Celebrating our volunteers: How Tyler shares his passion for painting with youth

Volunteers give countless hours of their time, skills and talents to provide youth at Covenant House Toronto with meaningful opportunities to try new things, make new friends and help build confidence. Tyler Scott is one of the volunteers who leads the Thursday evening art program at Covenant House. We talked to Tyler - an actuarial consultant in the finance industry – about sharing his talent for painting with the youth.  

Q: When did you start volunteering at Covenant House?   

A: I’ve been volunteering with Covenant House Toronto since 2019. I started with the fitness program and then moved to the art program two years ago. I volunteer because I want to help make a difference in the lives of the young people who are going through so much. 

Q: Why did you want to share your love of painting with the youth at Covenant House? 

A: I was interested in painting back in high school, but I really got into it six years ago when I was dealing with some challenges in my own life. I started painting to help deal with those challenges and make positive changes in my life. I’ve been painting regularly since then and thought I could share that passion with others who may be going through their own challenges. I want to teach art professionally one day, so volunteering with the art program is also a great developmental experience for me.  

Q: What motivates you to connect with youth on an artistic level?  

A: I love the youths’ creative energy and get inspired by the artwork they produce. I feel refreshed and energized at the end of each session. It’s like a breath of fresh air. 

Q: What effect do you think it has on them? 

A: Painting can be very therapeutic. It helps people express themselves and it helps soothe the mind. I’ve often noticed that many of the youth really tune into and focus when painting and the experience often helps them temporarily forget about some of the challenges and difficulties that they are facing in their lives.

Others are more serious about their art and see it as a potential career path. I try my best to provide them with information and guidance based on my experience. I also help them hone their craft by teaching some technical skills like mixing colours.  

Q: What does a typical art program session look like? 

A: I usually leave it up to the youth to decide what they would like to do or learn. Some like to show up and do their own thing, which is most common. However, there are others who want me to teach them, so they ask me for a lesson on how to come up with an idea for their painting or how to improve a particular skill.   

 Q: Is there a highlight from your time volunteering that you can share with us?  

A: Last year I helped the youth prepare for an opportunity to display and sell their paintings in a local art gallery. The group was excited at the idea of having their works of art professionally displayed and maybe being able to sell them. One particularly talented and ambitious youth sold some of her pieces during the show, which made me feel proud that I had a hand in guiding that youth’s success.  

Q: Is there something you’re looking forward to about future art sessions? 

A: Each youth has their own interests, inspiration, motivation and goals, so I will continue to find ways to support them and help facilitate their art journey. 

My favourite skill to teach is drawing or painting something that is in front of you rather than using a photo reference as it is both challenging and very rewarding. I look forward to teaching that in future sessions because mastering that skill provides a great foundation to build a wide range of other art skills.