While expressing creativity can take a lot of courage, everyone has the ability to share their talents and discover new ones.
That’s the message Olaoluwa Olatunbosun, a 20-year-old student at Sault College, is hoping to share with his new creatively driven program for local youth.
Originally from Nigeria, Olatunbosun moved from his home country when he was 13 with his mom and two siblings. He lived in big cities like Las Vegas, Montreal, and Toronto before making the decision to come to the Sault last September for the college’s graphic design program.
After settling into the small-town life, he felt something was missing here.
“In terms of creativity, I noticed there weren’t many outlets for youth that empower them to be a creative genius,” he says.
That’s when he came up with the idea to form Creo, a program intended to provide training and spaces for youth looking to express their creative abilities.
Creo is derived from Latin, meaning ‘creation.'
During his time in southern Ontario, Olatunbosun was taking computer science, and received a summer job as a web designer for his church in Toronto. While the program didn’t work out, he discovered his passion for graphic design, and ultimately, his calling for artistry.
Since arriving to the Sault in September, Olatunbosun found United Baptist Church, and he was given approval to operate his workshops out of the building. United Baptist even provided Olatunbosun with $1000 in funding to help kick off his venture.
“A church is always a really good place for me to feel safe,” he says. “It’s a very safe space.”
Olatunbosun intends to run classes and workshops for people aged 15 to 30, while providing a place for youth to hang out and express their creativity through activities like painting, drawing, and water colouring.
The graphic design student says while the freedom of expression aspect was a huge motivator in founding Creo, the original intentions of the program run much deeper.
“This was created with the intent to combat the drug use in Sault Ste. Marie,” he says. “There’s just so much that these kids impacted by drugs deserve, and they didn’t get. And because they didn’t get it, they’re indulging in things that are tarnishing their future. I want to be able to create a space in the Sault where people can find a way to keep those things aside and focus on something else.”
Olatunbosun’s transition to Canadian life was challenging, particularly because he had never experienced a chilly winter before.
“I love this place, but the one thing I dread is the cold,” he says.
Olatunbosun admits he felt very isolated in the colder months and wished there had been a program like Creo to help distract him from that difficult time of year.
“It’s a devastating time for a lot of people,” he says. “There’s not a lot of sunlight, and with that comes quite a bit of sadness – and it hit me too. I feel like if I had a community of creatives, it would have made a huge difference.”
Olatunbosum is planning to launch his first Creo class at United Baptist in the coming weeks with a water colouring workshop.
During his time in Toronto, Olatunbosum attended an Innovation Hub at a nearby library where they had high-powered computers that allowed kids to explore the ins and outs of graphic design.
He spent countless hours learning how to use Adobe Illustrator and began posting his work online.
“I was getting millions of views,” he says. “I kept on getting better and better and knew this was something I wanted to get into.”
On top of providing a space for hands-on workshops like painting and sketching, Olatunbosum has greater ambitions of getting computers into a space so kids can use them to develop their graphic design skills.
“The only reason I’m as good as I am now is because I had that space in Toronto to keep practicing,” he says.
Olatunbosum recognizes there’s a ton of potential here for youth to express their artistic abilities, and he says a place like Creo could make a positive impact on the community.
“Before you know it, there could be creatives popping up all over the city, and this place becomes a creative hub,” he says. “That’s where I want to see the city go. I want it to be a place where people can express creativity freely. Where people can sit down and enjoy a workshop, learn, and create.”
Olatunbosum shares his work on his Instagram and TikTok pages under @olastrator.