Michel Levesque believes in art as a tool for social change.
Levesque, a local graphic artist, is the founder of the Queer Youth Comics Project (QYCP).
The QYCP is a series of workshops for local queer youth aged 16 to 25. The workshops started in September and will be held throughout the fall.
“There are no limitations on how you can draw or what you can draw during the workshops,” Levesque says.
He says that while the youth who attend learn about artistic techniques, it is crucial that they ultimately have “the freedom to develop their own processes.” Essentially, Levesque wants the youth to express their own characters and identities through the creation of comics.
“You can pack a lot of complex storylines into comics, which is good for people who want to represent characters who are complex.”
The QYCP provides a place to talk about shared experiences, create support networks and meet new friends.
While Ottawa offers many groups and services for gay and trans youth, Levesque says there isn’t a “cohesive community” for young people.
“We are using art to build a stronger community,” he says.
Animated by the possibilities created through the QYCP, Levesque is also passionate about the power of comics as a medium.
“The visuals are very valuable, and they give the reader less room to project their own stereotypes of who queer people might be. The viewer has to absorb the image as what it is. It’s important for people who are not queer to be able to see, understand and accept.”
The last QYCP workshop will be a panel discussion, where the youths’ comics will provoke and direct the dialogue.
Levesque also invites the community to an exhibition of art created through the QYCP. The work will be on display at the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd, in January 2011.
“The exhibit will reach out to the general public and introduce them to queer youth.”