Student art creations raise funds, awareness for community laundry project

“These are real skills that they learn that they can then use in all areas of life.”

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Robin Lethbridge’s leap from interest in art to meeting some of Ottawans’ basic needs may, at first glance, seem like a chasm. But that distance has shrunk dramatically as Lethbridge and other artistically-minded high school students recently showcased their talents on Center Court at the St. Laurent Mall to raise funds and awareness for the Community Laundry Cooperative.

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A high school 12th grader at Merivale, Lethbridge is part of the Specialist High Skills Major, or SHSM (usually pronounced “shism”) program, which encourages Ontario students to pursue areas of particular interest to them — the arts, in the case of Lethbridge — Earn credits toward high school graduation while learning practical job skills.

MHSs are available in nearly 20 sectors, including arts and culture, agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, construction, aviation and aerospace, hospitality and tourism, and sports.

“I learned a lot of things that I never did, like screen printing,” Lethbridge said. “And we learn a lot about the business side of art, so it all makes me a lot more confident when I later enter the job market.”

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Friday’s fundraiser was organized by DeSerres, St-Laurent’s art supply store and partner of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s SHSM program. Through DeSerres, professional artist Max K Black works with the program’s summer cooperative students.

“The program allows professional artists in the field to work with students so they can develop their skills as professional artists, learn the business of art and learn to succeed, and work with DeSerres to create works that are then useful to our community,” Noir said.

Merivale High School student Isabella McDowell works on a screen print at the St. Laurent Mall in Ottawa on Friday.  Tony Caldwell/Postmedia
Merivale High School student Isabella McDowell works on a screen print at the St. Laurent Mall in Ottawa on Friday. Tony Caldwell/Postmedia

Not all students will become professional artists, she added, but each will learn to apply their creativity to other tasks, including design and marketing.

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“As a creative person, you will use these skills in any industry. And that’s a huge part; understanding that your creativity and abilities, and using these art materials and thinking creatively and out of the box, will give you a huge advantage as you move forward in life. Because as creatives, we have to understand that it’s an important part of the industry.

“These are real skills that they acquire and that they can then use in all walks of life,” said Thomas Baribault, manager at DeSerres, who has been involved in the SHSM program for fifteen years.

Meanwhile, Community Laundry Cooperative executive director Phil Robinson said the fundraiser, which included 120 hand-painted sketchbooks on sale for $20 each, would help the organization which receives funding from the city, but not enough to cover all his expenses.

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“We also hope that with this event we can speak to people who would benefit from accessing our services. We are therefore lucky that Thomas (Baribault) really won us over and approached us to work with cooperative students. We really appreciate the support.

Founded nearly 25 years ago, The Laundry Co-op is a charitable organization that largely serves customers living below the poverty line, including seniors, new Canadians, single parents, people without shelter or who have physical, developmental, substance abuse and mental health issues. . From his McArthur Avenue home, he offers inexpensive self-service laundry facilities — two dollars for a wash and dry, including detergent and coffee. It also hires people facing employment barriers to do laundry for individuals and small businesses. Importantly, the co-op also has a social worker on staff who can refer interested clients to other community supports.

“We have a social worker who can provide counseling,” Robinson said. “We help people access the food bank. Housing is a big problem. And health issues, especially with many new Canadians trying to find a doctor who speaks their native language.

“People come because they want clean clothes, but we do a lot of referrals.”

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Marjorie N. McClure