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In 2014 Children’s Peace Theatre was honoured as a finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Arts For Youth Award. A fitting recognition of CPT’s long and outstanding commitment to engaging Toronto’s youth through the arts and artistic creation.
Children’s Peace Theatre was created in response to the United Nations’ Declaration of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. CPT was invited to perform at the United Nations headquarters in New York. But the 25 CPT children, youth and adults were turned back at the U.S. border. The date was September 11th, 2001. The world changed that day, and a culture of fear and mistrust among diverse cultures gained ascendance. The children of CPT returned home and created a new and very different theatre piece that explored both the feelings and the questions raised by the terrorist attacks. They toured their new songs and stories of peace through schools, libraries and community centres.
Over the next five years, CPT continued to run a summer collaborative theatre production with professional artists and children ages 8 to 12. CPT’s professional artists also worked at the grassroots level in schools and local communities and organized and performed at events that featured Romeo Dallaire, Jane Jacobs and Jean Vanier.
Desire for Peace – Need for Justice
In 2005 violence struck close to home with the murder of 16 year old Andrew Stewart. CPT worked with a group of Drew’s friends to help them confront the complex reality of violence in their lives and in the lives of so many youth in their city. They struggled to reconcile their desire for peace with their need for justice and their desire for revenge and were awarded the 2006 YMCA Peace Medallion for their moving and courageous work. CPT’s focus widened to include youth as well as children, and our relationships with youth serving agencies and grass roots youth groups deepened.
In 2006 founding Artistic Director Robert Morgan retired. The work and vision of CPT continues with Karen Emerson as the Artistic Director. Under Karen’s artistic direction, CPT’s programs and vision have grown substantially. Recognizing the need to broaden its reach, the Children’s Peace Theatre began to operate year-round, offering programs like the Youth Leaders Theatre Project, Conflict Transformation, and projects for children and youth of all ages and backgrounds every year. In 2008 CPT was awarded the Mayor’s Community Safety Award.
In 2008 CPT played a key role in the development of the Taylor Massey Neighbourhood Youth Alliance (NYA), a collaborative to build the capacity of youth, youth service providers and youth serving agencies. CPT works primarily in, and has developed deep roots in the priority neighbourhood of Taylor Massey (formerly Crescent Town) in Toronto. Taylor Massey has a very large new Canadian population – over 64% – many of whom come from countries where war and violence were part of their everyday experience. Many of our young constituents live with ongoing economic hardship.
In 2013 CPT in collaboration with NYA initiated a Youth Arts Space and Shared Platform for youth led arts for change projects and works closely with other arts organisations in a Shared Platform Community of Practice.
Today, Children’ Peace Theatre continues to provide collaborative and artistic skills to culturally diverse young people who want to create awareness about peace methods.