This school year has been like no other. Even though schools remained open during the pandemic, strict health and safety protocols confined students to cohort groupings with limitations on social interaction, shared space and materials. While on the surface, there was a semblance of normalcy, the long vigilance of separation has exacted a psychological toll on students and teachers alike.
What can art do during this unprecedented time of anxiety, social fragmentation and restricted freedom to reach across the spaces that divide us to make our sense of community visible and tangible?
(Re)Imagining Together highlights the artmaking vision and creative processes happening in 16 VSB elementary schools this year through the Artist in Residence Studio program (AIRS). At each school, a local professional artist worked with teachers to design and facilitate unique artmaking projects that attend to our collective loss and longing for connection amid the pandemic. What are the ways in which we are still connected even though we are physically apart? How might this belonging be envisioned and felt through a shared creative process?
In this exhibition, community is expressed in a multiplicity of conceptions; family stories woven, stitched and knitted together as a tapestry installation; detailed drawings of home interiors linking students through an interactive website; paper quilts exploring the resilience and complexity of cultural identities; land-based art practices that cultivate and celebrate our inter-connection with the earth, and large-scale, collaborative murals that foreground community values. Whether through painting, sculpting, sound mapping, weaving, dance, ceremony, environmental or media arts, artists provided students a safe context to express their individual creativity and witness these artworks brought together into a greater collaboration.
Each project in this exhibition is represented through photo/video documentation and written description that will immerse you in the artmaking process at each respective school. This window into the artmaking experience showcases the thinking, making and coming into being of a work, rather than its final product. It is in the reciprocity of making and sharing through art that community is experienced and visibly present.
In previous years, the AIRS program has operated out of a dedicated, shared studio space within the school. This year, the closure of shared spaces required artists to recreate the studio through remote teaching on Teams or outdoor arrangements. Whilst remote teaching was fraught with technological and communication challenges, it also provided opportunities for meaningful connection for students whose risk factors required them to learn at home. Through Teams, at-home learners participated with the rest of their class cohort and interacted with the artist. For some students, this was one of few opportunities to see and interact with their classmates.
The exhibition is structured as a culture crawl. To access the exhibition at each of the studios, please click on the name of the school. To return to the main page navigate through the menu at the top.
Note: The exhibition works best on desktop.
(Re)Imaging Together considers the multiplicity of ways community is expressed and experienced through material art practices. One of the most significant absences during the pandemic has been our touch connection with others, experienced through simple, almost incidental, acts of friendship and play, but profoundly integral to our sense of belonging. In art, touch is embedded into the making process itself; hands, endlessly inventive, curious and intent, transform materials into symbolic form. These tactile expressions in art - drawn, smeared, torn, poured, constructed, carved, woven, assembled, scrunched, molded and knotted together - are embedded with personal significance, transcending the space between us through felt connection.
A physical exhibition is on display at VSB headquarters. The exhibition will be available to visit until October 31, 2021. This is a short video showcasing the installation and exhibition display. Enjoy!
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.