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Tomorrow’s Youth Today members create murals on benches

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Catholic Charities Tomorrow’s Youth Today partnered with Community Canvases for an art project that brighten up the office of Catholic Charities, while bringing some light into the lives of youth and young adults from the East Side of Buffalo. Twelve students designed and painted two new wooden benches that will sit in the East Delevan Avenue office of Catholic Charities.

Jamie King, a member of Catholic Charities Tomorrow’s Youth Today, expresses his thoughts by painting the city he sees on a bench. The project incorporates art and education for students seeking job readiness skills. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

The project came together when Dawn Colton, workforce development supervisor for the TYT Program, met with Community Canvases, a non-profit organization that brings professional artists, communities, learners and leaders together to facilitate civic engagement through the arts.

“They do wonderful things to bring art into the community through all different age groups,” Colton said. Tomorrow’s Youth Today helps East Siders ages 16-24 earn GEDs and learn job development skills.

The three-day program saw the young people led on a walk through the East Side neighborhood with community members where they discussed the images they saw and how they made them feel. After a little more discussion, they put their thoughts onto paper and designed images for the benches.

“They’re working together as a group, they’re learning the basics of how to paint, and they are creating a beautiful piece that they will always see when they come in and out. It’s basically giving them a different perspective of the community and connecting community and youth together,” Colton explained.

Jamie King lives on Jefferson Avenue. He wants to stop the crime and violence he sees in his neighborhood. He painted a scene from the city he knows so well on the top of one of the benches.

“I put the downtown with the bridges and everything. That’s what I put to change the world because we need a change,” he said. “We need peace in my community. There’s a lot going on with drug dealing and everything in my area, so we need a lot of change over there. We need more businesses, more job opportunities out there.”

The benches get turned into murals depicting the scenery and feelings of the young people in the workforce program. “It takes a lot off of me. It takes the burden off of my shoulder. It’s my feelings, you know? So, I just put my feelings on the bench and let go,” King said.

To partner with King’s cityscape, another bench depicts nature through a line of trees.

“It’s a lot more than art. It’s about reaching out to the community and youth here,” said Marco Locke, 20. “A lot of the youth are really disillusioned. They don’t really have a sense of identity or community. This is the only thing really bringing us together. A lot of us don’t even care about art, because we have our own problems at hand. This helps us escape that for a minute.”

After a team from Catholic Charities Tommorrow’s Youth Today painted the benches, the finished products will adorn the East Side offices. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Locke has been involved in GED program for two years.

This is the first project of its kind. Colton hopes to continue using the city’s art and music programs in her work, as it offers a more comprehensive learning environment for her students.

“We hope this is the start of something bigger and growing more and more using the resources in the community,” she said.

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