The Artist in Residence Studio program or AIRS is a Vancouver-based initiative for providing equitable access to consistent, high quality and socially relevant visual arts education for children. The AIRS program works in partnership with the Vancouver School Board to create dedicated art studios within public elementary schools to enable a local, professional artist to work collaboratively with teachers and provide meaningful hands-on visual arts engagements for children across the whole school.
"I feel like whenever I do art, I can always have a smile on my face. I feel like I crawl out my shell." -
- Grade 5 Student
AIRS has continued to run programming during the 2020/21 school year in compliance with health and safety restrictions set in place by the Vancouver School Board and orders by the BC Health Authority.
Read more about how AIRS has adapted and re-imagined studio residencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.
“Photography has helped me see that the world is a beautiful place and not even this pandemic can ruin it...and helped me to stop and take a look at the world from a different perspective.”
– Grade 7 student
Learning in and through the visual arts is essential for both academic development and the social-emotional well being of all children. Participation in the visual arts enlarges the imagination; it promotes visual literacy and critical reflection; it develops flexible thinking and resilience through independent problem-solving; it builds confidence and self-esteem through material engagement and authentic self-expression, and invites an attitude of careful, felt attention to the world we live in and the unique perspectives of others. These are the critical, creative and empathic capacities that all children need to realize their full potential within our rapidly changing, multi-media and interconnected world.
Research shows that sustained engagement in the arts has a significant impact on life outcomes for youth, particularly those with socio-economic disadvantage, including academic achievement, employment opportunities and civic engagement. AIRS recognizes that children have their own unique experience and creative potentiality to share with the world. Through the careful placement of artists in VSB schools, AIRS commits to an emergent curriculum collaboratively designed for each community of learners that is committed to an ethics of sensitivity, reciprocity and critical reflection.
As is the case across BC, many public elementary schools are challenged with expertise and funding resources to support consistent programming in the arts for their students. The AIRS program works with local artists, in collaboration with the VSB, to support equitable access to the visual arts for all children with priority for schools that serve families with limited ability to fund arts programming independently in or outside the school.
“Our students sometimes live in a harsh urban environment where they see the negative effects of poverty. Things such as art and music are considered extras in a community that often struggles with food, clothing, and rent. Having a studio space and an artist in residence who explores artistic expression and teaches art process skills gives such support and encouragement to these children. The students are learning to express themselves and have the opportunity to show their knowledge through art.”
- Dorothy Watkins, Principal, Seymour Elementary
Video created by AIRS artist and Filmmaker Yunuen Perez Vertti
Relevance: Empower children to be compassionate and creative transformers of their world through on-going participation in socially relevant, inquiry based visual arts learning.
Equity: Give all children the opportunity to engage in the visual arts within their local neighbourhood elementary school by prioritizing funding for schools with socio-economic disadvantage.
Diversity: Provide engagement in the visual arts that respects the cultural diversity of all students and including recognition of indigenous perspectives.
Partnership: Work in partnership with VSB staff, teaching artists, university researchers and financial patrons to establish vibrant working studios within schools that strengthen learning across the curriculum.
Outreach: Document and showcase the importance of long-term visual arts engagement for the social/emotional and intellectual development of children and for teaching the core competencies within the new BC curriculum.
All donations, large and small are critical for enabling AIRS to continue and to provide dynamic and impactful studio residencies in Vancouver elementary schools to empower students to become makers and transformers of their world.