My name is Karrie Emms and I am one of the founders/owners at Gateway To the Arts in North Bay, Ontario. We opened this co-operative back in October... yes, during a global pandemic... and since then we have continued to grow. It hasn't been without challenge. (www.gatewaytotheartscoop.ca) This said, we have persevered through floods, (3 of them), two lockdowns, several illnesses and more, but that only proves to us we are stronger than we look and doing something amazing.
Our mandate has morphed several times from its inception but always to a positive end. We have decided to focus on high-quality original to Northern Ontario artwork and further to this on training emerging artists in all aspects of thriving as a working artist. We've mentored three youth members and watched them flourish over the last 8 months both with their creative talents and skills and their confidence, leadership and business skills.
A few months ago the opportunity to apply for some grants presented itself and we have been working diligently to complete these. The GOAL? An arts-based hub in downtown North Bay called, 'Nick's Place For Us'. We happen to occupy a space in a building beside another historical to North Bay building which was once known as Gulliver's. They sold books, toys and more for many years. Lately the building has floundered with no real defined use. Being next door to us and given it's history this is the perfect location for 'Nick's Place For Us'.
Why 'Nick's Place For Us'?
The answer is painful and heart wrenching. Nick was my nephew. Until December 11, 2021 he was a young man who struggled in life. He had vices and that is undeniable, but what is also undeniable is the fact that Nick was a gentle giant and tried to change his life many times to no avail. Why? The lack of services. There was no where left to turn and even though we, his family tried everything there just was not a program that fit Nick. December 4, 2021 is a day that will forever haunt me. It was the day our family was struck by tragedy, it was the day that ultimately ended Nicholas Adam Kenneth Nicholls life in a senseless murder in downtown North Bay, Ontario. This tragedy occurred not two blocks from the center we were already planning to open under the name 'A Place For Us' but, in keeping with Nick's generous heart (as was evident in his signed organ donor card) we decided to carry on using what we know was at the core of his being to make a difference for others. Nick's organs have given a new lease on life to several already and now it is time for us to step up and do the same for others in his honor and memory.
'Nick's Place For Us', will service youth 13-30 who are in some capacity marginalized and struggling with social isolation as well as those who are at risk for substance abuse and/or who are in recovery. The difference is 'Nick's Place For Us', will carry no banner but is simply a place where all are truly welcome and through partnerships with other local arts organizations and community support services it will use the arts to break down barriers and challenges faced by it's users. There will be a strong focus on leadership development, building relationships and self confidence, working on educational success for students at all levels, developing life-skills through non-threatening and fun arts programming, community leadership and volunteerism and most of all building strong youth who thrive in our current world.
As we all know grants take time, we have an amazingly patient landlord but, we would like to get things moving even before the grants are in. We will always have a large component tied to fundraising, we will use this as a leadership building skill with the youth, something they can take pride in, BUT we need to begin somewhere. As we develop our board of directors and community partnerships we are hoping to get started with some donations. We will be announcing fundraisers as we go because, let's face it, we are determined to do this no matter how hard we need to work to get there. Nick was a troubled young man but at the core of his being was a kind heart that simply couldn't escape the vices but this is the story of so many.
So I ask you to please consider donating even in a small amount to 'Nick's Place For Us'. These initial donations will allow us to tackle things behind the scenes such as digital services and initial consultations with essential services and to develop a fundraising initiative.
To those of you who have already donated, thank you, for helping us get the ball rolling.
North Bay needs so many things, but let's start where the needs start, the youth... they are our future, our leaders, our resource so let's give them somewhere of their own to learn and grow.
Karrie Emms & Dani-Lynn Redgrift-Berthelot
Owners, Gateway To the Arts Co-operative
Co-Founders, Nick's Place For Us
The Family Of the late Nicholas Nicholls