Artists in the Classroom
ArtStarts' Artists in the Classroom program brings together schools across BC with professional artists for artist residencies in school settings. Whether you are an educator looking to enhance your students' education by bringing an artist into your classroom, or a visual, media, literary or performing artist who is interested in working with students on a hands-on arts activity or artist residency, ArtStarts can help bring your projects to life.
- What is an artist residency?
- What constitutes a successful residency?
- What are some examples of past projects?
- How can I fund a project?
Information for schools
Information for artists
- Can I be an artist in residence?
- How can an artist find a school to work with?
- How can an artist become part of ArtStarts' Artists in the Classroom Directory?
What is an artist residency?
At its core, an in-school artist residency is a creative partnership between artist, teacher and students, taking place right in the classroom. Artists may approach schools with a potential project idea, which will then be developed with interested teachers. Alternately, the idea can come from the school, who will then work out the details with the artist.
The circumstances surrounding artist residencies in schools are flexible. They can take place in single or multiple classrooms, with single or combined grades, over the course of a week or even several months. In each case, the role of the artist is to share insights into the skills, processes and ideas involved in producing an artwork. Often, artists will spearhead the creation of a collaborative work with students. Alternately, they can guide and advise students on the creation of their own work. Either way, the artist provides a catalyst for creative expression, offering advice and inspiration for both teacher and students.
With so many factors combining in many variations, there is no cookie-cutter plan for integrating artist residencies into schools. However, ArtStarts has found that successful projects consistently incorporate the following strategies.
Communication and Collaboration
- Define the partnership between teacher and artist. Meet before the project begins to gain a shared understanding of the project's goals and to develop a common language for work in the classroom.
- Working together, create a timeline for the project. Some classes prefer to work intensely, maintaining 3-hour creative "think tanks" over a short period of time. Other classes, particularly at the elementary level, will need longer periods to reflect and digest between artist visits.
- Help the artist get to know the students! Provide him or her with as much information as possible about students' learning styles, skills and backgrounds.
- Maintain a relationship during and after the project. The artist/teacher team should meet regularly to review the process and project goals, adjusting lesson plans to keep pace with students' needs and interests.
Flexibility and Adaptability
- Help the artist become accustomed to the school environment, which is very different from where artists normally create work. Invite the artist to visit before the project begins to get a sense of what the school will be like.
- During the project, emphasize the creative process rather than the final product. Embrace spontaneity, and recognize that important work can happen when you welcome the unknown.
Concept and Curriculum
- When planning a project, ensure that it is well linked to the school's curriculum in a way that deepens learning and encourages critical thinking.
- Encourage students to think about how the project's overall themes relate to their everyday lives.
- Incorporate opportunities for students to reflect on the project both in private and with their peers (journals, debates, group discussion, role playing opportunities).
For a list of research papers and studies that investigate the role of the arts in education, visit our Research page.
See some examples of exemplary work created through past artist residency projects on the ArtStarts blog or download complete lists of projects:
As in the professional art world, it is important that artists working in classrooms are paid a fair wage for their time and expertise. In addition to artist fees, there can be many other costs associated with an artist residency project, including materials.
To assist with these costs, ArtStarts offers a funding program called Artists in the Classroom (formerly known as Artists in Education 2 or AIE 2), which supports individual schools across BC to bring professional artists of their choice into their classrooms for a wide range of curriculum-integrated arts programs and long-term residences. Find out more about the Artists in the Classroom grant.
You may also wish to look into additional sources of funding. Consider contacting your School District, as well as your school's Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) to inquire about funding opportunities.
Information for schools
How can a school find an artist to work with?
If you are an educator who is looking for an artist to help lead your project, a great place to start is ArtStarts' Artists in the Classroom Directory. Each artist listed is experienced at working in classrooms, and has been vetted to ensure the high quality of their work with young people. You can search for artists by name, discipline or home base.
It is not mandatory that the artist you chose to work with be listed in the Artists in the Classroom Directory. You might also wish to consult local art galleries or arts councils, who can put you it touch with artists working in your area. Consult the ArtsBC website for up-to-date listings of arts organizations in your community.
Artists working in schools should be able relate well to young people and have the ability to discuss and demonstrate their art with ease. Be sure to meet with the artist before deciding to work with them in order to make sure they are an appropriate fit for you and your students. A suitable practicing artist should be able to:
- show you strong examples of their work
- provide a Curriculum Vitae detailing their history of public presentation
- provide references or referees
- be able to communicate their ideas clearly
- show a commitment to working with young people
Any artist who possesses these qualities can be a successful artist in residence. However, if you plan to seek funding for your project through ArtStarts' Artists in the Classroom grant, he or she will need to qualify as a professional artist.
A professional artist is defined as someone who has completed specialized training in their artistic field (academic or experience), who is recognized as such by her or his peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition) and who has a history of public presentation, exhibition or publication. Artists from diverse cultural backgrounds who are engaged in the transference of traditional cultural practice qualify as professional artists.
Information for artists
Can I be an artist in residence?
Artists engaged in residencies are practicing artists working in variety of artistic disciplines: literature, visual arts, digital media, performing arts, traditional arts, etc. To work in schools, an artist should be able relate well to young people and have the ability to discuss and demonstrate their art with ease. Whenever possible, artists are encouraged to engage in residencies at schools in their local communities.
Any artist who possesses these qualities can be a successful artist in residence. However, if you plan to seek funding for your project through ArtStarts' Artists in the Classroom grant, you will need to qualify as a professional artist. A professional artist is defined as someone who has completed specialized training in an arts practice (not necessarily in an academic institution), is recognized as such by his/her peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition), and who has a history of public presentation, exhibition or publication.
If you are an artist who has an idea for a project, you may wish to begin approaching schools to gauge their interest. Whenever possible, try to work with schools in your local community, as this will allow you to make your project particularly relevant to students’ lives. Make an appointment with a teacher or the school Principal, taking your Curriculum Vitae and examples of your work to your meeting. If possible, prepare some research beforehand on possible sources of funding for the project you have in mind. Schools’ budgets are often limited, and they will appreciate that you have thought seriously about the logistics of your proposal.
The Artists in the Classroom Directory is a resource that ArtStarts provides to educators or arts/cultural programers who are looking for artists experienced at delivering arts integrated projects with young people. It also acts as a comprehensive promotional tool for artists.
ArtStarts is always looking to expand its list of diverse artists from all regions of BC. Find out how to apply.
ArtStarts gratefully acknowledges the support of the following funders of the Artists in the Classroom program.
Photos on this page
1 St. Joseph's Elementary in Chemainus, BC: "Drawing on Experience" with artist Ewa Sniatycka | St Joseph's School in Nelson, BC: "Our Environment" mural with artist Jackie Tahara
2 Revelstoke Secondary in Revelstoke, BC: "Connecting Culture, Community and Family" with artist Jerry Whitehead | Nechako North Elementary in Kitimat, BC: "Birds of a Feather, Learning Together" with artist Eileen Hutson
3 Pineridge Elementary in Prince Rupert, BC: "Beyond The Door: Cultural Inclusiveness" with artist Lianna Spence | Sk'aadgaa Naay Elementary in Skidegate, BC: "The Giving Trees of Haida Gwaii" with artist Kiki van der Heiden
4 Sk'aadgaa Naay Elementary in Skidegate, BC: "The Giving Trees of Haida Gwaii" with artist Kiki van der Heiden | Heritage Mountain Elementary in Port Moody, BC: School Mural Project with artist Tammy Pilon