New DARKSPARK Fund held at the Community Foundation

Jul 14, 2017

“Their mission is to use arts-based teaching to empower and educate Canadian youth…”

Have you heard of DARKSPARK?  I hadn’t until a few months ago when we were approached about establishing a fund for them to support their programming. Having now experienced the work they do – particularly working towards reconciliation in a very creative way by engaging students in expression through music – I am very proud that the Community Foundation now holds this fund.

DARKSPARK is a national non-profit transformative arts education organization. Their mission is to use arts-based teaching to empower and educate Canadian youth by conceptualizing, writing and recording contemporary pop songs.  Their founders, professional musicians Melissa Larkin and D’Ari Lisle, are based in Prince Edward County, and the genesis of the initiative was work done with grade 8 kids at the Quinte Mohawk school in Tyendinaga.

Their programs have been run across the country to address bullying, racism, sexism and more.  DARKSPARK has been working with Indigenous communities through their Four Directions Project in which students express complex narratives on the impact of colonial history by creating pop music.

To get a sense of how they do their work check out this 1.5 minute ‘teaser clip’. You can then view individual songs/ videos created through their website and YouTube channel. The tone of the songs the students produced varies greatly – some are very heavy, some are empowering and hopeful.  But all are powerful steps towards reconciliation by acknowledging and sharing.

To date DARKSPARK has worked with students in nearly a dozen schools from the Haida Gwaii to Cape Breton, providing Indigenous students with a tool for expression.

I attended an event they hosted June 13 in Picton to highlight the work they did with grade 7 & 8 students from Sophiasburgh Central School (the first non-Indigenous school they worked in). The room was full and the energy palatable.  The kids, many faced with learning about the existence of residential schools for the first time, wrote songs with titles such as “The Pledge” “No More” and “Shine a Light on It”.  I was struck by their honesty and emotion. I came to appreciate what a powerful experience DARKSPARK programming offered to participating students (and those who are exposed to the product).

Mike Downie was also at the event to launch the first Downie Wenjack Legacy Room.  He commented on the importance of artists to “open hearts, open minds, and open hearts” because information itself doesn’t move the needle or change things. Art, and music in particular, helps us internalize information and move us to action. I believe DARKSPARK certainly achieves this.

The DARKSPARK Fund created at the Foundation is a flow through fund which will be used to provide grants to select schools across the country so that they can run one of their programs.  It is my hope that a program will be delivered here in the Kingston area (indeed we have begun discussions to try to make this happen).

To donate to their fund now, click the link below:


275 Ontario Street Suite #100
Kingston, ON K7K 2X5
Phone: 613.546.9696
Fax: 613.531.9238