initiatives like Serendipity Visual Arts have also inspired and informed my research. I realized that there was so much I wanted to learn about my vibrant community.
In your opinion, what would you say is the greatest strength of the St. James Town Community?
I think the greatest strength of the St. James Town community is that it is a place brimming with talented and creative people. I always enjoy coming to community celebrations and events, such as the annual St. James Town Festival, because I look forward to seeing everyone’s many talents and hard work being showcased. The community loves to share their talents with each other and that is wonderful to see.
Can you tell us a little about yourself outside your work? Hobbies, interests etc.
I have always been a creative person who loves to draw, paint, and make art about my experiences in the world. As you can see, this eventually became more than just a hobby for me! I also enjoy visiting historical sites, museums, and art galleries. And I’m a fan of the iconic TV show Friends!
From St. James Town to Thunder Bay and back to St. James Town, how would you describe your journey?
It really was such an incredible and memorable adventure!
I grew in so many ways in which I did not expect to because of how different the two places are, and I got to further explore my academic interests. Thunder Bay and Toronto are special to me in their own ways. Whenever I am in St. James Town, I think of Thunder Bay, and when I am in Thunder Bay, I think of St. James Town. I am grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey.
What are your goals and aspirations after you complete your PhD?
I know that life can be unpredictable, so I remain open to the many possibilities waiting for me. I hope that my research can help advocate for the well-being of marginalized communities. My work will also continue to advocate for equitable arts programming in community-based organizations. I wish for my interdisciplinary research to be accessible to everyone in our communities, spanning beyond academia. I hope to be a professor, who inspires people to think critically about how the creative arts can be a powerfully valuable way of teaching, learning, caring, and sparking positive social change in communities.