Co-Founder of Urban Minds and past Festival exhibitor Angela Ng shares her goals of inspiring youth, creating community, and making change.
How would you describe your profession and your practice?
Urban Minds is a Canadian non-profit organization with a mission to create meaningful ways for youth to shape equitable and sustainable cities. At Urban Minds, we want to transform youth engagement for city-building projects from being a tiresome chore into an inspiring journey. We want to change the perception of youth as lesser, passive participants to that of youth as capable, active co-creators.
Has your work changed over the course of your career?
When I co-founded Urban Minds in 2016, our work focused on raising awareness about city-building to high school students through organizing conferences and mentoring them to tackle their own community challenges through design-build projects. Since then, Urban Minds has grown to also provide youth engagement services to municipalities and civic organizations to better connect with youth and design youth-friendly spaces, programs, and services.
What was your”eureka!” moment that made you realize that art/design was the route you wanted to take?
I grew up enjoying playing with Lego and building 3-D models out of craft supplies. I also volunteered at summer camps and saw a strong interest among youth to create change in their communities. After graduating with a Master of Architecture degree, I realized that there wasn’t a lot being done to engage youth in city-building, so I thought why not use my passion for design-build projects to help youth tackle challenges in their communities? That’s how Urban Minds came to be.
Is your work inspired by anything in particular? What turns you on creatively?
My work responds to the needs of the community, particularly the youth that I work with. I listen to their stories and try to understand their challenges and desires for their community. I am inspired by the youth themselves as they share creative, refreshing ideas to address the unique challenges they face.
When I am exploring new places, I get excited when I encounter playful, interactive public spaces that engage all sorts of people, from young to old. I am inspired by installations that give new life to everyday objects or materials by creatively repurposing them.
Which designers or artists inspire you and why?
I admire the work of Better Block because they do an excellent job of facilitating community-driven urban design. Their public spaces are created with and by the people that use those spaces, and they’re fun! I had the pleasure of visiting their first Canadian temporary public space in Toronto back in August 2019. This project was done in collaboration with 8 80 Cities in response to a biking fatality, transforming the vehicle lanes for a stretch of Danforth Avenue into a human-centered public space with a painted street mural, painted bike lanes, seating, artificial turf, a games area, a fitness area, and a performance stage.
What was the name of your DesignTO Festival exhibition and what did attendees experience?
It was called “Design For Change.” Urban Minds hosted an exhibit to celebrate the creativity of high school students across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The exhibit showcased the design ideas of youth participants of the 1UP Design Competition to redesign St. James Town Co-op Community Garden to be more accessible and climate resilient. The exhibit also featured the design ideas and prototypes of high school students of 1UP School Chapters who are working on their own community design-build projects. The 1UP School Chapters pitched their ideas to a panel of design experts during the opening reception for the chance to gain additional funding. The goal was to bring together the community, designers, and youth to celebrate the grassroots-driven design and advocacy effort and to continue to build momentum for change across the GTA.
How long have you been involved with DesignTO? Why is DesignTO important to the creative community, here as well as abroad?
I’ve been involved with DesignTO since 2020. I’ve witnessed how DesignTO has provided youth with opportunities to express their creativity and connect with professionals in the design industry. DesignTO is connecting people of various creative backgrounds to collaborate and work towards a more sustainable future for all.
Do you have any memories from past DesignTO Festivals you want to share?
In 2022, we celebrated the creativity of youth, local artists, and community members at Artscape Wychwood Barns at our community design exhibit for the redesign of Wychwood Barns Park in collaboration with Friends of Wychwood Barns Park. The opening reception featured a presentation from the winning student team of the 1UP Design Competition reimagining Wychwood Barns Park as a more inclusive and accessible playground and outdoor gathering space for all. Visitors also co-created a communal art piece as part of the revitalization project.
Lastly, what random fact about yourself would you like to share with the DesignTO community?
I run Urban Minds as a volunteer alongside my partner, Ryan Lo. During the day, I work at an award-winning architecture firm, GEC Architecture.
Want to show your work at the 2024 DesignTO Festival? Visit our How to Participate in the 2024 DesignTO Festival page for more information.