Artist in Education

“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, Toronto

From 1996 to 2001 and again in 2007-8, I was awarded eight Artist in Education grants (now called the Artists in Communities and Schools grants) from the Ontario Arts Council, a publicly funded, arm’s length agency of the province of Ontario. I’ve worked with over 1000 secondary and primary students in various schools across the Greater Toronto Area, spending 25 hours in each institution.

A collaborative mural created in 2008 with students in grades 4 and 5 at Howard Public School, developed in collaboration with an environmental educator. Each student researched and painted an animal nature to the local watershed in this school yard beautification project. A scene of happy co-existence, this mural became an inadvertent garden of eden and a source of pride for its creators. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan, 2008.

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, life­long 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 for over a decade, I developed two projects with students over the years, each building on my own artwork and current interests. I initiated “Finding Home” as a mixed media inquiry into neighbourhoods and belonging and “Working From The Family” as a collage project about identity, derived from family photos and family stories (or some other personally compelling material).

Building on the “Finding Home” theme through a project with Oakwood Collegiate Institute in 2007-8, this clever painting by a German exchange student featured the Skype window on her computer, on which she could see the cats she misses at her parents European home. Home is on-screen, for this young woman. I arranged for an exhibition of this work and others by student artists at SideSpace Gallery, near the school, where locals, family members and friends could enjoy the 24/7 window display. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan, 2008.

“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, Toronto

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