[Kathleen Vaughan, RedHanded]
[Freelance, self-employed, consultant] [Write, Paint, Teach, Edit] [Dog Lover, Royal Poodle Owner] [www.akaredhanded.com] [Portrait, collage, workshop, painting]
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[Teaching through the Ontario Arts Council's Artists in Education initiative]
"The project really made me aware of the importance of family to me. It was interesting using photography combined with other art forms as well. I had to work at making the pictures look interesting and put them in a creative form."

-- grade 9 student, The Linden School

 

[Description]
Since 1996, I've worked as an Artist in Education for the Ontario Arts Council, a publicly funded, arm's length agency of the province of Ontario. I've worked with over 750 secondary and primary students in various schools, spending 25 hours in each institution.

The Artist in Education initiative aims to enable professional artists to provide in-depth learning experiences for Ontario educators and learners. Like the rest of us in the arts, the Ontario Arts Council believes that arts education is essential to the full development of all learners; that arts education is a catalyst to creativity in all fields, life-long learning, and cultural literacy. And the Council backs its beliefs with money: each year about 120 Artists in Education are selected from applicants across the province to win a teaching grant.

As an Artist in Education, I bring my "Working From The Family" (WFTF) project to schools. Each participant creates a collage derived from family photos and family stories (or some other personally compelling material) and then presents the work to the class. Wonderfully, this project is adaptable to just about any grade or skill level, at least from Grade 4 to OAC (Ontario's high school leaving level). My experience is that all students have ideas and feelings about family and their own personal identity and are delighted to have the chance to represent these. And of course as students' feelings develop in sophistication, so does their technical capacity - and an art teacher's expectations. Depending upon grade level, students can create straightforward two-dimensional collages (on paper or canvas) or more complex 3D collages (on a paper maché casting from a clay form the student carves).

 

"I learned more about family and myself that I didn't know before. I learned more how to use symbols to represent other things. It was FUN! Better than other projects I've done before."

-- grade 9 participant, North Albion Collegiate Institute

 

I introduce myself to students by talking about my own body of family-based visual work, The Heirloom Series and David/Elvis, which sparked the development of "Working From The Family". Samples of my work inevitably launch a tidal wave of student questions and ideas. After our exchanges on these, I tell students what they'll be doing, and, on subsequent days, briefly present technical and curricular issues like the colour wheel, paint mixing, elements of design, etc. As an Artist in Education, I work in tandem with a teacher: at the elementary level, with the classroom teacher; at the secondary, the art teacher. While I'm working my way around the class, interacting individually with young artists, the teacher helps manage the room as a whole.

  [The Challenge]
[Back to top of page] Each time I implement "Working From The Family", I adapt it to the specifics of a class's needs. Before the project begins, I meet with the teacher to discover the supplies available; the technical skills to build upon; the modifications that will make WFTF complementary to other student art projects; the curriculum links to focus on; and any other teacher expectations. With these foundations in place, "Working From The Family" has proven itself to be stimulating and engaging to students and teachers.

The primary challenge of this project comes from the realities of education in Ontario today. Cuts to public spending have decreased the amount of arts in schools. Some classes I visit have had no visual arts so far that year. Students in this situation are eager to learn and full of ideas, but have limited background to build on. School finances are often a consideration, too. Supplies can be meagre: one school didn't have enough pencils for all students and couldn't buy more since their year's supply budget was exhausted! School boards and individual institutions don't always have the money to pay the artist's honorarium - a stipend of $60 a day that the Ontario Arts Council requires as a gesture of school commitment to the initiative and the artist. Some parent groups have raised money to pay this fee so that they children may enjoy arts at school. In spite of these bottom line realities, teachers are facing increased expectations: recently released curriculum guidelines lay out extensive and formidable 'learning outcomes' (the knowledge and skills students are supposed to master) for the visual arts.

 

"This was so much fun! I had such a great time working on my project and describing my feelings about it to Kathleen. I just wish we had more time to talk to Kathleen about our work, but everything else was perfect! Thanks for everything!"

-- grade 8 participant, St. Bernadette School

 

Despite these challenges, my many years of teaching this project confirm that "Working From The Family" is wonderfully successful in teaching art-making and visual storytelling techniques. The feedback from students -- who are warm, welcoming, and very enthusiastic -- supports these observations.

[Student art work]  
  Teaching Philosophy ]

Instructor - Concordia University • Artist Teacher - Royal Conservatory of Music ]

[ Artist in Education - Ontario Arts Council • Gallery of Student Work ]
[Kathleen Vaughan, artist, teacher]  
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[Kathleen Vaughan, artist, teacher]  
  [Toronto, Ontario, Canada]
 

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[Back to top of page] All original artwork and texts: © Kathleen Vaughan, 2000-2012, except where otherwise noted. 'redhanded' text-based logo design: © Dale Barrett, 1997. 'redhanded' logo photo: © Paul Buer, 1996. • All Rights Reserved

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