Douglas Hurst is an artist, performer, puppeteer, and producer who has a long-standing history with Art Starts. As a creative educator, Douglas explores alternative learning practices, including mindfulness and play, to engage audiences about serious social issues and plant lost-lasting seeds of wisdom that transcend the moment.
Douglas has become a champion for Art Starts in the way he teaches and engages school aged children and families to reach a better awareness of themselves and their communities. His impact extends over 15 years, during which he’s facilitated numerous programs and played an imperative role in shaping the future of our youth participants.
Art Starts is celebrating 30 years in October 2022 and as a way to commemorate our past and future, we’re spotlighting our top 30 supporters. From artists to community members, these features will look at their meaningful contributions to our organization and visions for the future.
What was your first experience with Art Starts?
I love this question to begin with, it feels like a full can of worms opening, but I am beyond blessed to say that every second I have shared with Art Starts – as a creative spirit and super awesome human – has been a gift to my heart and soul. My very first experience with Art Starts was answering an ad for a community arts program job when their office was a storefront location on Eglinton West across from Maria A. Shchuka Library. I was drawn to this organization because of the large community support they provided and their firm arts-based mission.
I remember feeling right at home and welcomed into their cozy environment, and I was also moved to excitement at all of the beautiful creative projects that took up most of the space at the time. I hit the ground running, working with Art Starts on many programs over the years starting in 2006 to the current time of 2021. I am extremely proud to say Art Starts has been a part of my life force passion to share with the many underserved communities and families of Toronto and the surrounding GTA areas. I seriously get teared up when I reflect on all those programs and the youth that are now adults. When I have the honour to hear how some of the youth have grown and prospered into wonderful humans I am overcome with gratitude and joy.
How did this shape your perception of art and its impact on community?
This shaped my perception of art and its impact on the community by offering me an outlet to share my light and my gifts of creativity. I was raised in a very tight knit community of families growing up, and I know first hand the importance of positive reinforcement that family ties can provide. Art Starts is an incredible source for impacting our younger communities and building their core emotional states and values. Art Starts has provided a vehicle of engaging in a deeper way through community building and sharing while providing a much needed ‘HUMAN’ component to the equation.
Tell me about your favourite memory, program or experience with Art Starts?
This is a very hard question to answer because there are many, but the one that comes to mind right away is some of the life long relationships I have been blessed with through Art Starts. My dear friend Carleen Robinson has been a very close friend since we started working together for various community projects through programs for ASAP and Sew What!?. The achievements over the years of working with Art Starts is immeasurable when I think of all of the lives we touched and the generations of love makes me most proud. To be part of happy childhood memories is the most precious reward I could ever receive, also in gratitude to those families that shared their hearts with me. To answer the question, I have millions of incredible memories of Art Starts and I really can not count them all.
Tell me about a time that art made a difference in your life?
For me, growing up from the beginning of my memories I have always drawn and it was a safe space for me. I learned of my passion for creativity early on by drawing through church services and being inspired by the stories in the Bible. My first art workshop as a kid was at Gibson Art Gallery in my hometown, Amherstburg, Ontario, and I did my first mural painting – a portrait of a monarch figure. I remember the attention I received from that piece and I have been hooked ever since.
What do you love most about your program/s?
What I love most about my programs is that they give everyone something completely different to think about and consider. I want my participants to explore, discover and most of all ‘do it themselves’ while having a fun experience. By offering alternative projects through visual, theatre, and puppetry arts, youth find new ways to engage and communicate through their creativity that broadens their foundation for problem solving and leadership skills.
What role do you think art & artists play in society?
I think art and artists have a very important role to always keep society and community connected through inspiration, hope and faith to a better tomorrow for generations to come based in love. I feel that life is a living painting that is constantly growing more brilliant by the second and only the light of the creator can provide for this unquenchable thirst and need for love. Art is Love, Love is Art.
What does community arts mean to you?
Community Arts means to me, connection. I feel that trees and family trees are forests of families connected through our roots, and generations to come through seeds that are planted and spread. I want to be part of sharing and planting good seeds, so that our community garden may flourish while creating sustainable life that nurtures the body, mind and spirit for all.
How have you seen Art Starts evolve?
It has been incredible to see how Art Starts has evolved over the years and the thousands of communities supported by them and their family of artists and program facilitators. For me, to be part of the 30th anniversary is really quite fantastic. For Art Starts to always be cutting edge and before it’s time, it’s amazing to see the evolution from in-person programming move into the digital age. Welcome to the future and the water is just fine.
How do you envision the future of Art Starts?
I would like to envision the future of Art Starts to reach a national and international platform because I truly believe that the core values and mission of the organization could translate anywhere in the world. Arts based community sharing is a human foundational component to a well balanced and healthy society that can nurture the needs beyond mental health and wellness.
If you could have your participants walk away with one thing, what would it be?
The one thing I would love my participants to walk away with is a ‘Cherished Moment’ that they carry in their hearts for the rest of their lives. Cherished Moments from the heart are always used to lift you up in down times. If I can plant even one Cherished Moment in the hearts of every participant I share energy with, then I am doing my purpose in life.
How do you hope to make a difference in the world?
I hope to make a difference in the world by living my best, most authentic life, honouring my family and community from the past, present and the future, and sharing my heart and light with love.
Make sure to follow us on Instagram @ArtStartsTO to follow our #ArtStarts30 campaign and see all the ways you can get involved.