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May 16, 2017

Reflecting on the Arts Integration Learning Lab: An Interview with Artist Matthew Ariaratnam

ArtStarts Arts Integration Learning Lab

Last month, we held the first Arts Integration Learning Lab designed specifically for performing artists. We welcomed 20 artists to the ArtStarts Gallery and Resource Centre for five jam-packed days of learning, exploring, experimenting, sharing and collaborating.

What kind of impact does the Arts Integration Learning Lab have on artists? We asked one of the participants, Matthew Ariaratnam, to share his thoughts with us.


Hi, Matthew! Can you tell us about your art practice?

Hello! My name is Matthew Ariaratnam. My practice falls within the discipline of music and sound. My current creative curiosities are site-specific performance, musicking, soundwalking, compositional listening, in situ composition, acoustic ecology, field recording and, overall, a practice of listening.

The work I am making is generally in response to the sonic environment and world around me. For example, I made a piece where I gathered field recordings for three months, took these sounds and made them into a 10-minute piece of electroacoustic music, and created a public listening lemonade stand in downtown Vancouver, where I sat, waited and shared this piece of music with whoever came by.

I have also composed various kinds of soundwalks, have made collaborative work with dancers and theatre makers, and frequently make free improvisational music on my prepared guitar.

Before the Arts Integration Learning Lab, what did you feel you lacked in your art practice that might enable your practice to work well in a school setting? What were you expecting from this experience?

Before the Arts Integration Learning Lab, I felt that I didn't understand how my art practice could be a pedagogy that wasn't only about music and sound for itself. I also wanted to learn how to work in schools to share some of the things that were fascinating me with the upcoming generation. I was also excited when I heard about the changes of the revised BC curriculum and I wanted to learn more about it through the Arts Integration Learning Lab.

How was your experience with the Arts Integration Learning Lab? What resonated most with you?

The Arts Integration Learning Lab was a really wonderful experience. It was informative, fun, engaging and sparked quite a bit of excitement when thinking about making work, sharing ideas and creating together with the future generation. So much imagination to be explored!

What resonated with me most was learning about how my creative curiosities could work as a pedagogy to better understand subjects' interconnectedness — in other words, learning about operating in the educational system using an arts-integrated curriculum model.

I have never really thought about how my soundwalking practice and interest in acoustic ecology could be so connected to the core competencies and big ideas within the revised curriculum. Through the practice of soundwalking, for example, we can draw on the big ideas of a variety of subjects to help us ask questions to gain, share and exchange knowledge that will help us understand our world now. Also, through these different perspectives, we can utilize critical thinking skills to imagine possible futures.

How did the Arts Integration Learning Lab affect your practice?

The Arts Integration Learning Lab taught me that my practice is a valid form of ontology and epistemology. It validated how I enact being and knowing, and allowed me to see how my way of understanding requires skill beyond arts-for-arts-sake. Through the Lab, I learned about how my practice, and others' artistic practice, are interconnected to a variety of subjects.

What project are you planning on doing after this learning experience?

I have several projects that I am doing after the Learning Lab. Some are working with dancers and theatre makers as a sound designer, performer and collaborator or as a guitarist in a band. Other upcoming projects are within the realm public site-specific work.

With a friend and artistic collaborator, Julie Hammond, we received a neighbourhood grant to install listening posts in the parks along Wall Street heading east towards New Brighton Park. Each listening post will be a text score that opens a person up to the sonic phenomena of the space, allow them to react to it and find a way to use that knowledge to understand their neighbourhood through a different lens/ear. I see this as a first step in the practice of empathy which can help build a more connected community. Together we will lead a walk with the community showing off our signs.

A project that came out of the Learning Lab was working with Grade 3 students and taking them on a soundwalk and creating soundmaps in a day-long workshop. I would love to teach the students about acoustic ecology, how sound is organized in spaces and that listening and analyzing soundscapes can tell us about the health of a space. When we walk through spaces on our daily commute, what sounds do we hear? What sounds are loud? What sounds are quiet? What sounds are beautiful and what sounds are ugly? Sound can tell us about how we as humans are interconnected to our environments and demonstrate how our actions affects other species and people.

It would also be really wonderful to work with students to demonstrate what it's like to be in the field, analyze information and put it into a concrete thing such as a map. That map can be colourful and creative, but it also holds gained knowledge and information about the world they live in. This process of soundwalking and creation of soundmaps demonstrates bodily agency as research, critical thinking skills, analytical skill and an exploration in creativity.


Now it's your turn!

Stay tuned for the next edition of the Arts Integration Learning Lab, which will focus on Indigenous artists from across BC. We are planning to announce more information and open applications in early June. In the meantime, sign up for our Newsletter for Artists to be notified of this and future opportunities for artists.

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