Sebastian Barrera is a doer. Despite obstacles, he finds a way to make projects he has a vision for happen.

On April 21, he received the Courage to Innovate Award at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts for his work on the KinArt Ravine project, a series of more than 60 murals lining the Kinnaird Ravine trail.

The award recognizes artistic risks and innovation that “results in a unique and distinctive project.”

Barrera initiated the KinArt Ravine project. Credit: Jacob Bos
Barrera initiated the KinArt Ravine project. Credit: Jacob Bos

The KinArt Ravine project isn’t Barrera’s first social project.

“I am from Chile; we don’t have funding for that. When you try social projects you are never funded, because there is no funding.” Barrera learned to be innovative in his approach to community projects. He knew it was possible to get things done without the funding we have become so accustomed to here.

Many people in the community consider Barrera a leader, but he sees himself as a facilitator of discussions.

“One of the things that I am trying to encourage is that it is not my leadership, it is true I have a vision, but I also have a lot to learn. I tried to be a leader, but I failed by not giving the people the opportunity to take ownership. I believe that I have learned a little bit more and now I try to facilitate discussions.”

His first project was Creart, which offers free music and art classes to anyone interested. It started while Barrera was playing guitar on the front steps of his Parkdale-Cromdale home. People would approach him and ask if he could teach them guitar. Barrera wanted to share his skills with others, so he approached the community league and asked if he could use the space to teach.

The first time he held a class no one showed up. Undeterred, Barrera pushed forward and as his community connections grew, so did Creart. The program is now flourishing at Parkdale-Cromdale Community League.

When working at Boyle Street Community Services, Barrera created the KinArt Ravine project which gave kids a positive experience through art and expression.

“We need places for expression, whatever that expression is, let people express. Let’s take the sadness, the anger, let’s take it all and challenge our minds to be better.”

Let us all have the courage to innovate in our own way.

Feature Image: Barrera performs at The Carrot. Credit: Supplied