Empowering Halton’s youth through art

By Allie Murray | photography by Nikki Wesley

Discovering a passion for the arts has always had a powerful impact on young people’s lives. While working in the community, Don Pangman noticed a need for not only art programs in Halton, but ones that were easily accessible and affordable for everyone. In 2009, he opened ArtHouse to do exactly that.

Since its opening, ArtHouse has strived to be a resource for the arts with a focus on affordability. With more than 75 locations across Halton, ArtHouse has served 7,585 individuals with more than 500 free programs in the last 10 years. Traditionally working with children and youth from 7 to 17 years old, the programs include visual arts, theatre performance, music, yoga, drama, improv, urban dance and cooking.

“It was really a combination of my history with the arts, researching the importance of the arts in all people, and while I was involved as a volunteer with the United Way of Oakville, I realized that there are a huge number of at-risk young people who may never have an opportunity to participate in the arts because of cost or access,” said Pangman, founder and owner of ArtHouse. 

At ArtHouse, the goal is to provide opportunities in the arts for children from low income families, struggling with mental illnesses, or have an overall love for the arts. Working to develop life skills and provide opportunities, the programs set youth up for a unique form of learning that help them now and into the future.

“There are so many ways to describe the arts as a transforming catalyst, but our programs work towards developing communication, emotional and self-expression skills, as well as provide children and youth the chance to prepare for career opportunities and potentially for jobs that don’t exist yet,” Pangman said. “They provide the skills for success that include creative and critical thinking, problem solving, and communication and they help to bridge the gaps between diverse cultures and experiences.”

Celebrating 10 years in Halton, ArtHouse is returning to its roots with its anniversary celebrations. Noting the common expression that it takes a village, Pangman is thankful for the village they’ve built that now spreads across Halton.

“Our plan is to bring together all those who helped us plant the ArtHouse seed back in 2008, along with our many donors, venue providers and community partners, plus many of our young ArtHouse participants, many of whom have been with us since our earliest days,” Pangman said.

Striving to reach all children and youth in Halton, Pangman’s future plans for ArtHouse are to continue doing what made them so successful: focusing on offering high quality programs and helping youth find their passions.