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September 19, 2019

AIC Project Highlight | Weaving Currents of Change

Through a partnership with BC Arts Council and the Province of BC, ArtStarts channels funding into schools through the Artists in the Classroom (AIC) grant to activate learning for young people across BC. Each year we support approximately 120 projects that bring artists and educators together to expand the role of arts in education. We recently visited an AIC-funded project at Kerrisdale Elementary called ‘Weaving Currents of Change’ where grade 6/7 students worked with artist Dawn Livera.

If this story resonates with you, why not start a creative project of your own? The next deadline to apply for Artists in the Classroom grants is October 22, 2019. Grants of up to $3,500 for small scale projects and grants of up to $10,000 for large scale projects are available. Read on below for more details.

Emily and Lily, the grants team at ArtStarts, paid a visit to Kerrisdale Elementary where teachers Jane Spencer, Alison Dixon and Rachel Grudman, with grade 6/7 classes,  collaborated with artist Dawn Livera on their project “Weaving Currents of Change”. This project, like many strong AIC projects, was born out of a couple of ongoing connections that Kerrisdale had with other organizations in BC. 

Kerrisdale students have been participating in the Ocean Ambassador program for a number of years. This program is “turning the tide of marine pollution by getting students into the ocean, educating them about the threat of plastics, and empowering them to make real change.” Students go to the beach and see the impact of plastics and marine pollution first hand while learning how to paddleboard and be connected to nature. 

The grade 6/7 classes also visited the Museum of Vancouver to see the Vancouver Biennale exhibit “Weaving Cultural Identities” and met artist Dawn Livera. Kerrisdale has had an ongoing relationship with the Biennale for a few years and brought artists into the classroom through their program to great success. Through meeting Dawn, Jane decided to collaborate with Dawn to work on a weaving project to learn more about ocean pollution and what students can do to impact this issue. They decided to create ocean themed woven wall hangings that highlight the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans. They received funding from Vancouver Biennale Big Ideas in School and ArtStarts’ Artists in the Classroom grants.

Jane Spencer and the students we met talked about how much having Dawn in the classroom changed the way they worked and how they thought about the issue of marine pollution. By bringing in an external artist with a different energy, perspective, and technical skills, the teachers and their students were able to think about the issues differently. Dawn encouraged them to engage in the artistic process and embrace mistakes. They didn’t have to make art with a predetermined outcome or aesthetic. The students found it freeing to work with someone who knows their craft through an open process that encouraged difference. All students were able to engage and found it a positive, social experience.

At ArtStarts, we are more curious about the process of art making, rather than being wholly invested in the product. “Weaving Currents of Change” had a really interesting process behind the beautiful weavings we saw. Students used recycled plastic and yarn  to weave one large collaborative piece as well as individual pieces. The students set intentions about how they and their families would make the environment better. They wrote them on ribbon and wove the ribbon into the large collaborative piece that all students contributed to. Some students said they were going to walk more, others said they would bring reusable containers with them. These were small, actionable ways they could feel like they are making a difference.

The individual artworks used perspective and aesthetic to make their weaving look like something else and communicate what they’ve learned. Some examples were a popsicle melting from climate change and a vase holding flowers signifying a new future. They also learned about how to make one object look like something else by changing the context of the piece. We saw the evidence of the creative freedom that Dawn created in the room through the huge variety in the individual pieces. 

It was really powerful for the students to feel like they were doing something about plastic waste and climate change instead of feeling overwhelmed by the problem. This work made them feel like 82 people could make a difference, especially when that’s amplified through their families! All of the students we spoke with shared how they are continuing this work with their families and taking their learning home. 

The school as a whole is committed to raising awareness about the oceans, which helps this project happen in the fabric of the school curriculum. In addition to this weaving project, the music teacher worked with the school to put on a concert at the local secondary school called This Corner of the Earth! We had such a great time hearing about how Kerrisdale is teaching young people through the arts in a myriad of ways. 

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