From 2017-2020 I was honoured to be allowed to incorporate art programming into my role as an UNYA Youth Care Counsellor, at Cedar Walk Alternative School (grades 10-12). During our Trauma-Informed art classes, students developed, explored and played individually; while together we completed [nearly] three group projects. Our 2017/18 banner was awarded First Prize in a VASS-wide contest. Working freelance, I also provide monthly classes at VASS/UNYA's Aries School (grades 8-10). I have a BFA from Emily Carr University, 2003, and have taught classes and supported community art programs with participants aged 2-70. As an artist I have exhibited works internationally and been honoured with accolades. In my eight year career as a Support worker I have worked primarily with homeless and at-risk youth. My approach is person-centred and strengths-based. In the classroom I combine my professional experiences to bring attentiveness, playfulness and humour.
Please accept my wholehearted endorsement of Dan Siney. In addition to being one of the most gifted and capable youth workers I have ever worked with, Dan is a skilled and trained artist. Each time Dan called students to the Cedar Walk art room there was a surge of excitement followed by a wave of creativity. Young people who were reluctant to express themselves created piles of finished work. He is an excellent AICD addition. Omar Kassis, Teacher, Grades 10-12, Cedar Walk Alternative School, VASS
Dan has a rare ability to engage with youth in an authentic and encouraging manner. He is able to collect their thoughts and energies and direct them towards a project that represents each youth individually and as a cohesive group. Dan's unique experience as a celebrated artist and dedicated youth worker make his classes enjoyable and accessible for a large range of students and teachers. He brings joy, and leaves a lasting impression. Amy Mitchell, Manager, Urban Native Youth Association, Cedar Walk School
Dan is not only a talented artist but a skilled youth worker. He brings a quirky, creative style to his art classes with the students that lend to a warm and inviting environment. He is approachable and gentle and I have witnessed him successfully engage with students previously resistant to the idea of art-based activities. Dan's art classes have been a wonderful complement to our alternate program. Jenn Sather, Urban Native Youth Association, Aries Alternative Secondary School
This school year I suggested making a magazine to celebrate the culture at Cedar Walk. This would be a "Do-it-Yourself", "For-Us / By-Us" project. We discussed these subcultural philosophies and their roots, and I shared examples. Students were enthusiastic and initiated that they wanted to make a publication about being young and Native in Vancouver. To support their intentions I adopted a supervisory role. Above all, I set and maintained a safe, welcoming environment for conversation and discussion. I expressed feeling honoured; and proposed that students could contribute meaningfully by just being themselves. During our weekly meetings I continued encouraging participation, while collecting ideas and organizing individual and group pursuits. I set flexible deadlines and enlisted the willing support of Cedar Walk's teacher and staff. I also gave photography lessons, which included fieldwork, slideshows and handouts. Students shared openly, discussing their personal experiences and perspectives. Topics included: matriarchy in Native societies; language loss; the "personality" of contemporary Native culture; urban vs. 'rez' identities; identity issues regarding being a "white appearing Native"; the politics of dating white people; and, one student recounted a story about when she first discovered her sawed-in-half family pole in the Museum of Anthropology. These all became projects. Up until March, 2020, students had produced or were successfully producing: an array of writing and research projects; collections of identity-based reflections; drawings, photography; and a 'native-art-inspired' makeup project. I found a printer and had begun learning inDesign. We look forward to completing the magazine next school year!
Collaborative drawing games are my favourite way for students and I to get to know each other, and for them to get to know themselves. Whether delivered as drop-in's, or as a foundation for ongoing programming, these sessions are fun and engaging, exploratory and therapeutic. My go-to games are: "Exquisite Corpse" (French translation!); "The Scribble Game" (as it was known to me in childhood); and a handful of other pass-the-paper games I have since developed for teaching. In these exercises participants contribute to group drawings blindly, easing anxieties and promoting freedom to engage. The resulting collaborations surprise and enchant. Students are more open to their own and each others' unique contributions, as they witness their drawings merge to provoke collective laughter and excitement. This combination of play and creative problem solving allows participants to let go their lives outside the art room. Youth involve their inner worlds in whatever way motivates them: pure enjoyment nourishes and restores; personal challenge builds confidence, self-worth and skill; and exploring one's thoughts and emotions encourages self-discovery and growth. During this process I challenge the idea of being 'not-good-at' art. Meeting students where they're at, I ask questions, provide suggestions, and praise and encourage efforts. I help guide them through their own intuitions and interests, while celebrating every stage of their development. I encourage participation from disengaged students by assessing personal motivations, uncertainties and needs. I celebrate any amount of participation, building on whatever a student has to bring.
In 2018/'19, Cedar Walk students produced a 5x9' banner - our second annual banner project. This one would be done in "Street-Art" style. I based this program on a graduated series of approachable, achievable challenges, which I matched with encouragement and validation. Students began by 'drawing' a 3-5 letter word of their choosing, with direction to, "just play with the shapes of the letters". Students then decided on a word for the banner's centrepiece: 'C-E-D-A-R'. The most engaged students each additionally designed one of these letters. Taking guidance, I structured and traced the centrepiece onto the canvas. Finally everyone began adding to it, using our various 'street-art' mediums. Through curiosity and persistence, some students discovered a remarkable visual creativity behind their inexperience or perceived inability. More confident students I assigned to leadership roles. They excitedly took on greater responsibilities while encouraging others. Youth were further able to verbalize their personal discoveries, expressing confidence in themselves. The program also included an educational component, wherein we studied the forms, culture and history of 'street-art'. This included watching and discussing a celebrated documentary on grafitti's origins; and a slide show of artworks by male and female graffiti artists. The finished piece shows a silhouetted raven atop a cedar treeline, backdropped by a four-colour sunset gradation. 'CEDAR' fills the lower third of the canvas in expressive shapes. A Nisga'a youth's, 'eagle head with pearl', design integrates with the 'R'. And students' original monikers, along with more collaborations and spontaneous contributions fill the remaining space.