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.