Anthology series helping young Edmonton artists find their voice

A group of young artists from Edmonton have teamed up to form the first western Canada chapter of the Ink Movement. The first project by Ink Movement Edmonton has taken nearly a year but the first Edmonton Youth Anthology Project: Volume 1 is complete.

“I believe that the freedom of expression is a powerful tool."

Members of Ink Movement Edmonton (Front:L to R): Athena McKusker, Wendy Duan, Rachel Low and Jonas Wong. (Back: L to R): Tamila Khoshkish, Andy Nguyen, Jacques Zhang and Yashjot Multani. (Supplied by Ink Movement)

It's taken a year of work but the first project of Ink Movement Edmonton has landed. 

The group of two dozen young artists, who range in age from 14 to 24, gathered virtually Saturday for the official launch of the first Edmonton Youth Anthology Project. The event featured workshops with artists and writers from Calgary and Edmonton.

This is the eighth anthology produced by the Ink Movement. Their website describes them as a youth-led nonprofit organization saying they "encourage youth to express what's on their minds."

So far, about 90 artists have contributed to the anthology series which started in Mississauga, Ontario in 2012. The group has since expanded to include chapters in Hamilton and Montreal, making Edmonton the first in western Canada.

18 year-old Athena McCusker, a student at the University of Alberta, likes to write poetry and reflections. She, and a number of other youth, including fellow U of A students Rachel Low and Andy Nguyen, set in motion the Ink Movement Edmonton along with some help from staff at the Young Alberta Book Society  Her goal was to give youth an opportunity to express themselves through the arts. 

"It's quite beautiful to see all the different types of poetry and art and photography that just really capture what it's like to be a young person here in our city," McCusker said.

Soon to be Grade 12 student, Abeer Amir, submitted three personal poems to the Ink Movement Edmonton project. (Supplied by Abeer Amir)

The group is working with PageMaster Publication Services Inc. to print the book, something they plan to make available on their website in the near future. 

For McCusker, holding the book in her hands was a surreal experience.

"We've been working really hard all year," she said. "To see it finally come to fruition and actually hold a physical copy in my hand of my works and the works of so many other people — it's amazing.

"It feels really fulfilling. Especially after these past few months where everything has felt so lethargic and just difficult."

That feeling was echoed by 16 year-old Harry Ainlay High School student, Abeer Amir. Amir says the arts can have a major impact socially and culturally, especially during times of unrest.

"I believe that our adolescents today should have a platform to not only express themselves creatively but to assist in mobilizing social reform especially in today's society considering the issues and systemic problems that are being addressed."

"I believe that the freedom of expression is a powerful tool that can address and repair many systemic problems or at least begin a conversation."

The cover of the just launched Edmonton Youth Anthology by Ink Movement Edmonton. (Ink Movement Edmonton, supplied)

The self proclaimed introvert found that writing helps her process her feelings and emotions. She hopes that other people might also find a way to express themselves that is "not necessarily verbal."

"I believe that having the outlet for talented individuals to really speak out and convey their thoughts and their distinctive individuality … it's really inspiring."

Amir came across a post on Instagram which led her to the Edmonton Ink Movement. She submitted three personal poems for the project soon after. 

She thinks that social media is the way to continue to attract creative youths. 

"I feel like social media will be a huge platform for students to truly, not only express themselves, but to get new information."

Amir says her long term plans include attending law school but that writing and poetry will always be an important part of her life.