By Nicole Nemeth
In 1991 a group of artists formed a unique creative design company.
Rick Murphy and John Littlejohn started d3 Artworks Inc., which is not only an art studio that completes community art projects, but have also helped dozens of young adults through their youth group projects.
Charlene Westover, an artist and graphic designer at d3 Artworks Inc., has worked with youth groups for over seven years. She started out in a youth group herself when she was 21 years old and fell in love with the company and the people, which included Murphy and Debbie Humphries.
“I remember thinking to myself when I was in the project that if I could have her job that would be the best thing in the world because I loved people and I was always really good with people and I loved art and I loved teaching. All of those things … and I ended up getting her job and that was really cool,” Westover said.
The first youth group was for an art project called Explore the Edge. d3 Artworks Inc. flew in a group of youth from Newfoundland to Cambridge to create a series of paintings. Humphries was one of the participants of the youth group and stayed to work as a youth group leader.
Since then d3 Artworks Inc., with the help and guidance of both Westover and Humphries, have installed 16 United Youth Vision Cultural Artworks projects since 2002 in Newfoundland and the Waterloo Region.
Different youth projects included ones at the Cambridge YMCA Youth Centre Z, the Galt Arena Gardens, St. Louis Adult Learning Centre in Kitchener, The Concordia Club of Kitchener, the Galt Legion, Lang’s Farm Village Association, the Cambridge Humane Society, Glenview Park Secondary School and Grand River Film Festival.
The last art structure they installed as a youth project was for the University of Waterloo in 2013.
“We’re trying to actually get funding through Toyota to fund the youth project,” Westover said. “That will be really cool. Service Canada funded projects for youth facing employment barriers. There was a checklist you had to meet, but none of that will exist, there won’t be the restraints from the government.”
The Government of Canada provided d3 Artworks Inc. with $264,000 in federal Skills Link funding to support its Youth Vision Cultural Artwork project in 2011. It was to help 18 youth develop the skills and experience needed to find a job or the confidence to return to school.
“Everybody gets something they need here, as long as they’re willing to help themselves,” Westover said.
For Westover, she not only got a career she is passionate about, but also gets to help others who were in similar situations as herself.
“The art, the environment, the people, you bought into the ideals of the place, the vision and what Rick was trying to build, what he was trying to create here. Those are the things that drew me in and have kept me here for all the years that I’ve been here,” Westover said.
Since the last youth group Westover has been keeping herself busy at work as the graphic design assistant and artist. Humphries is in charge of bookkeeping and running errands. Both of them are hoping to get the youth groups back up and running.
“I’m really looking forward to having the youth back. The energy is different,” Westover said.