As you travel through the Berlin Tower ARTSPACE, a busy cityscape rises up in front of you. A monochromatic collection of buildings of all shapes and sizes climbs up the wall, connected by steep stairways and winding passages. As your eye travels, it reaches a bright neighbourhood of homes in brilliant colour, punctuated by messages of optimism and hope.

This is Finding a Home, one of the thought-provoking pieces featured in this month’s exhibit at Kitchener City Hall’s Berlin Tower ARTSPACE. The exhibit, Finding Our Place: A Journey Home, showcases artworks made by past and present youth from the New Canadian Art Program at Reception House Waterloo Region. Self-portraits, collages, drawings, and sculptures fill the space, telling the story of immigrant youth as they navigate their new surroundings.

“Art is a way of expressing yourself that lives beyond the language barrier,” said Pamela Rojas, a visual artist and muralist who founded the New Canadian Art Program with Reception House in 2017. “For us, it’s not necessarily about art technique, but about how our young artists use the art to tell their own stories.”

The program works with youth ages six to 19 who have immigrated with their families from around the world. Through weekly sessions, they explore their lives, culture, experiences, and the challenges of establishing their lives in Canada through projects in a wide range of artistic mediums.

Finding Home installation at City Hall

Coming to a new community can be stressful for the whole family and for many of the program’s participants, they are not only navigating their own challenges, but supporting their families as they set up their lives in Canada together.

“Most kids in our program are living in temporary accommodations, starting a new school, learning about a new culture, and finding a new community. They’ll also often learn English more quickly and be helping their parents with the logistics of moving to a new country,” said Rojas. “But during our sessions, they have a place away from worry and responsibility, and have the chance just to be kids.”

Self Portraits artwork

Arriving in Canada introduces youth to a lot of new information and experiences, from the structure of the school day, to new holidays, to the rules and expectations in their new communities that are different from what they have always known. Through the program, the participants engage with their new surroundings and develop relationships with others navigating the same challenges.

“Our program is an art program, but it’s also a teaching program for youth,” explained Mohammed Saeed, Youth Support Facilitator at Reception House. “Our program is designed to introduce new things to our participants in a way that is easy to navigate and understand. They also know they can come to us and ask questions about the things they’re experiencing without judgement, which gives them more confidence to navigate those new things outside of our walls.”

The pieces in Finding Our Place: A Journey Home reflect the complexity of the young artists' experiences and their hopes for the future. Vibrant mixed-media collages and textured self-portraits introduce the artists, their passions, and their history. Sketches and pastel drawings invite us to explore their new environments alongside them, while colourful pieces depict their wishes and goals for their future in Canada. The cardboard sculpture Finding a Home stands as a focal point, depicting the difficult journey of the artists and their families as they build roots in their new communities. Through the eyes and the experiences of these young artists, we catch a glimpse into the rich cultural fabric that makes up our city.

Come experience these unique pieces for yourself until May 31 at the Berlin Tower ARTSPACE at Kitchener City Hall. The gallery is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Learn more about the exhibit on the City of Kitchener’s website and explore the supports Reception House Waterloo Region offers newcomers in our community at

Reception House art piece