Shanique Stewart
June 18, 2021
Youlou Art comes full circle

Youlou Arts Foundation has always operated on the premise that people need opportunities to be creative, motivated and active.

  No matter what, no matter when, art activities are healing.  When the volcano, La Soufriere erupted on April 9, Youlou Arts Foundation immediately started fund raising to secure art supplies for the children in shelters. The idea was to give children the opportunity to express themselves and hopefully, bring joy during these challenging times.      
The need to console and comfort through the arts is of utmost importance.

To date the Youlou Arts Foundation has responded to this disaster by donating art supplies to the children in shelters at the following schools: The Buccament Government School, the Calliaqua Government school, the Girls High School and the Central Leeward Secondary School at Peter’s Hope.  At the Peter’s Hope location, the Counselling Department organised a programme for children titled’Back To Happiness’. Youlou Arts was able to assist by donating art supplies to 
 that programme.

 Youlou Arts Foundation also initiated art activities in shelters around the Thomas Saunders Secondary School. The first step taken by the organisation was to employ an art instructor to implement art activities.  Bearing this in mind Youlou Arts employed Shanique Stewart to be the art instructor to carry out these activities.

  Stewart, is a practising artist who recently returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), after earning a degree in sculpture at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. She is unique, in that she is an alum from the “Growing Young SVG Artists” programme. Youlou Arts is very proud and pleased of this fact.

As a young child Stewart attended the “Growing Young SVG Artists” programme. This programme which Youlou Arts Foundation has been offering the children of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for over 20 years and continues to this day. Hiring Stewart to work     with the organisation is indeed a feather in the cap for the organization. It shows Youlou Arts has indeed come full circle. 

Stewart was given the responsibility of creating and organising art activities in the shelters around the Thomas Saunders Secondary School. The targeted schools were: the Kingstown Preparatory School, C. W. Prescott School, the Girls High School, St Vincent Grammar School, and the Thomas Saunders Secondary School.

Stewart came up with the idea of creating large colourful murals for the targeted schools. She felt it would give the evacuees numerous opportunities to express themselves while they waited to return to their homes. 

She created three canvas murals depicting a few Garifuna superheroes who emit special powers, such as happiness, shining star and guardian angel.

Stewart said the mural at the Kingstown Preparatory School, an outdoor mural, was inspired by the viral meme Yoww …Shabba, which was fitting with the times and culture and added light humour. Both the children, many passers-by’s and other evacuees played an active role in creating this mural. The children also painted their own mural designs. They were given the opportunity to express their feelings. Out of this venture, children began opening up about traumas which allowed them to feel heard in a safe environment.

 The mural at the Grammar School was painted on canvas; this allowed evacuees to create written messages of affirmation based on the theme ‘Guardian Angel’. Both adults and young adults were asked to write who and what they wanted to protect. These notes were then included in the mural.   

  Other activities were creating a miniature volcano, which the children painted and had fun watching it explode. Drawing their favourite things, doing physical exercises, and creating stress balls. Throughout the sessions a safe environment was created where conversations about their experiences were encouraged.  

The final initiative Youlou Arts Foundation will be launching, is assembling individual art kits for the children in the shelters. 

The Youlou Arts Foundation (YAF) was established by Vincentian artist, Camille Saunders- Musser in 2000. 

YAF is a non-profit, non-governmental organization created to develop, promote and preserve the arts and culture of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Contributed by Camille Saunders-Musser