The Artist Spotlight series aims to celebrate creators at a time when art is being consumed the most. We wanted to invite individuals working within the creative field to provide their voice, opinions and suggestions for the improvement, development and future of the Canadian creative community.

Arifah Yusuf is the Founder and Program Director of Lifted by Purpose, a Toronto-based collective that provides a variety of wellness programs for youth/young adults ages 16-29. Using the arts and other stress management techniques, the LBP team aims to share experiential knowledge and teach leadership skills and resilience to increase the quality of life through music. Arifah shared with artsUNITE how programming has changed since the pandemic and speaks on the importance of inviting artists and local grass roots organizations to have a seat at the table with industry decision makers.

For a full list of Lifted By Purpose’s resources and community partners, from Arts programs to Grants to Emergency and Wellness supports, visit http://liftedbypurpose.com/resources/.

Q: Can you share a little about yourself and your background in the creative field?

My name is Arifah Yusuf, I am the founder of Lifted by Purpose. I have an artistic personality but I do not have a specific creative practice. I see myself as a multidisciplinary artist as I have worked on different projects using my skills in creative writing, graphic design and collaborative art pieces.

Q: How has the programming pivoted since the pandemic and physical distancing measures have come into effect? What are your plans for return to work?

Since the pandemic, our work has shifted from in person programs to online and phone support. Our team provides content online with a focus on mental health and wellness using the arts for healing, expression and social engagement. A lot of the content created for wellness practices using the arts had to be changed to accommodate the needs of young people with limited access to art materials, resources and private/studio spaces. Our team had to focus our energy on first addressing the basic needs of young people, providing mental health support and access to local resources for free or at a low cost.

We were facilitating virtual group programs but have shifted to independent assignments and individualized support with creative writing, storytelling, journaling music and other activities to engage our community through social media.

Currently, we are working to ensure staff and our participants feel safe and have access to immediate resources.  In regards to returning to physical space, we are working with partner organizations to develop a plan that will ensure physical distancing, regularly and safely cleaned spaces and limiting the number of participants attending programs.

Q: Where do you go for support and/or resources right now? What is keeping you motivated and inspired?

Right now I find support in connecting with my community, family and friends.  I stay informed about various resources available through conversations with young people attending our programs, our partner organizations and online. Our team has taken time to focus on our individual creative work, practice self-reflection and do regular check-ins. In terms of self care, trying to focus on eating healthy, reconnecting with nature and finding time to do things we really enjoy.

Q: How do you see changes in the economy and in the Arts, culture and entertainment sector affecting your organization? Is the future all digital? What should individuals/organizations be focusing on?

I think for years there has been a shift towards a digital future.  Many institutions were not structurally or financially prepared for the sudden investments and learning required as a result of the pandemic. In particular small businesses, artists, not for profit and grassroots organizations who already lack sufficient resources and funding opportunities. BIPOC organizations have historically received the least amount of funding and opportunities in the arts, tech and innovation to advance their work and are rarely invited to sit at the table to be part of important conversations that impact the future of the economy/arts and culture sector.

Organizations should be focused on addressing inclusivity, providing equitable opportunities, emergency preparedness training and developing sustainable practices to prepare for emerging needs/trends that are impacting our diverse communities.

Q: A mantra or words you live by?

Be authentic and stay grounded in your purpose. When you know your WHY, everything else falls into place – Lifted by Purpose