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Most creative art from Youth Art Engagement Project: director

Tiana Sharifi is overwhelmed by the artwork arriving at the Children of the Street Society office in Coquitlam.
Tiana Sharifi, program director for the Children of the Street Society, holds a multi-media sculpture by “Madison” that will be in the art show.

Tiana Sharifi is overwhelmed by the artwork arriving at the Children of the Street Society office.

For the past week or so, the Coquitlam non-profit group has received 50 original pieces from students at Suwa’lkh School, CABE and the Customized Learning Centre (CLC) — dedicated First Nations and alternate schools in School District 43 — for the 8th annual Youth Art Gallery.

The event, held next Wednesday at the Winslow Centre in Coquitlam, is the conclusion of a nine-week art therapy program for the Grade 10, 11 and 12 students who are defined as “at-risk.”

And this spring’s output, which explore themes of sexual exploitation, gender socialization, online bullying, peer-to-peer culture and alcohol abuse, is the most creative Sharifi has seen.

Issues around toxic masculinity — a concept used in psychology and gender studies to refer to norms associated with harm to society and to men themselves — were also explored, she said.

Few used canvasses this year to convey their feelings, the program director said; rather, they employed mannequins, skateboards, musical instruments and cardboard boxes as their bases. As well, this year’s space-themed exhibit will also include slam poetry and rap performances.

Sharifi said the exhibit is a big deal for the students, who will be showing their artwork for the first time to their loved ones. As well, some will use their pieces in portfolios they’re building.

“The program is successful because it has helped them voice their concerns with facilitators. They are having discussions that are having an impact on their current and future lives.”

To RSVP for the gallery event on June 12, call Tiana Sharifi at 604-939-6055 or email