Jam Street hoping to uplift youth while reviving ‘suffering’ live art from COVID-19

Mathew Derworiz and Adreanna Boucher flipped the Jam Street Music Sessions building, at 1026 First Avenue West, into a multi-use arts space. -- Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Jam Street Music Sessions is revamping into a multi-use arts space during a pandemic—to the faces behind the transformation, it’s a fitting time to be shining a light on live performances.

“Right now, the arts are suffering because there’s not a huge demand for live art,” said Mathew Derworiz, who’s working with Adreanna Boucher to flip the building located on First Avenue West.

“The isolation that people have felt, people of all ages have felt, during these times is such that sharing artistic vision, artistic creativity, allows for an uplifting of those moments of loneliness, of depression, of sadness.”

At the beginning of July, Jam Street Music Sessions founder Lucy James announced that she was moving back to Switzerland.

While she’s still managing the music school, Boucher had ideas to enhance the space. That sparked from how much she wanted a home base for the Off the Cuff improv group.

Now, it will be a home for small, live performances of all kinds—such as for music, acting and poetry readings—and a rehearsal and storage space. Boucher also wants to use the venue to support local businesses.

Boucher said creative outlets through social media, such as Tik Tok, have boomed during COVID-19.

“People just turned to the arts as a way of coping to make themselves feel better and to laugh,” she said.

Youth in particular, explained Boucher, have been heavily affected by the pandemic.

“All of the sudden they’re taken away from their peer group and they’re isolated,” she said. “The arts is a way to relieve some of that pressure.”

A report released on Sept. 1 outlined the top 10 threats to childhood in Canada and how COVID-19 has impacted the overall health of the country’s youth.

It said that 57 per cent of participants between the ages of 15 and 17 said their mental health is “somewhat worse” or “much worse” than it was prior to the pandemic. The World Health Organization said violence against children could be the hidden crisis of COVID-19.

Not only do Derworiz and Boucher want to build a more vibrant downtown core, they want to make Jam Street Music Sessions a creative outlet for the community’s less fortunate.

They’re hoping to have small shows there every weekend, including two on Sept. 26 for kids. The pair said that, currently, roughly 15 people will be able to come in and watch.

As per their pandemic policy, chairs are spread out to allow for physical distancing, Derworiz regularly disinfects the space and visitors are encouraged to wear masks. Hand sanitizer is available before entering and leaving the building.

As restrictions ease, they hope to get larger and larger.

“We’re painting walls; we’re renovating, and we’re hoping to start with small attendance events,” said Derworiz.

“We’re using this as a rebuilding time.”