Local artist Jason Titian

Artists bring art back into schools

The artistic creations of nearly 200 local children will be on display at the Rollin Arts Centre gallery in Port Alberni this month.

The artistic creations of nearly 200 local children will be on display at the Rollin Arts Centre gallery this month.

The show is the result of a new program administered by the Community Arts Council designed to help bring the lost art of art back into Alberni Valley schools.

The Art in the Schools program began last year as an arts fair and has blossomed into full on artist-in-the-classroom sessions at Eighth Avenue, Alberni Elementary, Gill Elementary, EJ Dunn, and Port Alberni Community Living. Arts administrator Melissa Martin said she came up with the idea after seeing a lack of art activity in local elementary schools.

“The middle schools and the high schools are lucky enough to still have art in their curriculum, but unfortunately the budget cuts deemed it so there wasn’t much arts in the elementary schools,” Martin said.

“Depending on the teachers, they tried to bring it in but the majority of it is based around craft time, and that’s usually Christmas time. That, to me, was just not enough.”

Last February, the arts council held trade show style assemblies in some of the schools, featuring local artists.

This year, through an Arts B.C. grant, the council was able to hire six local artists to lead weekly art sessions with classrooms ranging from Grade 2 and up.

Teaching everything from pottery to paper mache, painting to mask making, the artists have been working with the students since early April and will be wrapped up in time for the gallery exhibit, which opened May 14 and runs until June 8.

“The ability to have this art exhibit has been my dream,” Martin said.

“I want to give the children the experience of being an actual artist. They can come into the gallery, they’ll see their pieces on the walls or displayed, and then they’ll be given a reception on May 25.”

Unlike other artist exhibits, which rely on art sales to fund the operating costs of the show, the children’s artwork will not be sold, and so gallery donations will be especially appreciated during the exhibit, Martin said.

The Art in the Schools participating artists include Jason Titian, Yolande Fournier, Kelly Foxcroft-Poirier and professional painter Dorothy Jarvis, who utilized some of the time to share her recent experiences painting in her home village of Port Simpson with the children.

“I brought a few artifacts and rocks from the beach,” Jarvis said.

Port Simpson is located near the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear sanctuary, and was particularly inspiring for Jarvis.

Using tempra (water based) paints, the children expressed their creativity using the bear theme.

Martin said she hopes to offer the program again next year to schools who were unable to participate this year.

“My goal is to bring it to the high school if need be,” she said.

“We’ve got to start small, and we’ve got to start with the children, and make them have as much love for the arts as early as possible.”

“It’s just as important, in my opinion, as math and sciences and reading and writing.”

* Niomi Pearson is a freelance journalist who formerly lived in Port Alberni