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. (I had a sentence like this in my first iteration but it did not make it through the VSB communications review! I am tempted to say something that states the lunacy of erasing the arts from education - As the role of visual representation within our contemporary society has increased, access to learning in the visual arts within public education has decreased. – except then it makes it more of an economic issue which is another problem) The AIRS program works with local artists, 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.
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, 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.
“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