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Exploring stories from the land and water with artist Rebecca Heyl
Bringing the Indigenous story Finding your Way Home to life through shadow and light with Christine Mackenzie and Maggie Milne Martens
Intermediate students at Florence Nightingale create up-cycled fashion garments in Bodies of the Future with fashion artist Nellie Gossen
Attending to Loss through art with Maggie Milne Martens
Investigating the theme of GROWTH in nature through material explorations and digital media with Rebecca Heyl and Yunuen Perrez Verti
“I have been working as an AIRS artist with students and teachers at Begbie Elementary for five years. From the studio, we have watched the transformation of the school grounds and imagined together through art, what the new school building might be like.
After 3-4 years of construction, the school finally moved into the into their new building. The new school is full of windows and has open spaces for the school community to see and meet together. I’m happy to say that the studio is now located in a large common space that offers us a panormaic view to the east where the city and mountains meet one another.
In preparation for the new school, staff worked with a Musqueum knowledge holder who gifted the school with a new name:
The name is:
wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm
which means 'sun on the horizon at dawn'
Since January, our studio work in the new space has been around observing this land and cityscape and exploring the poetic meaning behind wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm.
We are re-orienting ourselves to this new place, and how the school fits into the neighborhood, and how it is situated in the landscape of the city surrounded by mountains and waterways.
We asked: With whom do we share this beautiful landscape and what are some of their stories? Students studied animals from the land, the waters and the air- ranging from small Monarchs butterflies to large migratory whales, with octopus, eagles and foxes and more in between.
We are now embarking on a large collaborative piece on canvas that weaves together stories from the land and waters. We decided that if the piece was about the land then it needed to meet the land! So on a snowy morning we tookthe 12ft x 6ft canvas outside, laid it on the ground, knelt on the edges and pushed the smooth canvas into the snow. It felt squishy, hard and most of all cold. After we stepped back to look at the canvas students noticed that the canvas now had lines and folds within it.
One student said:
“I see mountains, it’s like we’ve kind of found our mountains on here.”
“it is like we are giants moulding the mountains with our hands.”
We brought the canvas back into the studio for more exploration. We added natural earth inks made from the summer’s grapes and marigolds to the lines and folds we discovered. We introduced graphite rubbings of autumn leaves from the surrounding trees onto the canvas.
As spring comes to wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm, we will continue the journey of discovery with K- Grade 1 students as we bring the canvas to the land and the land to the canvas.
At Queen Alexandra, Christine and Maggie engaged the whole school in a shadow theatre adaption of a Haida story gifted to Christine. Finding your Way Home is a story of Little One, a two spirit indigenous child that wanders away rom their elders and gets lost in the forest at night encountering butterflies, salmon, bunnies and nocturnal forest creatures along the way. Students brought the story to life using small and life-sized puppets, props and scenery created from cut paper, cardboard, sharpies and colored acetates mounted on old overhead projectors.
Christine taught the students elements of North West Coast form line design which students incorporated into their puppets. Maggie worked with students to integrate backdrops and scenery and to transform the space of the gym into a giant cedar forest.
"It was really fun to work on the projector and make cool effects with them. " - Intermediate student
"I felt calm when the butterflies danced. I felt proud that we did the puppet show ourselves." - Rosemary
"I feel like an artist in the art studio." - Navy
Every student in the school had a part to play in the production including the singing, sound effects, narration, acting, projector work and scene management. The final performance, put on for the wider school community, was surreal and magical with all the wonderful and chaotic contributions coming together into a breathtaking community experience that the whole school shared and created together.
“My favorite part was watching kids come out of their shell and over the weeks, everyone was comfortable in the space and you could really see students trying and engaging, diving deeper into conversation and taking risks in their art. It was neat to see how healing it was for the students to be part of creating together as a whole community, particularly for those who struggle with their mental health and self-esteem.” Christine Mackenzie
"Little One sat down on a rock and cried and cried.
There are many ways to get lost….in your mind and your emotions…with anxiety…depression.. going to the dark side…getting lost in technology…being mean…forgetting who you are.
Our world has lost its way….slavery……residential schools...generational trauma…racism...pollution...species extinction...…war and human trafficking.
When we lose our way, what are the voices that help guide us home?"
Text by Christine Mackenzie in collaboration with Queen Alexandra students
At the Art and Discovery Studio in Florence Nightingale Elementary, Nellie Gossen invited Grade 5, 6 and 7 students to upcycle a piece of used clothing for their future selves. Introducing fashion artists such as Buzigahill, Lucy Ortega and Nellie’s own practice which intersect with issues such as fast fashion, branding, and waste. Students were asked to consider how clothing might reflect their own values and were given permission to burst open existing conventions about what is fashionable or beautiful, while still considering the functionality of their piece.
Students embraced the possibilities of dismantling and re-imagining their chosen article, Incorporating a variety of sewing techniques and aspect of the fashion design process students worked individually and collaboratively to transform their original garment through novel re-attachment, and adding different colored and textured fabrics and embellishments.
The finale to the residency was a fashion show runway experience for their class, where students were able to model their creations and share the ideas behind them. Garments included dresses, shirts, skirts and jumpsuits as well as capes, bags and hats. Students were proud of what they had created.
Throughout the residency Nellie created a safe space to experience the pleasure in dressing up and experimentation with clothing and explore students own relationship to clothing, which is often fraught with identity and social anxiety.
Stepping into the studio at Tecumseh Elementary, one is immersed in a cascade of botanical prints and drawings decorating every wall of the room. There are intricate drawing of native plant species washed with plant-based “living” inks that will change their tone over time. These beautiful drawing were meticulously copied, to scale, from herbarium sheets of native plant specimens that Julie had collected, pressed and compiled especially for the project.
Alongside the botanical drawing are striking negative silhouettes of different leaves in blue cyanotyps prints; photographic coated paper developed by the sun . A further collection of prints combine embossed relief prints of Western Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar, and Douglas Fir leaves and cedar overlayed with chin colle's of the colonial buildings that now stand where the abundant forests once did. The contrast of positive and negative silhouettes are quite striking and a visual metaphor for our logging history and practices.
Over the residency, students learned the difference between indigenous, introduced and invasive plant species and how botanical illustrations contribute to scientific knowledge. Students also learned to identify plants using the 5 aspects of the plant (the branching pattern, the flower, the leaves, the stem and the fruit).
These plant forms are echoed in the whimsical floral motifs inspired by Art Deco design and the imagination of the students. These were carved into scratchboards, creating an elegant contrast of shimmering engraved lines against the deep black coating.