Renison Associate Professor Trish Van Katwyk empowers young people to explore resilience through collaborative art making

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In a project that is described by a group leader as “empowering,” Renison Associate Professor Trish Van Katwyk recently published a study that explores the way that youth see themselves in the term ‘resilience.’ “Resilience Beyond Risk: Youth Re-defining Resilience Through Collective Art-Making,” used art-making and conversation to explore the ways in which labels that are often applied to young people are understood by young people themselves. The research shows that youth want to define these terms for themselves, to be part of the conversation, and for their perspectives to be seen and heard.   

The work began by hiring six youth to form two separate research teams that would each work with a group of peers; one research team focused in an urban area and the second in a rural setting. After selecting participants, group leaders helped to create a space that would spark discussion. Leaders encouraged conversation and, as one leader described, “a lot of the art and conversation throughout was led by the youth within the group.” The participants’ work was then displayed in a gallery at the end of the project.

Van Katwyk examined the content of the conversations and concluded that the resilience and wellbeing of youth is greatly affected by external sources, such as the ways in which terms are applied to them. According to Van Katwyk, this study sheds light on how youth are considered by the rest of society, and should give policymakers something tangible to consider when using blanket terms to describe young people. 

Similarly, the findings can serve as a starting point for service providers to acknowledge the importance of providing space and opportunities for youth to express themselves, and share those expressions with each other.

The full article, “Resilience Beyond Risk: Youth Re-defining Resilience Through Collective Art-Making,” was co-authored by Yukari Seko and published by the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal in December 2018. It is available to read online at The study received funding from the Doris and Ross Dixon Foundation.

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