Brock graduate Justus Duntsch (BA ‘17) is pictured above alongside Nancy Edmonstone, a local artist and regular participant in the Art Me Up program.
[written by Charles Kim for Surgite Magazine, Spring 2023]
When graduates of Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) head off into the world, they do so with plans to make their mark in the arts community. Some have gone on to create successful theatre groups or perform their music in front of crowds of thousands. Others have showcased their work in, or even curated, popular art exhibitions around the globe.
Justus Duntsch (BA ’17) is using his art to spark difficult conversations and to support some of Niagara’s most vulnerable residents.
The Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC) graduate has developed his career with the wellness and development of the Niagara community in mind.
He strives to be the change he wants to see in the world. “Where do you start when you want to make the world a better place? It must start with you. It has to be genuine,” Duntsch says. “I think the best way is to speak with your actions.”
“Where do you start when you want to make the world a better place?
It must start with you.”
– Justus Duntsch –
Along with sitting on and chairing a variety of community arts committees since graduation, Duntsch has spent time working with Start Me Up Niagara, which supports individuals facing significant life changes and provides them with opportunities to stabilize, participate and grow.
The organization offers services and programming to those facing challenges such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, disabilities, addictions and mental health issues.
Through the ‘Art Me Up Niagara’ program, Duntsch helps participants to express their past and present through the exploration of multidisciplinary arts in a safe studio environment.
His work with Start Me Up Niagara has also led to his latest arts project, Before the Barriers, which reflects on the many people who took their own lives at the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines from 2018 to 2019.
Duntsch says the project’s subject matter is difficult to talk about, which has only driven him to ensure those critical community conversations take place.
“There needs to be a space where this can be discussed without the stigma and that’s really what I’m trying to get towards,” he says.
Duntsch hopes to adapt the project for an academic space and has been in discussions with his alma mater, and STAC Director David Vivian, about how to do just that given the sensitivity of the topic.
He says he’s thankful for Brock’s STAC program – which helps students to gain a critical view of contemporary culture – as it provided the skills he’s needed to get to where he is today.
The instructors are top shelf, the tools, the space – it’s really a world-class facility,” he says of the MIWSFPA.
Knowing the inspiration that came from his time at the downtown arts school, Duntsch looks forward to seeing where other aspiring artists from the University and beyond take their talents and how they use them to create change in the world.
“For anyone doing their thing in the arts and anywhere for that matter, just keep on keeping on. Look inside and ask yourself, who do you want to impact? What’s your desired outcome? Find what drives your passion and take the next steps,” he says.