Vignette : UNLOCKED Project (Montreal, QC)

“STORIES OF NOW” is part of a project ArtBridges is working on with Judith Marcuse Projects’ ASCN (Arts for Social Change Network) and ICASC. It is about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field now and about what issues and areas of focus matter. 

In conversation with: Josette Gauthier, founder of The UNLOCKED Project, February 5th, 2022  josette.gauthier1[at]

“Eighteen months into the Covid-19 pandemic with no certain end in sight, we have learned that the creative and emotional lives of our youth matter more than ever. Young Canadian artists need to be seen, encouraged, and their talent recognized. Yet, initiatives that target young people remain few and far between. Their voices are so often excluded from our galleries, museums and collections and neglected by society at large. Young people are crucial citizens whose knowledge, perspectives, and experiences should be collected and preserved during this historic moment and for the future.

UNLOCKED will be that collecting platform – an online art exhibit, to preserve and learn from young Canadian artists. A unique initiative in Canada.

As a virtual exhibit, it is in a unique position to promote community building and encourage connections between young people in every region of Canada. UNLOCKED is empowering a large segment of the population (ages 9 – 25) whose voices have not been heard and who have suffered deeply during Covid. In addition, there has been a major increase in fact based research and articles into the beneficial impact of the arts on health and well-being specifically during the pandemic.” Josette Gautier

If you could tell a story about your community-engaged arts initiative now, this year, what would the story be about? What are the main themes?

JG: Mental health. Youth creating art inspired by the pandemic.

What are the main issues your community-engaged arts initiative faces? (e.g., social justice, environmental justice, pandemic-related, operational, financial, HR)

JG: Pandemic-related. A voice from underserved communities.

How has your initiative been addressing these main issues?

JG: By reaching out to communities across Canada, encouraging young Canadians to submit their art during COVID.   

How has the community of participants that your initiative engages with evolved in the past year (if at all)?

JG: A chance to be heard and seen during a difficult historical time and learn from that.

How is your organization engaging with your community right now? (Logistics, pandemic public health and safety guidelines & policies, changes in the way we gather)

JG: It was a digital project – people engaged digitally. It was always going to be digital – digital was the perfect way to do it. It was a way to reach communities normally hard to reach.

What are one or two new projects your initiative implemented this year?

JG: The whole project was implemented in the last year, a sequel may be in the works.

What is your initiative doing new–digitally–compared to pre-pandemic?

JG: It was a digital project that came out of the pandemic.

Is there a recent achievement, wonderful moment, or quote you’d like to share about your initiative or its impact? 

JG: See photos of UNLOCKED submissions from artists Joliz dela Pena, Selena Chea, and Bianca Bobbera, as well as photo and artist statement from Odessa Schulz, attached, which exemplifies the essence of UNLOCKED.

UNLOCKED became an official project of ArtBridges in 2021

In conversation with Seanna Connell, ArtBridges

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