1st year, Major in Art Education
You Can Do Hard Things
Written reflection on the act of transformation in outdoor pre-K
Many types of outdoor education programs exist with varying goals, methods, and populations. My experience in outdoor education is mainly in outdoor preschools, environmental education centers, and guiding backcountry trips. I have navigated this field for the past four years with the help of fantastic teachers, peers, and a good deal of immersion. Throughout these years, I have consistently observed the changes taking place within participants and educators. Transformation took many shapes during my most recent work in 2019, with an outdoor experiential preschool company located in British Columbia, Canada.
For eight months, my role was to develop programs and act as the lead instructor. The learners’ ages ranged between two and five years-old, and most attended the program once or twice a week. We ran three-hour blocks of programming daily, as well as one six-hour block once a week with the eldest learners. The programs took place in a small town, on unceded Sinixt, Okanagan and Ktunaxa land. Our outdoor classroom included a field and reconstructed wetland as well as a small forested grove a 15-minute walk away. The natural settings and seasonal changes influenced the structure of all our programming. Our keystones included respect for each other, respect for the environment, and trying new things. Play, storytelling, and crafts were central to our day while discoveries and inquiry enhanced our routines and future programming. Running our programming mainly outdoors created some constraints but opened a lot of possibilities as well.
Week by week, learners actively transformed their environment into places filled with stories, magic, and artifacts. These were the trails and evidence of our passage. Mud, water, plants, and stones provided abundant material for crafts and inspired many games; the opportunities to experiment felt endless and learners were keen to engage with their environment. They created shelters, made potions, and built pulley-systems. During winter, learners endeavored to fill-in the cracks of tree bark with snow in order to paint them. They indulged me through participating in lessons, such as making cardboard binoculars and playdough forest creatures. Novelty was a key aspect of our programming such that no two days were alike. Planning and preparation were also important, though many activities emerged through improvisation and play. The success of the program was greatly due to engaging with our settings, which kept learners interested and curious. Simple activities opened up new interactions with the environment, enabling everyone to explore and see differently. Transformations also materialized within. The learners were learning to adapt to weather, changing environments, and being part of a group. For many families, it was also the first time they would be apart from one another for a longer period of time. For learners who had attended more traditional daycare programming, they were now adjusting to being mainly outdoors. Initially, some learners were very hesitant to try new things such as jumping in puddles with rain boots or would get easily discouraged when scrambling up a hill. A phrase used by the owner of the company to encourage learners, “you can do hard things”, sometimes fit the situation just right. We used the phrase to encourage each other when rolling down a hill or turning heavy rocks to observe the insect world which existed beneath it. I have internalized this phrase and know learners will also remember it for a long time. These days, it comes to mind when I am apprehending a new or difficult task. Working with this group turned me into a softer, humbled, more easygoing human.
We were fortunate to have access to wonderful natural spaces and learners were eager to respect and nurture them. By routinely visiting and interacting with these spaces, they were also transforming their relationship to the places in which they lived and played. For example, they frequently pointed out garbage and participated in ‘leave no trace’ practices (Leave No Trace Canada, 2009). As main users of these spaces, it was up to us to conserve them. Learners also developed a relationship with the community garden and its members by visiting and planting sunflowers. Their families would tell me about the pride their children felt in the places we’d discovered, the plants we were growing, and the shelters we had created for animals. The learners’ intense caring and identifying with place strengthened by their experiences was an extremely rich process to witness.
Reflecting on this experience raises new questions for me; how is observing and interacting with our environment relevant to art education? How are we transformed by and continuously transforming our environment right here in Montreal? What kinds of materials are readily available in cities and appropriate to use? How are we limited in our use and transformation of parks and school playgrounds? Similarities between outdoor education programs and art education became clear to me while reflecting on my experience. Both aim to create meaningful, novel, and transformative experiences for learners. Both are concerned with the individual as well as the group and fostering a sense of community. Further bridging these two worlds might involve connecting to themes of place through art lessons. Resources like community gardens, guest speakers, documentaries, inquiry-based projects, local architecture, and public art could all help deepen learners’ relationships to the place they live.
The writing of this text took place in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal, land of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation.
3rd year, Major in Studio Arts
Everything is Transformed
Everything is Transformed
With focus on the following instructions written by Yoko Ono, (1964/2000):
Cleaning Piece IV
Write down everything you fear in life.
Pour herbal oil with sweet scent on the ashes.
I enacted these instructions during a summer evening in 2019, at around 10:00 pm. Quickly, I wrote a list of fears on a notepad, folded the paper into an accordion and put it in a small metal bowl. I did not want to set off the smoke alarm so I grabbed a lighter and my homemade lavender spray and made my way over to the park next to my home. It was late enough in the day that the park was practically empty so I took the opportunity to choose a spot that felt right. My boyfriend came with me to witness the experience. I set the paper on fire, waited until it had finished burning, and sprayed it with lavender. My homemade lavender spray lifted the ashes and blew most of them away as I noticed the scented oil clash with the smell of smoke.
When making my list of fears for this experience, I noticed some resistance within myself. The action felt self-involved and I did not feel that I wanted to dwell on negative thoughts. Some of my fears felt profound while others felt silly and dramatic. I realized that I was judging these fears and viewed them as a measure of my inner strength. One of them almost made me cry, and if I think about it now, the feeling creeps back up.
While trying to find the right location in the darkness to burn my list of fears a number of thoughts came to mind. There was something about the act that felt ritualistic to me. The bowl that held the burning paper, the paper itself, the oil I used; in short, the elements involved in this act all felt elevated in importance. The act felt sacred, close to prayer. Even the fire took on a deeper meaning. Fire is often associated with annihilation or destruction, but I found myself thinking of it more as a symbol of purification and transformation. I recalled the law of conservation of mass first described by the chemist, Lavoisier, in the late 1800s. Following a set of experiments, he concluded that nothing is lost, nothing is created, but that everything is transformed (Sterner et al., 2011). Therefore, setting fire to this list of fears did not erase them but allowed them to be viewed differently through this creative act. Here I saw a link to Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964), where the act of participants cutting away at her garment “transform[ed] acts of destruction into acts of creation” (Concannon, 2014, p.104).
In the summer of 2019, I visited a retrospective on Yoko Ono’s art at the Phi Centre. This centre is located on Saint-Pierre Street in Old Montreal and displays a diverse range of contemporary and multidisciplinary art. Like the instructions I followed initially, the retrospective contained pieces in which the viewer was encouraged to participate or interact. As a result, it is the viewers’ participation that allows the art piece to take shape, and at the same time allowing the viewers to alter or affect along the way. Through visiting the Phi Centre, I found that there were a few differences in how I followed the instruction score. I had a better understanding of the instruction score as an art form; therefore, I took my time and respected the process more: I chose a bigger piece of paper on which to write my fears in my prettiest handwriting. I repeated some of the fears I wrote previously but I added new ones. This time, I noticed my teeth clenching and my throat tightening as I wrote the fears down. I was more careful folding the paper, and I found a spot in my house which wouldn’t set off the smoke detector. I cut the paper in half to make it fit in the bowl, used a fancy matchbox, and took pictures to document the event. Unlike the previous experience, I was
more meticulous during my ceremony. I could see how naming and burning a list of fears can provide a sense of agency over them, and how adding the scented oil could be an act of compassion and reconciliation.
Yoko Ono’s work centres on the notion of peace and all that it entails (Concannon, 2014). She approaches the concept of inner peace as well as peace extending to the world around us. Although her work often focuses on the power of collective optimism, she also solicits “the full range of human emotion” (p.107) from the viewer.
I understood what this ‘full range’ was referring to when viewing Arising Testimonials (“Liberte Conquerante/Growing Freedom” exhibit at the Phi Centre, 2019), an ongoing project that collects women’s disclosures of violence committed against them. I learnt that a search for peace stems from acknowledging the reality of people’s lives; the reality that peace, for many of us, is not a given. Unfortunately, the subject of violence is a subject we as women know all too well. I was hesitant to read any of the testimonies because the imposition of my gaze felt almost voyeuristic. However, I wanted to know if I recognised any of the women. Seeing so many victims brought up feelings of revulsion, frustration, sadness, and disappointment. My interpretation of the piece is that it isolates the women on the wall as victims. I found this maddening because I found that there was nothing to counterbalance this perspective. On the other hand, I think my reaction is partly associated with the fact that the piece probably strikes a chord in most of us. Upon reflection, I see value in participating in Arising Testimonials; to feel a sense of solidarity and to take the opportunity to unburden oneself can be so cathartic for the mind, body, and soul as well. As art historian Kevin Concannon (2014) asserts, Ono’s work incorporates “honesty that recognizes reality even as it seeks to transform it” (p.107). Sometimes you cannot just think of the world positively, you also have to blatantly and openly expose the bleak parts of life in order for change to occur.
Concannon, K. (2014). Yoko Ono’s dreams: The power of positive wishing. Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 19(2), 103-108, DOI:10.1080/13528165.2014.928525
Ono, Y., (2000). Grapefruit: a book of instructions and drawings. Toronto: Simon and Schuster. Sterner R.W., Small, G.E., Hood, J.M., (2011). The conservation of mass [online]. Available at: https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/the-conservation-of-mass17395478 [Accessed 10 March 2020].
Ono, Y., (2019). Liberte Conquerante/Growing Freedom. Curated by: G.B. Kvaran and Andrieux, C., (25 Apr – 15 Sept 2019). Location: Phi Centre, Montreal. Date of visit: June 2019.
Second year, Art education
Students love to snap as many pics as their Smartphones will contain! The following lesson gets students to express, observe and manipulate the photographic plane in a creative and reflective process. The Haiku is traditional short written form of Japanese poetry—17 syllables arranged in three lines (5, 7, 5), while a Photo Haiku employs the same metered verse but uses images to compose a poetic representation.
Students will learn how to express themselves metaphorically and/or literally using a photo capturing device (Smartphone, iPad, DSLR). Learning how to set-up a shot (exposure triangle), how to choose interesting angles, isolating images that compose a scene, tell a story, or convey a feeling through a poetic narrative in 17 frames.
A Haiku consists of the juxtaposition of two ideas. The prototype above combines: Wintertime and Coffee-break. Between these opposing ideas is a separation that acts as punctuation to emphasize, relate and connect elements to form a new idea. Seventeen (17) images arranged on three lines (5, 7, 5) create the Photo Haiku where images replace words. This project may be approached from various entry points—some prefer writing out their poem first, whilst others may choose to capture images that inspire the writing, and others still may just bypass writing and let their images speak.
|1—Students are required to take a 20-minute timeframe at a pre-selected site or they may simply spend the time alone and upload images found over the Internet if they prefer not to go out. Here are some suggested settings and seasons:|
| Leaves blowing in the wind|
Wind sculpted snow
| Insects scrambling about|
A puddle as rain drops fall
Snowflakes on a window sill
| A garden patch|
A walk around the block
An impenetrable doorway
|On site or reflecting in silence, jot down phrases, words, or snap photos that inspire all the ideas that enter your mind.|
EXAMPLE: Along with written notes, I’ve also captured 27 pics (see below)— Walked over to a nearby church during a coffee break on a cold winter’s morning. Jotted ten successive observations at the church side entrance while sipping coffee and then walking through the back alley.
frozen pile of snow
back alley walked
side doorway entrance
curved edges of white hard ice
bootprints in the snow
grey stone block wall
wood door and rusted doorknob
coffee break morning
litter: crushed coffee cup
|2—Back at the classroom, isolate those words or images that best captured the essence of place, feelings and/or thoughts:||EXAMPLE: Winter, Doorway, Bootprint, Cup, Frozen, Walk, Coffee break|
|3—Put your word/images in a 5, 7, 5 order. There are many possibilities, so play and arrange them in all sorts of ways.||EXAMPLE: Threshold wintertime|
Frozen bootprints walk before
Coffee break no more
|4— Once a student feels that the arranged images convey the intention, print the poem for appreciation, class critique and exhibition.||EXAMPLE: SEE PROTOTYPE|
I also like to teach the possibilities of photo manipulation by using different free smartphone apps, such as, Snapseed, Lens Distortions, Fused, Tadaa and Lightroom CC. See example above: “using photo manipulation.”
Consider creating a Video-Haiku where each video capture is edited as follows: 17 shots x 1 sec. = 17 sec. total, or a Soundscape-Haiku where only sounds are recorded and assembled.
D-1 & 2: 2x45m or D-1: 1x90m
|Motivation||What is a haiku? (worksheet downloadable from scholastic.com)|
PDF LINK: http://teacher.scholastic.com/lessonplans/pdf/dec05_unit/whatishaiku.pdf
Examples of photo haikus can be found on Internet to stimulate ideas.
video LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owfJ9Zxa-iU
website LINK: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/haiku_masters/gallery/?period=201811&category=photohaiku
|Media exploration||For those students are versed about the exposure triangle, angles of view, light & shadow, and shot composition—they should apply the principals.|
If not, this assignment can become an entry point into photographic arts by getting students to think about shot value but just leaving settings on automatic.
|Art-making Procedure||Learners will capture images at a prior selected location. NOTE: it is important that this be done individually or at most paired. As they snap photos (more than 17) very quickly, they should also jot down phrases and words that the location inspires.|
Students upload on iPad and/or print the images to be arranged numerically and/or glued in a 5, 7, 5 order.
*Break here to carry over onto Day-2
|Response||As a group, students will display and share their art.|
Here are a few questions to direct the conversation:
What did you consider first?
Which images do you prefer and why?
How does the sum of images convey the overall idea/emotion?
How are you creating intention through photo arrangement and shot value?
|Studio etiquette|| All photo capturing devices fully charged.|
Note pads and pencils made available.
At the teacher’s desk a computer or iPads and a printer.
A way to drop images will be determined: USB key, dropbox, class email, etc.
Display boards to showcase
Fourth Year, Studio Art
Meditations on queer Love Fairy Tale Beginnings
“Once upon a time, in a dimension similar to this one, there lived two very special princesses. Although quite far from one another, a strange situation brought them together. You see, as princesses they both had certain obligations and were under immense pressure to perform their roles. The most prominent and ever-pressing matter being to wed a prince one day. They were often objectified and seen as trophies. It left them with disdain and a bitterness towards their oppressors – but let’s talk about them, the women.” – an excerpt from the short story I wrote entitled Two Princesses: A Lesbeing Love Story.
Fairy tales bring us comfort in their predictability. The opening line sets us up for a story we know will end with, “and they lived happily ever after!” The stories we are told as children are of interest to me; however I am even more interested in the stories I did not hear as a child. We tell ourselves stories as kids, about our lives and who we think we are. We act them out in play. These stories can encourage us to strive for our dreams and pursue our passions, or they can be limiting and box us into a singular idea of who we think we should be.
I grew up in a quiet suburban neighbourhood in the greater Toronto area. As a child I was very protective of my body and shy to expose my figure. The way I dressed could be classified as tom-boy; nevertheless I identified as heterosexual and my first sexual experiences were with men. The majority of my sexual experiences have been with men. Only recently, this past year, an unpredictably strong connection with a woman prompted me to re-evaluate my personal narrative. At this point you might be wondering, who is this person? My name is Joules and I am a queer Latinx artist based in Montreal creating multi-sensory installations. I appreciate the forgiving nature of digital painting while relishing the tactility of the handmade. That being said, I am not afraid to use whatever medium necessary to convey my message. My creativity is fueled by my love life – featuring only myself with men until recently. I make art to give myself time and space to think, to heal, to express love and joy. Art is a meditative process so in developing a romantic relationship with a woman, naturally the focus of my work shifted to my queer relationship. I hope that my art empowers all queer identifying people as I outgrow the hetero-normative narrative I once abided by.
Plot Twist: Sexual Identity Crisis
Being romantic with a woman for the first time triggered a lot of big questions about my sexuality. Questions like: “Am I gay now or bisexual?” “How do I tell my family?” “Should I even bother or is this just a phase?” “Could I be pan-sexual?” “What are my motivations for liking women versus men?” I would habitually compare my past relationships with men to my new relationship with a woman and wonder if I was simply attracted to her because we could relate to each other through our shared experience of womanhood, or because of who she was as a human being? I debated the significance of gender in my attraction to her specifically and then more broadly to people of any gender identity.
With all these conflicting ideas running through my head, I was desperately seeking clarity. I wanted simple answers to complex questions and this desire created frustration. I felt like no singular term could define me indefinitely, except maybe “human” (and even that was up for debate). I really thought I knew myself until this unforeseen new love challenged core ideas. Every term felt limiting. Eventually I realized this desire to label myself stemmed from a fear of uncertainty – the desire for stability, when in reality we are fluid beings that go through constant change. The term queer seemed to be the most fitting label as it inherently defies stable identification. As an adjective, queer once meant “strange” or “peculiar;” in this case, though, I am using it as an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender. But labels make for generalizations, and there are always exceptions. I sought to create my own language, and a story that left room to grow and evolve. This sexual identity crisis created a need for space – space in which I did not have to define my sexuality so exclusively. Somewhere I did not have to “come out” to anyone as anything. I desired a space in which I could simply exist with my partner and feel peace, acceptance and love.
Rewriting the Narrative
The origin of my queerness was a question that nagged me relentlessly, so I prompted myself to write an origin story. The result was Two Princesses: A Lesbeing Love Story, a fictitious legend of two women in the face of oppression that fall in love with their womanhood and eventually each other. The short story was typed by hand on an Eaton Viking Deluxe Typewriter, later digitally scanned and mass reproduced; yet the hand-typed imperfections are a detail that should not go unnoticed. The use of the typewriter is a nod to the surge of women’s liberation during the period of its invention in 1878, while simultaneously suggesting a longer history of inequality, including women’s unpaid labour as secretaries, typists and editors for male writers – usually their husbands.
Two Princesses is the fairy tale I wish existed when I was a child. It is a story that deviates from the usual narrative. These two princesses are not pitted against one another. They do not want for material things. These resourceful princesses do not need a knight in shining armour to save them. They are able to rescue themselves from oppression and find the realm in which the spirit of the Lesbeing resides. The realm where they can be completely free of judgement and fetishization. Writing this story to my younger self helped me come to terms with the development of my queer sexuality.
In order to represent the realm of the Lesbeings, I materialized a new artwork entitled, A Space Where We Can Exist, a virtual love nest created by the Lesbeings. A tent-like structure with a netted exterior and a woven roof; housed inside is the Lesbeing Love Legend, a stack of pamphlets which further informs the desired space for the couple to be who they are: proud and liberated. I see the Lesbeing Love Legend as a seed that can be brought home and propagated by visitors. The material choices for the net (purple fleece and green cotton-poly blend bed sheets) refer back to childhood forts and that sense of playful resourcefulness. The finer net made of gold thread adds a touch of magic to this ethereal force-field. Behind the double layered net, three iconic portraits hang on lengths of semi-transparent white polyester which depict moments of pure bliss and exude unwavering pride. Each banner is showered in a sunflower motif that symbolizes loyalty and longevity; qualities essential to a healthy long distance relationship. In this realm, the scared child wrapped in a blanket receding into their closet becomes an otherworldly being capable of magic. The Lesbeings are powerful but vulnerable creatures that express themselves freely. The net that surrounds and protects its inhabitants acts as a barrier between chaos and serenity, the material world and the infinite realm of the Lesbeings. In a relationship that exceeds many boundaries, be they international borders, hetero-normative constructs, cultural and racial binaries, A Space Where We Can Exist is a reserve for the lovers to retreat into – free of judgment. The piece says a great deal about the nature of our relationship and how sacred our connection is. I needed to let go of the turmoil I felt about my sexuality and make space for infinite states of being to exist without labels. The space I have created embraces the grey area marginalized groups fall into. With elements that blend and weave, each layer influences the next. The net both obstructs and reveals part of the portraits the lie behind it. The overlapping visuals reflect the complexity of navigating the world as a queer femme and reject the common assumption is that one is born straight or gay. A Space Where We Can Exist is unapologetically queer and answers to no one.
Gaily Ever After
A Space Where We Can Exist takes up a fair amount of physical space while being relatively portable and easy to set up/dismantle. It demands a full walk around or a good spin to take in its multi-faceted entity. Intrigued by the pamphlet placed inside the tent, participants usually wonder, “Are we allowed to go inside?” One is invited to engage with the story but the limited space inside the tent and layers of fabric and netting suggest that the space is reserved, not open to visitors. The piece brings up issues of permission and boundaries. It is generous in that it gives the viewer an intimate look at my relationship with a woman; it tells an intimate story of adventure, passion and love but restricts the viewer from occupying our space. Some initial reactions of the piece have compared it to a birdcage, a fitting comparison as it implies the captivity of free spirits. My partner and I being the free-spirited birds trapped in a world dominated by hetero-normative propaganda. Creating this piece was a way of rewriting my personal narrative to include queer love and celebrating the spiritual and emotional connection I have always craved. I want this piece to trigger ideas about limitations – the boxes we close ourselves into. For the majority of my life I sought after a deep, romantic and spiritual connection with a man, disregarding the population of women around me as capable of providing that. I craved the approval of men specifically. When a woman came into my life and started providing the connection I longed for, I realized the need for a man’s affection was a patriarchal device implanted into the media I had been consuming all my life. My piece is an attempt to combat hetero-normative media and inspire people to broaden their horizons about who they look for love in.
I hope my piece inspires people to look beyond the typical fairy tales we grow up with and create their own unique ideas about love. Who will you find love with? Would you turn away from a love that challenges your preconceived notions, or embrace it with open arms? When people interact with my piece, I want them to start questioning the hetero-normative conclusions we unconsciously jump to. Is this idea about love my own? Where did this idea come from? The piece is meant to capture the essence of love felt in a queer relationship and hold space for it – validate it. I want to encourage my audience to open their hearts to love regardless of sex, gender, race and ability. Make your love your own.
Mikaela Clark Gardner
Fourth year, Art Education Specialization
Culture Jamming: Responding to Hegemonic Images Through Appropriation
This lesson plan focuses on the art of détournement or culture jamming through understanding and practicing the ethics, strategies, creative process and action-based dissemination. Culture jamming is a social justice oriented methodology that plays with humour, wordplay and wit through appropriating normalized oppressive, hegemonic media or corporate images to reveal their truth. Culture jamming can be used in schools “to promote civic engagement with images, society, and identities” (Sandlin & Milam, 2008, p.326). Culture jamming is relevant to high school students in many ways. Visual culture is closely connected to students’ everyday lives, thus their knowledge will be central and useful within this project to show what is urgent, trending or popular. In addition, adolescents often seek to investigate crossing boundaries and pushing the limits. This lesson acknowledges and supports pushing boundaries as a strength to critically question injustices within our society and to take creative action to dismantle oppressive images. The classroom is also a safe space to explore the effects and ethics of crossing boundaries. In the lesson, we will discuss and practice the theory, “Ethical Spectacle,” within our culture jamming. This theory originated from Duncombe and Boyd’s work, where Duncombe (2014) states “spectacular interventions have the potential to be both ethical and emancipatory.” (p.230).
As a teacher, I will be facilitating the project through providing resources and guidance, but it is important that the project is a democratic process of student-teacher decision-making. This is to foster a creative environment of agency and ownership for all involved. Dewhurst expresses the importance for students to be part of decision-making and “leave room for learners to identify and define their own artmaking.” (p.10). Although I will outline the available materials and amount of class time for the project, our decision-making process will happen during class and group discussion. This provides time and different spaces for inclusive dialogue for students’ to express thoughts, questions and ideas for their project. As the teacher, I will respond with activities, guiding visual prompts, guiding questions for groups and resources to help deepen their learning experience.
Overall, this project aims to help students deepen their understanding and knowledge of systemic oppressive structures, to develop critical thinking, to creatively reinvent images, to gain experience taking action on issues important to them and to have ownership over their own learning.
The length of sessions are one hour each with a total of 6 classes.
This lesson is for high school students in their last year. The students need to be familiar with various art materials, visual and media literacy terminology, and research methods. This lesson will be introducing new concepts beyond the art classroom basics. The maximum class size is 30 students.
Art materials & Equipment
There is flexibility for art materials, depending on the students’ chosen theme for culture jamming. The art materials that will be available are:
Culture Jamming Concepts and Definitions:
Appropriation: intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects (MoMA, n.d.)
Culture Jamming/Détournement: “Appropriates and alters an existing media artifact…in order to give it a new, subversive meaning” (Malitz, 2014, p.28)
Ethical Spectacle: “offers a way of thinking about the tactical and strategic use of signs, symbols, myths, and fantasies to advance progressive, democratic goals” without crossing ethical boundaries (Duncombe, 2014, p.230). Duncombe identifies five ways that Ethical Spectacle strives to be: “
Participatory: Seeking to empower participants;
Open: Responsive and adaptive to shifting concepts;
Transparent: Engaging the imagination of the [viewer]…without seeking to trick or deceive;
Realistic: Using fantasy to illuminate and dramatize real-world power dynamics…that otherwise tend to remain hidden in plain sight;
Utopian: Celebrating the impossible —and therefore helping make the impossible possible.” (p.230)
Floating signifier: “a symbol or concept loose enough to mean many things to many people, yet specific enough [towards]… action in a particular direction” (Smucker, Boyd & Mitchell, 2014, p.234).
Hegemony: “leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others.” (Oxford dictionary, n.d.)
Subliminal messaging: an underlying message through image and text to subconsciously influence the viewer
Subvert: “undermine the power and authority of an established system or institution” (Oxford dictionary, n.d.)
Transitional spaces: An in-between space, an interruption where “the viewer-learner begins to (re)consider her/his role in society, both as an individual and in relation to others” (Sandlin & Milam, 2008, p.342)
Interactive Prezi showing images and videos of artist/activist groups (e.g., Adbusters, Banksy, Guerrilla Girls and The Yes Men). Examples of visuals at the end of document.
Art Media Exploration
Before students start their research process, there will be a ‘warm-up’ art-making activity called, Collaborative Self Jam. The class will get into circles of roughly ten people. Each person will have a sheet of paper and a marker/coloured pencil. Students will have 15 seconds to draw their face, then pass their sheet to the next person. On top of the other person’s face, they will draw their own face in 30 seconds. Again, they pass it. This time they are looking at a sheet with two different faces overlapping and they need to try and connect these faces together. This activity continues with other add-ons, such as, drawing a tongue, a third eye, a cat beside them and so on. Let the class make suggestions. The point of the activity is to see the humour in art-making, to make odd or juxtaposing connections and to get ideas flowing about what appropriation means. In the end, each sheet of paper will have everyone’s work in some way and will often come out as a hilarious image.
Students will be encouraged to experiment with altering and twisting images in different ways during their brainstorming and sketching stage before settling on design/concept. Students are responsible for choosing and exploring art materials available in the classroom. The teacher prototype, along with images of the process, will be a visual and tactile example of some of the possibilities to explore.
During the research process and art-making, students will be given time to get into groups of three or four to discuss their findings and ideas. The group discussions will take place during research/sketching/brainstorming, during art-making and dissemination process and a whole class reflection at the end. This facilitates a supportive, collaborative environment to give opportunity to discuss and share ideas or to help overcome challenges. Students can work individually or in groups of 2-3 for their project, although this can be negotiated depending on the context of group dynamics. The classroom environment will be make as open as possible for students freely to move around, work individually, have space to collaborate and get into groups.
Guiding Questions during Group Discussion
1. Why did you choose your theme? Why is this social justice issue important to you?
2. Look at examples of hegemonic images that relate to your theme. Why do you think are they promoting these oppressive messages? What visual and text tools are they using to convey their message? How can you learn from their tools to your advantage in revealing their truth?
3. What images and/or symbols are related to your theme? What materials would highlight your theme and subversive message?
4. Who is your target audience? How are you going to draw their attention? What do you want them to walk away with?
5. Think ahead. How are you going to display your artwork to the public? What materials will be bold for viewers to see from a distance? What materials or art techniques will show the best if your work is being photocopied in black and white? What size are you working with?
During my sketching process, I played with posture, emotions and symbols. I wanted the boy to look tired, focused and consumed by his video game. I first drew a controller in his hands, but then changed it to a gun, to show the reality of what he is doing in this hyper-realistic video game. The controller-gun is covering his mouth to symbol his passivity and obedience to the game.
The video game, “Call of Duty” advertises the slogan: “There’s a soldier in all of us.” In reality, he is a young boy, staying inside, whose mind is occupied by a black-and-white, violent imaginary world. There is a window in the background of the image, showing a bright sunny day that he is missing out on.
The second image I drew takes the “Call of Duty” slogan to a global level. The image is a reminder that war is first and foremost a legitimate horror and not a source of pleasure or entertainment. The international charity War Child estimates that there are 250, 000 child soldiers in the world today, who are often forced to kill their own families before they are taken away (War Child, 2014). Our culture of violence has become normalized through advertising, movies, video games, music, etc. This image attempts to put war in its real context.
The action-based dissemination is vital in getting the learning environment outside the classroom and into the real world. Throughout the project, the class will discuss the ethics, safety and laws regarding culture jamming and display within public areas. Students need to reflect on logistics with location, the materials needed, durability/protection measures for artworks, the size and legal aspects. On day four, there will be a specific discussion on the rules regarding postering in the city or defacing property. *Students need to talk with educator about their ideas of public locations before they proceed.*
Day six will be the final reflection for the project. As a class, each group will discuss their journey in research, art-making and dissemination.
Reflection Questions: What did you enjoy about the project? What challenges did you face? How did you problem-solve to overcome the challenges? Looking back, would you have done something differently? Would you have liked the project to focus on another direction? What influenced and motivated your art piece? How did you consider Ethical Spectacle within your work?
Final notes: The allotted time frames for each day are suggestive. Students may take a shorter or longer period of time to complete certain parts of the project. Throughout the six classes, the educator will be available for helping with research, asking questions to get students to think critically about their process, sitting in on group discussions, and helping students navigate the art-making and dissemination processes.
CBS Corporation (Producer). (2011, February 26). “Banksy” creates street art and mystery [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDaYqK19q4k
Child soldiers. (2014). Retrieved April 03, 2016, from https://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/child-soldiers
Culture Jammed. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://culturejammed.tumblr.com/
Dewhurst, M. (2010). An Inevitable Question: Exploring the Defining Features of Social Justice Art Education. Art Education, 63(5), 6-13.
Duncombe, S., Smucker, J., Mitchell, D., & Boyd, A. (2014). Beautiful Trouble: A toolbox for
revolution (A. Boyd & D. O. Mitchell, Eds.). Toronto: Between the Lines.
Frankenstein, M. (2010). Studying Culture Jamming to Inspire Student Activism. Radical Teacher, 89, 30-46.
Guerrilla Girls: Poster Index. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from
Hegemony [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/hegemony
Lambert, S. (Director). (2010, August 10). Light Criticism [Video file]. Retrieved from https:// vimeo.com/14050409
MoMA Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from https://www.moma.org/learn/ moma_learning/themes/pop-art/appropriation
Third year, Art Education Specialization
Integrating a Negotiated Curriculum Approach
As a student-teacher, the exploration of various educational theories is crucial to the creation of a teaching philosophy. What sticks to your teaching practice is highly informed by what you come in contact with as a student-teacher. While on such an exploration, I came across an article “Negotiating to Engagement: Creating an Art Curriculum with Eight-Graders,” by Alice C. Pennisi (2013). Pennisi discusses her research on the re-engagement of a classroom through the use of a negotiated curriculum. A negotiated curriculum is described as the process of creating an art curriculum through negotiation between teacher and students. The teacher expresses the non-negotiable constraints that must be included in the curriculum, but the rest of the content is generated in partnership with the students.
This responsive approach to teaching intrigued me for its potential to promote student’s intrinsic motivation and student agency over their learning. The notion of teacher and students being partners in learning resonated with my aspiration as a student-teacher. A negotiated curriculum generates an idea-centered classroom as opposed to a teacher-centered one. Pennisi (2013) offers guidelines for implementation, such as the necessity for teachers to “make clear any non-negotiables constraints, so teachers and students know their respective responsibilities” (p.129). Other parameters necessary for the success of this approach include the decrease of “teacher talk” and the expansion of the definition of in class work. To decrease teacher talk, Pennisi (2013) suggests using signs with prompts, to encourage student autonomy upon entering the classroom. She also encourages teachers to “not teach,” “meaning [to] not do anything students could possibly do themselves” (p.135). This classroom structure relies on peer experts revealing themselves organically in the group to further support decreased teacher talk. The peer experts share the teacher’s responsibilities of transferring knowledge and support the creation of a community of learners in the classroom. To broaden what we consider as working in the art classroom, Pennisi suggests seeing research, reading and writing as valuable practices for students to engage in during class time.
The advantages of such an educational practice are evident, whether it be the opening up to diverse points of view and/or the increase of student’s engagement and motivation. A negotiated curriculum is anchored in critical theory and offers the possibility to alter power dynamics in the classroom. A shift in power dynamics can be achieved through the interrogation of the curriculum’s content by the partners in learning. Critical reassessment of curriculum favours the inclusion of new and/or historically marginalized knowledge. Although the level of student involvement required for the implementation of a negotiated curriculum might not be suitable for all classrooms and may cater to older learners, it showcases a way to foster student agency over learning that could be adapted to fit various contexts.
Reflecting on my own teaching practice, I wondered how I could integrate the negotiated curriculum educational approach to my classroom. Working with a group of 16 younger students (9-12 years old) in a community setting over the course of 12 weeks meant that I would have to adapt some elements to suit the younger age group, the duration, and the context. I implemented this approach by asking for student input and feedback about their learning and engagement during the first semester of an internship in 2017. This discussion took place as I was about to prepare the projects for the next semester of 2018. Students contributed their opinions on projects and subjects covered and provided suggestions regarding themes, materials, and processes they were interested in trying. I let them know some of the limitations concerning time and resources, and they expressed their satisfaction for my active listening and for being concerned with their interests. This open dialogue about the content of the course seemed to give them a sense of ownership over what was to come. In regards to the classroom structure of this approach, it will be something to ease into as the new semester begins. My hope is to integrate some of the methods for self-directed learning, for example, using signs and peer experts, amongst other tactics, as suggested by this article.
Pennisi, A. C. (2013). “Negotiating to Engagement: Creating an Art Curriculum with Eighth-Graders.” Studies In Art Education: A Journal Of Issues And Research In Art Education, 54(2), 127-140.
Third year- Art Education Major
It’s Time for Some Creative Changes: Opening Our Eyes to New Perspectives About Individual Art-Making in Quebec Elementary Schools
I am an undergraduate student working towards my BFA in Art Education at Concordia University in Montreal. During a recent internship at an elementary school, I found that the students lacked enthusiasm for art class and were not engaged in the lessons and assignments; the teacher was more focused on the structure of the class than the morale in the classroom. Creativity cannot be taught, it must be nurtured. Nurturing creativity leads to confident self-expression, which again in turn leads to strong and passionate change-makers in our society. Tying lessons to a specific set of rules squanders the opportunity for one’s creativity and imagination to flourish. This is counterproductive to the future of society.
In contrast to what I saw as an intern, models of education like the Waldorf, for example, let students explore the new material and ideas before the teacher presents the concepts clearly and hands out reading material. This method of teaching can be more rewarding for the students in the art classroom, as they would be able to explore new mediums and techniques, which ignite imagination and independence before learning the theories. I believe that the creative freedoms articulated in the Quebec Education Program under Visual Arts Education¹are constricting and preventing young students in elementary school from expressing themselves fully in the art classroom. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education identifies three competencies in the visual arts for preschool and elementary school arts: To Produce Individual Works in the Visual Arts (Competency 1)², To Produce Media Works in the Visual Arts (Competency 2)³ and To Appreciate Works of Art, Traditional Artistic Objects, Media Images, Personal Productions and Those of Classmates (Competency 3). 4
Figure 1: A diagram of the objectives outlined under Competency 1, as shown in ch. 8.2 of the Quebec Education Program for Elementary Education document.
The section Competency 1 (Figure 1): To Produce Individual Works in the Visual Arts 5 outlines the creative process, as well as how students will progress through the Elementary school system. Competency 2 focuses on the students’ abilities to create media images that express their individual understanding of reality or personal experiences using elements of visual arts language that will support their intended message to show to viewers. Competency 3 focuses on art appreciation and building critical thinking skills as well as learning to examine and reflect on experiences as well as media images discussed. Although the Quebec Education Program (QEP) makes very strong arguments in each competency section, in reference to the production of individual works of art, the first competency holds a very rigid structure, which results in conformity instead of encouraging creative thinking.
The current structuring of the creative process in elementary education is at risk of silencing the creative ideas of students both in the classroom, as well as outside the classroom. I believe that focusing on a child-centered approach–including conversations about critical thinking, direct communication from teacher to student one-on-one, and encouraging respectful discussions and presentations in the art class environment–will ultimately provide a supportive space for elementary school students. With this, they will be able to express their ideas themselves by using lessons as time for expressive and free art making as well as structured projects. When lessons that focus on Competency 1 are planned in a way where they introduce information and material at the beginning of the class in a presentation format, this deters students from mentally and physically engaging in the beginning of the lesson. This type of engagement is well defined and opposed in the Waldorf model of education.
I saw this during the observational internship I participated in during my first year in the major program. I was placed with the Art Specialist, and observed both Grade 3 and 5 art classes with an average class size of 22. For both grades, the Art Specialist focused largely on Competency 1, starting each lesson in the same format: A presentation style, where students must sit on the floor in a specific way, listen to the teacher explain new material and review the objectives for that day’s class. Every individual project had specific parameters, and held potential for students to utilize their unique creative ideas for specific aspects of the project. For example, the Grade 3 class was assigned a drawing project where the students would pick their favourite scene from a fairy tale that they were reading in English class and then recreate that scene in a drawing. Students imagined what the scene would look like if the story took place in the future. They were required to include the characters that were involved in that part of the fairy tale as well as any other given details, such as an action or setting that were mentioned in the story. But I found that many students had trouble drawing the characters as well as including everything that the teacher instructed for the lesson, leading to incomplete work for around 60% of students in that class. With what I have personally witnessed, I would argue that this particular project limited students from engaging with the assignment and that those specific rules inhibited the students from completing the project.
As part of my internship, I had the chance to teach one art lesson to a class of my choice–thereby giving me a chance to challenge the methods I oppose. I chose to teach the same Grade 3 class that had repeated difficulty completing the fairy tale project, as well as other projects over the course of the semester. My lesson took a child-centered approach and was based on experiential learning. I invited students to sit at the art-making tables and explained that we would be painting to all different kinds of music. They responded, “That’s all?” After the students played with the wide variety of materials that I had offered them and danced while painting, drawing, gluing and laughing, I facilitated a response activity where students could respond to some questions about their experience. I had overwhelming positive feedback; students were very vocal about what kinds of music they did and did not like as well as their favourite materials to use. Many of the students asked to do this activity again next week! I saw their response to my lesson as a sign that they were craving freedom in that art class. They needed more room to use their imagination, and they responded very well to immediately starting the art-making experience, rather than behaving in a controlled way in the classroom, and during specific projects as well. Creating a balance of both structured and creative lessons that use free art making would help students to express themselves more freely and explore their connections to art in independent projects.
According to the QEP: “Visual arts education, in the context of continuous progress throughout elementary school, helps children acquire visual literacy and develops their creative potential with regard to the visual world and their abilities to symbolize, express and communicate through images.”6 The QEP should not only continue to promote visual literacy in art class but also incorporate experiential learning into the provincial document so that students can reach their full potential and communicate their own individual understandings of reality.
I think teachers must be as frustrated as students with the demands set out by the QEP. I reflected on my notes over the course of the internship and I found the teacher to be focused on the end product, rather than the process. I found that this was when the students started disengaging with the process the most, primarily by talking amongst each other. Instead of continuing with the current outline of Competency 1, I believe other methods should be incorporated in the learning process in elementary school such as that of former elementary school teacher, David Rufo, currently an Instructor in the Art Education Department of Syracuse University in New York. In his article, Allowing Artistic Agency in The Elementary Classroom,7 Rufo draws from qualitative research in the form of journal entries that reflect on observations he made during two specific activities he ran in his classroom, called Read Aloud and Open Studio. Rufo’s research found that “giving up arbitrary control over creativity in the classroom allowed children to have ownership of their own creativity.”8 He writes, “Children need time to create unfettered by systems, institutional expectations, and government-directed assessments. Art does not conveniently fit into, and should not be forced to adhere to, the ways in which other curricula are designed and put into practice.” 9
One reason for the frustration might be the way the Quebec Education Program describes the process of learning in the visual arts. Overly explicit descriptions of how creative thinking progresses in each student can make art educators feel boxed in when creating lessons for their classes. From my perspective, it’s not about the end result but how you get there. Whether exploring new skills and techniques to accomplish a certain pattern in drawing, for example, or learning more about themselves through the process of making an artwork; what students learn in the process of making art is often the most rewarding part of class.
I value the Waldorf model of education for its “child-centered initiatives”10 and for how it recognizes the individual ways in which each child learns; it’s a model that asks students to relate the material they learn to their personal life experiences and to reflect on new information through their individual creative modes of response. A Waldorf teacher for 14 years, Bonnie Chauncey discusses the approach, using science as an example,“the typical approach is for the teacher to explain a concept or phenomenon to be studied, and to then use hands-on activity to illustrate it. Contrast this with a Waldorf science lesson. Here, the concept comes at the end, not the beginning.”11 This approach to teaching in the classroom is exactly what I have described previously. By allowing this creative exploration of either new material, or new art pieces and artists, children are supported in forming their own ways of thinking critically as well as forming their own judgement.
Another supporter of the Waldorf model would be Carrie Nordlund, who is an Associate Professor of Art Education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. After teaching art in public schools for 10 years, and a critic of the No Child Left Behind Act in the United States, she started to search for alternative approaches to learning.12 Based on her research, conducted with Waldorf graduates across the country, Nordlund believes that “Waldorf-Inspired practices,”13 “may spur greater mindfulness of creativity within our classrooms or schools.”14 She writes, “When making art, we essentially play: translate and construct our world, create new things, and take risks with the unknown.”15 This statement reflects my view on what needs to be incorporated in the Quebec Education Program for Visual-Arts Education, using Waldorf ideas and structures to enhance and strengthen Competency 1 of the Visual Arts section in Arts Education within Quebec’s Education Program.
Creativity is an innate, inalienable right that can no longer be lost as one matures into adulthood. It is the creative thinkers of the world that have made the huge changes in human society. Creativity cannot be taught as rote behaviour, it must be nurtured and supported, perhaps through non-traditional methods such as the Waldorf model. Enriching the curriculum with child-centered approaches in addition to considering the Waldorf model would create a well-rounded method to teaching art in elementary schools. A critical reassessment of Competency 1 in the Quebec Education Program Visual Arts Education outline will not only help the students, it will be a more satisfying and enriching experience for teachers and students alike.
 Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Québec Education Program: Arts Education – Visual Arts, n.d. c. 8.2. Government of Québec, 2016.
[²] Ibid., 228-229.
[³] Ibid., 230-231.
 Ibid., 232-233.
 Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Québec Education Program: Arts Education – Visual Arts, n.d. c. 8.2. Government of Québec, 2016, 228-229.
 Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Québec Education Program: Arts Education – Visual Arts, n.d. c. 8.2. Government of Québec, 2016, 226.
 Rufo, David. Allowing Artistic Agency in the Elementary Classroom (Art Education, 2011), 64 (3):18-23.
 Rufo,David. Allowing Artistic Agency in the Elementary Classroom (Art Education, 2011), 64 (3): 22.
 Ibid., 23.
 Chauncey, Bonnie, The Waldorf Model and Public School Reform (Encounter, 2006) 19 (3): 39.
 Ibid., 40.
 Nordlund, Carrie, Waldorf Education: Breathing Creativity (Art Education, 2013 66 (2): 13.
 Ibid., 16.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 15.
Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. Accessed June 09, 2017. https://waldorfeducation.org/.
Canada. Québec. Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Québec Education
Program: Art Education – Visual Arts, n.d. c. 8.2. Government of Québec, 2016. http://www1.education.gouv.qc.ca/sections/programmeFormation/primaire/pdf/educpr2001bw/educprg2001bw-082.pdf.
Chauncey, Bonnie. 2006. “The Waldorf Model and Public School Reform.” Encounter 19
Department of Art Education & Crafts, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Accessed
June 11, 2017. http://www3.kutztown.edu/arteducation/carrie-nordlund.html.
“David Rufo.” Syracuse University – Academia.edu. Accessed June 09, 2017.
Nordlund, Carrie. 2013. “Waldorf Education: Breathing Creativity.” Art Education 66 (2): 13-19.
Rufo, David. 2011. “Allowing Artistic Agency in the Elementary Classroom.” Art Education, 64
Third year, Art Education Specialization
Messages on the Wall
Last year, as Montreal and Canada celebrated milestone birthdays with big events and strong messaging, there was very little consideration of First Nations peoples. I decided to use my teaching practice to celebrate the longstanding and rich histories of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Pictographs and petroglyphs are some of Turtle Island’s oldest art forms, predating colonization and the development of Montreal and Canada. Pictographs and petroglyphs are pictorial messages created by shamans as a means to connect with the spirit world, while also leaving traces of their culture and beliefs behind, to be discovered in often remote locations. Inspired by this rich artistic and cultural legacy, I worked with 70 students in grade 4 and 5 at École St-Léon-de-Westmount, asking them to consider a longer history of “messages on walls,” to reflect on their own relationship to the land, and to use these as starting points for personal expression and public engagement. Each student used a fold-able paper brick as their canvas, and these were assembled to create a collaborative wall that activates an important conversation between the past and the future, as well as encouraging reconciliation through art-making.
This art activity was one of multiple visual arts contributions to the 2017 McEntyre Project, which was coordinated by the Westmount Visual Arts Centre’s ARTreach program and the Westmount Public Library. During the McEntyre Project, the Visual Arts Centre sends various art educators to different schools in Westmount to engage with the learners, and the results are exhibited in a lovely group exhibition at Victoria Hall. The teachers from the Visual Arts Centre are aided by the art teacher from the hosting school. The theme for the 2017 McEntyre Project was “Secret Places, Hidden Treasures.”
This 2.5 hour art activity was originally created for elementary school learners in grade 4 and 5 for the 2017 McEntyre Project. It could also be modified so as to be taught to learners from grade 6-grade 9.
Lesson Objective (please see the lesson sequence for more details) :
This art activity introduced the learners at École St-Léon-de-Westmount to the history and significance of pictographs and petroglyphs on the landscape in Canada. I offered learners a provisional definition of the word “shaman” and gave a sense of how and why they created these images. Subsequently, I showed contemporary examples of graffiti in Montreal and asked students to think about how this form of public art can promote a positive message, social justice and equity. Students then identified ways to represent nature and care for the environment, and these ideas were used as a catalyst in the production of the imagery for their bricks. Students were discouraged from mimicking the petroglyphs or the graffiti; rather, they were encouraged to invent their own imagery, based on their lived experience.
Students learned a painting technique that would enable them to create the look of a brick, using acrylic paint that was applied on paper with a sponge. Afterwards, they were encouraged to create and develop their images, using multiple colors of Sharpie markers over the acrylic paint. Once the bricks were finished, they were transported to Victoria Hall and assembled into a wall-like installation for exhibition.
Materials and Resources:
-Bristol board (22” x 30”, 2-ply minimum; 4-ply is ideal for painting and keeping its shape once folded) ; you can get 2 bricks from 1 sheet of Bristol.
-Scissors (can be used by students)
-Exacto knife (to be used by the art educator)
-A Bone Folder
-12” rulers and at least one 24” ruler
-Acrylic paint: Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna
-Paint trays (like reused styrofoam plates from the grocery store)
-HB Pencils and some coloring pencils
-Black Twin Tip Sharpies, a selection of colored Sharpies (regular), Gold and Silver Sharpies and a selection of Sharpie Brush markers
-A projector (for showing a slide show prepared by the art educator)
For this project, the bricks were made to the same scale as a regular-sized brick, which is 3-5/8″ x 2-1/4″ x 8.” I designed a template that would be used to measure and cut a paper brick for each student. The template contains a bit of overhang material that is suitable for gluing and needs to be creased using a bone folder. The template is laid upon an edge of a Bristol paper and you use it to trace the outline, in addition to marking the lines where the creases will be made. Although this required some preparatory work, it made for a substantially smoother lesson later on. Once the bricks were prepared, learners could easily produce their work, and then be able to fold and glue it to make their final piece, in a way that they wouldn’t damage it. Whatever leftover paper from the cutting was used for other projects.
I presented a slideshow to students, which took approximately 30 minutes and presented several key aspects of the historical, cultural and artistic material before they embarked on their painting and drawing. I introduced the slideshow by establishing the theme of the McEntyre Project, which was “Secret Places, Hidden Treasures.” We proceeded to look at an example of the Mazinaw Rock pictographs made by Anishinaabe shamans and elders at Bon Echo Provincial Park (that I had photographed while visiting the site in 2014). I also showed other Anishinaabe rock art examples from Agawa Rock (Lake Superior) and Fairy Point (Lake Missinaibi). I explained how pictographs were created by applying red ochre and other pigments to rocks, using the finger or a brush, and how petroglyphs, while similar in imagery, were created by abrading the rock face using stone tools. Students were invited to try to identify the shapes in the images and to speculate as to why First Nations peoples created these.
As a non-Indigenous person, I offered only a preliminary glimpse of the role of the shaman in First Nations cultures and the relationship between the images–which depicted animals, people, mythological creatures and other cultural referents–and the places that they were made in, which were often remote and hard to reach. Seen hundreds of years later, these images are like messages on walls, left for future generations to see and appreciate. Today, they may offer a starting point for young artists in thinking about our relationship to the land and to reconciliation.
Continuing the slideshow, we segued into graffiti and public art murals, so as to establish a contemporary connection to the idea of Messages on the Wall. Graffiti murals are a bold, expressive and highly popular public artform occurring on brick and other types of walls and surfaces around Montreal. The murals, aside from featuring aesthetically pleasing and elaborate imagery, have the ability to convey an important message in a public place about an important issue. I showed examples of murals by Curiot and ASHOP and encouraged learners to think about how these could impart a positive message about respecting and caring for the environment. I asked the students to think about their own experiences of these themes and offered an assortment of visuals that they could use as a source of inspiration if they had trouble coming up with their own imagery, such as line drawings of animals, visuals of landscapes, and symbols of care for the environment or positive engagement with nature. This was another opportunity to discuss the integrity of the art we had looked at, as well as the significance of students coming up with their own imagery. I invited students to make begin making sketches of some of their ideas on paper, as a preparation for later on.
We continued by covering their bricks with acrylic paint, using sponges to apply the medium in order to give it the desired look. There were 6 work tables, and each table had one of the three colors–yellow ochre, raw umber and burnt sienna–on a styrofoam tray. Some students chose one colour, while others played with two or three colours to give their brick a “random” kind of look. The paint was applied in layers, allowing each layer to dry before the next application. Once finished, these were left to dry until the next session.
During the following period, I offered students pencils to quickly sketch out their drawings before they produced finished drawings using the Sharpie markers. For those who were working on a darker colored brick, they were offered a coloring pencil, which made a more visible line than the HB pencil on top of the acrylic. Students had approximately 1 hour to make their drawings. They were invited to use text in their drawings, so as to emphasize the theme. They were encouraged to draw on two of the four panels -what would end up being the front and the back of the brick- because once the bricks were stacked, the viewer would not be able to see all the sides of the work. The art teacher and myself walked around, offering encouragement, tips and ideas for their creations.
Finally, as the students were finishing their work, they were reminded that the bricks would be individually assembled and that all of these would come together as a modular installation to create a wall. The students would be able to experience collaborative nature of the project and the installation, and discuss the art-making process and ideas behind it with their parents and peers once the exhibition at Victoria Hall was open for the public.
After completion, the works were transported to the exhibition hall and assembled using hot glue. Because they were creased beforehand, it was relatively fast to assemble them. We created an installation with the bricks so as to produce a free-standing wall that you could walk around. In this way, you could see the hand-drawn parts on the front and back of each brick, and experience all the works as a whole.
Rajnovich, G. (1994). Reading rock art: Interpreting the Indian rock paintings of the Canadian Shield. Toronto: Natural Heritage/Natural History.
Pictographs and Petroglyphs. (n.d.) In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
True_North. (2013, July 7). Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites In Ontario [Blog article]. Retrieved from https://albinger.me/2013/07/07/anishinaabe-pictograph-sites-in-ontario/
Curiot. (date unknown). (Title Unknown) [Graffiti Mural]. Mexico City. Retrieved from https://www.widewalls.ch/street-update-12/
ASHOP. (date unknown). (Title Unknown) [Graffiti Mural]. Montreal. Retrieved from http://www.ashop.ca/portfolio1/4lx1vdsrrmwvc4xu6tobpgqccjz9k0
3rd year, Art Education Specialization
Schoolbus Memories: An Invitation to Explore Self and Place
This lesson plan—entitled Schoolbus Memories—is part of a larger unit focused on helping Grades 5 and 6 students develop their imagination and explore their sense of self through drawing, discussion and collective collage. The central requirement is that students draw on a first-hand experience, then shape it using their imagination and artistic tools. The task of making images based on their morning trip to school not only allows students to reflect on their surroundings and external environment, but may be a place to consider their presence and belonging in that environment. I taught this lesson to a mixed-grade class of 16 students, half grade 5 and the other half grade 6 at an English elementary school in Montreal during Fall 2016 as part of an internship for my undergraduate degree in Art Education at Concordia. I was thrilled to see that students were engaged in collaborating with each other respectfully, as they were eager to align the quality and integrity of their visuals alongside those of their peers. I say integrity since the visuals produced by the students were intensely meaningful to them—and that’s a big part of what made this lesson work.
The imagination is a vital part of ourselves, guiding our thinking while allowing deeper access to complex aspects of life. Sorting through the multiple fertile images and ideas found in our imagination is one way that individual character reinforcement happens. Through the processes of art-making, students make choices about which aspects of their memories and identities could lead to the imaginative construction of an artwork. The resulting image can express in depth what we won’t or can’t necessarily express in words.
At the same time, ideas of the self and belonging are central to this lesson and larger unit plan. As students share their perspectives and created visuals, they get to see different points of view on the same subject. Students get to see multiple understandings of the self based on introspective inquiry. An important factor throughout the whole unit plan is that students are not seated alone; they are seated in groups or next to one another. This enables them to look over at the progress of their peers, learning from them and helping each other, as well. In simple terms, students share ideas in a carefully cultivated safe learning environment. Having the students reflect on their time travelling to school can be a place where visual memories become vivid, and the experience of the self emerges.
Preparation for Class
Questions of inquiry: What did you see on your way to school, and what would you change, add or modify? How could you bring your memories together in a “collage” work of art?
Pencils, coloring pencils, markers, glue, scissors, 2ft x 3ft sheet of bristol for each group, 3 sheets of letter size paper per student, 4 sandwich bags.
Visual Arts Vocabulary:
Collage: different images or parts of images that are combined together to create a new visual. Composition: the structure of the artwork; where elements are selectively placed and/or drawn. Layers: parts of different images stacked on top of each other.
Personal and Social Vocabulary:
Self: the sense of a distinct and stable identity, separate from the external world and other people, yet formed in relation to these.
Identity: how people see themselves and express ‘who they are inside’ to other people; related to ways of belonging; categories and characteristics that makes us who we are; may be collective or individual.
Introduction (15 min): Today’s art session will be about memories – recent memories. Before we get into it, let me ask you: “What did you see on your way to school?” Take a few moments to reflect and list anything you remember. Next question: “What would you change, add or modify?” We will discuss this together as a group. Next, imagine exaggerating particular elements of the scene: “You remembered seeing a bird? What kind of bird? How could it be different? Imagine changing or exaggerating any element of this bird. (5 minutes) Now, think about everything you saw today on your way to school. How did you get to school? How was the weather? Who did you see? What buildings did you pass? Was the road bumpy or smooth? What sounds did you hear? What else did you notice? How did you feel? Keep a list of these details. (5 minutes)
Prototype and Demonstration (10 min): Show the prototype artwork and memory collage. Explain what collage is and what it looks like, introducing the visual arts concepts (above).
Work Time (40 minutes): In groups of four, and working from the lists they generated above, have students draw their memories. When they are done, have students cut out their favourite elements (30 min). With their group, assemble the cut-out drawings on a large piece of cardboard without gluing them down. Together, move around the different pieces, experimenting with composition. Prompt students to explain or tell stories about their images. Finally, invite each group to glue down specific pieces to form a collage (10 min). They may add or modify through drawing, as well. Remember, this is team-work. Help students collaborate on the kind of artwork that will be made.
Despite having a restricted amount of time to teach this lesson, I noticed that students from grades 5 and 6 were able to grasp the notion of layering and exaggerating certain elements of their visuals (huge wings of a bird, for example). They got creative with the attempt to create certain 3d (pop-out) collage elements and experimenting with placement at the edge of the frame.
One way to improve this lesson might be to focus on a pre-session activity of “exaggerated drawings.” This session could introduce “caricature” drawings, as seen in newspapers and from other artists in order for them to develop and understand the visuals of exaggeration. I believe this pre-session could reinforce the students’ critical and imaginative thinking.
What could further enhance the notion of collaborative artwork in relation to the aspect of a “sense of belonging” is to have another pre-session activity where students get to speak in front of the class about what they recently saw by acting out (performing) an expressive reaction to what they saw. If they saw a bird, the student may have imagined it to be majestic with huge wings: the student could act this out in class by gazing towards the ceiling in awe. Here, the students in class get to see the same scene as the performer. The use of physical gesture can help to loosen up thinking and social processes. The whole class is within the dynamics of belonging in the learning environment.
Marion Miller and Rana Jreidini
3rd year, Art Education Specialization
3rd year, Art Education Major
After Québec City
On January 29th, six beloved members of the community lost their lives at the hands of a shooter attacking a Quebec City Mosque. Here, two art education students from Concordia University reflect on how horrific events like these come into the classroom:
After Quebec City, more than ever, the classroom and the community cannot be neutral. They become spaces of grief, political spaces, spaces where the educational mission must extend beyond the immediate goals of the art curriculum, and into the sphere of human values and the larger community.
After Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, last summer, I didn’t know how to react. I spent two weeks watching my internet networks explode with grief and fear over that action. I felt numb the entire time. I realized that I don’t know anything at all about being latinx queer in Florida. I was supposed to feel affected as a queer person but felt I had no context or lens through which to express that grief.
After Quebec City, I immediately felt shocked, upset, hurt. For though I am not part of the Muslim community, I am part of this society whose racism and islamophobia I have seen first hand. Watching thousands gather at the Parc Metro in Montreal, to stand together in solidarity with Muslim Quebecers, was a powerful moment of connection for me. Can our classrooms function in a similar way?
After Quebec City, I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as art educator in the art classroom. As a white person born in Canada, what must I be conscious of in this moment of anti-immigrant sentiment? I think back to the community internship I did last year, in which Rana and I chose to act as ‘hosts,’ facilitating art activities for kids aged 6 to 12, while essentially being ‘guests,’ visitors to a space not of our making but of the children’s making. As a non-Arabic speaker working amongst a predominantly Arabic-speaking community, I could not connect as quickly with the youth as could Rana, and was aware of myself as an outsider to their experience in migrant families. I tried to remain conscious of my privilege and the limits of my own understandings. I see the art classroom as a place for the expression of big emotions, personal stories, and the full range of experiences of the world.
The attack that occurred at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy was a shock to all. As an art educator, going into my community internship with adults and seniors the following day in order to teach felt challenging. Everyone was feeling shaken by what had happened, the need to talk was palpable. What unfolded next was an open-ended conversation that allowed us to express our thoughts in a safe environment. Although the planned art lesson was not taught, it was no problem—maybe another form of learning was happening. Instead we ended up drawing freely while letting the conversation flow. After public trauma of this order, I think it is important to let people articulate concerns and name issues.
Thinking back to last year’s community internship held as part of my undergraduate degree, Marion and I were in a diverse cultural setting focused on children’s art. Half of our students were Muslim and recent immigrants from Arab countries. What could we have done to explain the actions that had occurred? Is explanation possible or even our role? As an art educator, I feel it’s important not to shy away from conflict and difficult subjects. Art activities offer a way to practice making, thinking and feeling together—with the aim of self-expression and shared understanding. Such things are never more important than in dangerous political times.