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 see the impact of what they are learning in the art room every day in my classroom, from their printing, to their drawing, use of colour, attention to detail and ability to focus. Art is something we all need to nourish ourselves with. It helps make us complete and children grow.”
Greg Canning, teacher, Nightingale Elementary
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.
Inclusion: 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.
Learning in and through the visual arts is essential for both academic development and the social-emotional wellbeing 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 with socio-economic disadvantage, including academic achievement, employment opportunities and civic engagement. 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 in collaboration with the VSB to support equitable access to the visual arts for all children and gives priority to schools that serve families with limited ability to fund arts programing 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. Students are learning to express themselves and show their knowledge through art.”
Dorothy Watkins, Principal, Seymour Elementary