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September 21, 2012

Sense of Place: A New Exhibition at ArtStarts Gallery

We've been hinting that something great is in the works in our gallery ... and now we're happy to say that we've completed all the finishing touches, and we're ready to open our new exhibition next week!

ArtStarts Gallery, the first gallery in Canada dedicated exclusively to young people's art, is proud to present Sense of Place, a new exhibition showcasing the work of students from 16 schools across BC. Sense of Place opens September 25, 2012 and runs until March 15, 2013.

Communities from Skidegate in Haida Gwaii to Kimberley in the Kootenays are featured in the exhibition. Through a wide variety of visual and performing art forms—including felting, painting, printmaking, traditional cedar bark weaving, photography, filmmaking, music, poetry and storytelling—students explored how their heritage and environment contribute their personal identities, or "sense of place".

The projects on display are the result of partnerships between schools and professional artists. Working as "artists in residence" in the classroom, artists collaborated with teachers and students to create rich arts-based experiences.

Many projects allowed students to discover the diversity of cultural backgrounds in BC. Students explored their personal connections to history and traditions, discovering how these elements shape who they are today.

At Lucerne Elementary-Secondary School in New Denver, BC, grade 10-12 students learned about the internment of Japanese Canadians in their area WWII. Through visits to the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, interviews with Japanese Canadian elders who still reside in New Denver, the students created short films under the guidance of filmmakers Moira Simpson and Catrina Megumi Longmuir.

"Teaching art and film has always been one of the most rewarding and greatest learning exercises I have encountered," says Longmuir. "To help enable youth to work inter-generationally with elders and create stories that give back to the community is particularly rewarding."

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at making Lucerne's project:

Many pieces displayed in Sense of Place also explore students’ connection to the natural environment.

Surrounded by forests, Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary School in Haida Gwaii was a perfect location for students to learn about life cycles of the trees and their significance in Haida culture. Guided by local artist Kiki van der Heiden, the students worked together to create four impressive large-scale felted murals of cedar, spruce, hemlock and alder trees.

Artist Kiki van der Heiden feels that art is not just an aesthetic practice: "To share creative techniques and tools with children helps to empower them to express themselves in a creative way. The stronger the foundation of trust in their creative selves, the more likely they are to retain and use that power throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Art is such a powerful tool to express our selves when we are unable to find the right words or feel too shy or otherwise inhibited to express ourselves."

These are just a few examples of the many projects included in the Sense of Place exhibition. For a full list of schools, communities and projects, visit the Current Exhibition page. And to fully experience and appreciate the amazing artwork by BC's young people, come visit the gallery!

Sense of Place opens September 25, 2012 and runs until March 15, 2013 at the ArtStarts Gallery, 808 Richards Street, Vancouver. The gallery is free and open to the public from Tuesdays to Fridays. Free tours for schools and groups are available.

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