Program’s goal is to engage students in art on an everyday level
At least three schools in our coverage area are taking advantage of the NL Arts Council’s ArtsSmarts program.
Three area schools are running programs this year with funding from ArtsSmarts, under the umbrella of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.
ArtsSmarts, now in its 12th year, is funding 36 projects in schools across the province, with $150,000 in funding from the provincial education budget, with the goal of building an education in and appreciation for arts and culture. Schools apply to the council, which will provide 80 per cent of accepted projects, up to a maximum of $5,500, with schools providing the rest of the funds.
At Roncalli Central High School in Avondale, the “ Something Old and Something New” project involves artist Wanita Bates, who will work with students in grades 7 and 8 to create a piece of artwork mixing photography, painting text, embroidery and found objects, allowing the students to tell the story of where they live and their place in the world.
At Tricon Elementary in Bay de Verde, the “ Exploring Our Cultures... On Deck and Below” project involves students from kindergarten to Grade 6 learning about their culture and traditions, as well as learning about habitats and species from the Atlantic Ocean. The students will work with visual artist Kelly McEntegart to create different works of art in different grades.
McEntegart is also working with the students at Acreman Elementary School in Green’s Harbour. Patti Collins Yetman, principal of Acreman Elementary, said the students at the school benefit from working with McEntegart. Acreman’s program, “Exploring Our World ... Reducing Our Carbon Footprint,” studies the effects of global warming on various species. Different grade levels will work on different art projects; kindergarten students, for example, will explore - through drawing, painting and sculpture - the ways plants and animals depend on each other. Students in grades 5 and 6 will paint acrylic works of habitats and species that are endangered.
“ We wanted to come up with some kind of a program or a project that would highlight all the things that we’re trying to do as everyday practices in our school and at home,” said Collins Yetman. “And we wanted to relate it to the curriculum as well. And that’s the kind of criteria that the ArtsSmarts program is based on.”
She added that the experience McEntegart brings is “invaluable.”
“A lot of us teachers here, we don’t have any training other than what we did with our first degree,” she said. “None of us are really trained artists. So for the kids to have that exposure to work with Kelly is great. And plus she’s really good with the children too.”
Collins Yetman said McEntegart will work with students in kindergarten through Grade 3 for the first half of the project, and then grades 4 through 6 for the second half.
It’s the third ArtsSmarts project for the school in as many years; two years ago, Acreman Elementary did a project on healthy living, and last year the focus was on making connections with mathematics to the real world.
Collins Yetman said the idea for this year’s program arose while she was talking with McEntegart as last year’s program was winding up.
“ What we had to do then was go through all the grades and match up some curriculum outcomes with each subject area that would go with this idea,” she said, “and then Kelly came up with some activities that would go for each grade level. One thing she’s looking at is the polar bear habitat, and of course how
the greenhouse gases and all that is really affecting their habitat. And another thing that they would be looking at is making things out of recycled materials.”
Collins Yetman said that usually when they finish a project they arrange to have an unveiling to the general public and invite someone from the Arts Council to see the results of the program. Last year, grade 5 and 6 students constructed a model of an old Newfoundland village using geometric solids, and the kindergarten and Grade 1 students made an alphabet and numbers book that was printed and now sits in the school’s library. The principal said the students love the program. “Kelly will come once a week, and the students look forward to it. She will spend the whole day with them,” she said.
Ken Murphy, the program manager, said ArtsSmarts is one of three Arts in Education programs run by the Arts Council. The other two are the School Touring program, which funds tours of professional artists and groups. He said there were just a few program applications that weren’t accepted, as the council’s goal is to award all the money that’s allocated.
“ There may be a circumstance in a program where the assessment committee decides, ‘ These are the ones we feel we want to support, but these others are there and there’s some money left on the table, but we don’t think these are meeting the goals of the program’ - that could happen, rarely. It’s happened a few times. Not in ArtsSmarts - we’ve always funded all the funding we’ve ever had in ArtsSmarts.”
Murphy said the response from teachers and students so far has been very positive.
“It’s a great broadening of the curriculum, is really the view we take on it,” he said. “It’s based on the philosophy of broad-based learning. Different people have different learning styles, and what ArtsSmarts tries to do is broaden the way you teach a curriculum subject, so that kids who are more kinesthetic or more active learners can use it that way, can really connect with the subject that way.”
A broader goal of the program is to engage students with arts on an everyday level, said Murphy, and to increase appreciation for different art forms.
“A key part of it is, yes, to engage students in arts when they’re young, so that they will be able to appreciate what art is about, and particularly not to see it as something elite. So to have that experience that art isn’t for just the elite, it’s for everybody. And that I can understand how a painting is made; when I look at it now, I’ll understand how the artist made the painting. Or when I see a play, I’ll understand the steps that the actors and director had to go through to make that happen,” he said.