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Each year, the AIRS program offers studio residencies in Vancouver elementary schools for between 12-15 local, professional or emerging artists. These residencies are situated at the intersection between arts education and community engaged practice. Artists are invited to develop a residency that invites diverse communities of students into the art making process. The program should consist of age- appropriate, process-based visual or interdisciplinary arts projects directed to the learning and wellbeing of students in and for diverse, inclusive, justice oriented communities. The residency takes place one day a week from a dedicated space in the school.
Projects can be conceived as individual or collaborative, permanent or ephemeral, whole school or class specific and can encompass a range of visual media depending on the expertise of the artist and the predetermined budgetary limits of the residency. The residency concludes with an exhibition, installation or performance that celebrates makes visible for the whole community the value of student art and expression for the school and the wider community. At the end of the school year, artists curate a selection of student work and documentation for an AIRS group exhibition at the Vancouver School Board to showcase the breadth of creative engagement and learning across the district through AIRS.
Artists have shared how the opportunity to work as a longterm artist in a school through AIRS has been transformative for their own practice and provided a context for art making that is both relevant and meaningful.
AIRS currently offers studio residencies in 14 public elementary schools in the Vancouver School District. These residencies are either full year (one day a week for up to 24 weeks over the course of a year) or divided into several partial residencies (6-12 weeks). AIRS Artists are matched with a school and work in consultation with teachers to design an overarching vision and program that invites students into an experience of art through individual and collaborative art making processes and concepts. The program is emergent in that it is an encounter between the artists' own practice and expertise, the space of the studio and the diverse needs and creative energies of the community. The full residency is typically divided into sub residencies of 6 week intervals, allowing the artist to work with 3 separate classes at a time to develop more focused and age appropriate project explorations. The residency includes a final exhibition, collaborative installation or performance for the students and wider school community that celebrates and makes visible the culmination of creative process and learning, and that values both the unique and collective voice of students.
AIRS residencies for the 2022/23 school year are: Florence Nightingale Elementary with Maggie Milne Martens; Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary and Mount Pleasant Elementary with artist Alex Ramirez; Admiral Seymour Elementary with Heather Lamoureux and Susan Hall; Queen Alexandra Elementary with Maggie Milne Martens and Christine Mackenzie; Thunderbird šxʷəxʷaʔəs Elementary and John Henderson Elementary with Tami Gail Cline; Lord Beaconsfield Elementary with Kathryn Wadel; Sir Graham Bruce Elementary with Rebecca Heyl and Yunuen Perez Vertti; Tecumseh Elementary and Chief Maquinna Elementary with Julie McIntyre; Walter Moberly Elementary with Alysha Seriani and Maggie Chow; Sir James Douglas Elementary with Christine Mackenzie; Wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm Elementary with Rebecca Heyl and Reed Jackson;
Emily Carr University of Art and Design is partnering with AIRS and the Vancouver School Board to sponsor a full year studio residency through the Faculty of Culture and Community, that is awarded each year to a distinguished ECUAD faculty or alumni . This residency offers a chance to explore the scope and possibility of community engaged practice and pedagogies through the collaboration with students within a school community. The artist is matched with a school community based on their practice and conceptual focus. It is expected that the residency will conclude with an exhibition of student work and learning for the school community. The recipient artist of the ECUAD AIRS award will also be expected to share and reflect on their experience within the context of the university, to be arranged with the Dean of the Faculty of Culture and Community.
Past recipients of the ECUAD AIRS residency award have included Jaymie Johnson, Tim Bauer, Aaniya Assrami, Annie Canto and Alex Ramirez.
"As an emerging artist invested in developing a community-engaged and collaborative practice, the opportunity to be an artist in residence at an elementary school for the year provided an immense learning opportunity. Ultimately, I grew a lot throughout my time as artist in residence with the AiRS Program. I grew a new-found respect for teachers and a deeper admiration for the artists committed to working in classrooms. I expanded my own artistic and material practice through the research and activities created for the students, and I now have a first-hand understanding of the benefits an arts-based program like this can have on students." Jaymie Johnson
Image: Collaborative Weaving, Jaymie Johnson, Inaugural ECUAD AIRS Residency artist, 2019/20
The mentorship program is an incredible opportunity for artists to gain experience working in the context of a public elementary school. Successful applicants work with an experienced community-engaged teaching artist to develop and execute a 5 session project one day a week over five weeks, with 2-3 classes at the Art and Discovery Studio. The project includes a final exhibition/installation or performance on the last day. The residency includes an orientation session, multiple studio visits, and the chance to workshop their concept design with their mentor artist to fit an elementary school context.
There are several mentorship opportunities available each year.
This year, Kwantlyn Polytechnic University is partnering with AIRS to sponsor one of these mentorship residencies for a select KPU alumni.
Previous mentee artists have included Sadie Couture, Jack Kenna, Alex Ramirez, Reed Jackson, Nura Ali and Yeonoo Parks. Selected mentee artists for the 2022/23 year are fashion artist Nellie Gossen and community engaged filmmaker Monica Cheema.
"The mentorship residency was amazing and it felt so meaningful. A pivotal moment for me was realizing I could bring my art practice into the space rather than an artificial program manufactured for students. Working with the students clarified the importance of community based engagement in my own work, situating my practice in a non-initiated space to expand the idea of what fashion is. " Nellie Gossen
Image: from Forest of Memories, Alex Ramirez, mentorship residency, 2020