In April I ran a series of three workshops with local children’s and youth groups for the St James Town Banner Project. We were there for two reasons: to make art to put up on banners (natch), and to build relationships between students through a focused discussion on community values.
CMT’s after school program at Rose Avenue School was our first setting. In our initial session we made no art at all, but had an amazing chat about what community could be. Talking things through helped kids think through their designs. We addressed surface ideas about “Community” and then got into more personally expressive territory. In addition to forging more vivid images, tapping into embodied connections helped inspire thought on just how complex community can be: Community is a place, made up of things like buildings. But it’s also a feeling of being connected. Like a verb, it is also something that can happen, such as when people help each other. St James Town is a community. But so is Rose Avenue school, and even just all of us in this classroom right now… The culture you come from is a type of community. Being a man or a woman can include you in another type of one. Speaking the same language could place you in a community – but wait! – you can come from different cultures and speak the same language or speak different languages in the same culture!? Aaaahh!!!
It was great to see that little confusion – just enough to make things interesting. The following two weeks were equally messy, but in my favourite way: with PAINT. I already knew many of the kids in our small group of Grade 4/5’ers from having taught a brief comic book workshop at Rose Ave in the fall. The reception I tend to get on arrival (then and now) borders on the hysterical. I think the picture below speaks volumes about the energy present in the room every time we work together – which is also why I love it so much! The kids also share my overwhelming passion for art time, and when handed a brush that natural verve gets them right into the zone. While exploring the topic through making their work, the kids showed a new and different awareness that they were also working as a community, and within the context of a larger one. This was evidenced in the themes of interconnection to people and the area that emerged, and through casual chat with the young artists. I’ll post the banners they made a little later, closer to the launch date for our Project (May 31st) – coinciding with which, by the way, is the launch of St James Town Arts itself. All the works created in the banner workshops will be exhibited at this event, so it’s a good chance to come and check out/support our local talent!
Finally: Helping me with set-up that day, but mainly there to lend his photographic talents was Tom Linardos, a friend and fellow artist met at last summer’s Bell Box gig. His shots of the Rose Avenue session are fantastic, and can be seen in the following picture gallery for all the Banner Workshops (including Art City and (pending permission forms) the Junior Youth Empowerment Group. Articles to follow):