ELAN is hiring a Communications Assistant for our Annual General Meeting! This position is for an 8-week summer contract, from July 8-August 30, 2019. With the day-to-day supervision of the Communications Coordinator and the Membership Services Coordinator, the AGM Communications Assistant will work with ELAN staff to prepare for our 15th Annual General Meeting and Anniversary celebration. This will involve organizing event logistics, communicating with members, assisting with outreach initiatives, and assisting on the production of our AGM package and booklet. Deadline to apply has been extended to June 7. Interviews will take place in mid-June.

Annual General Meeting Communications Assistant

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Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Lisan Chng, of MosaicJam International, says that for her, the community atmosphere and self-confidence that grow out of facilitating artistic practices are just as important as the creative practice of mosaic-making itself. Community-building was a core aspect of the project that she organized for Metis Beach School, which received funding and support from ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative, to encourage those of different generations and linguistic backgrounds to learn from each other in her Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors project.

In the project, Lisan first gave mosaic workshops to local seniors of the community so that they could make mosaic mirrors. The seniors then shared the skills they gained in making the mirrors with the students of Metis Beach School by teaching them how to grout and tile pots. Throughout the process, Lisan relays, both the students and seniors gained self-confidence through developing ingenious ways to make the art, which they then shared with the other members of the group. An example of such an occurrence was when a student with autism proved that she had a natural knack for mosaic setting and demonstrated her ability to other students and adults. Such multidirectional learning, which encourages a community atmosphere and the development self-confidence, is a core tenet of the ELAN ACE Initiative’s project model.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Another way in which multidirectional learning was introduced in Lisan’s project was through bringing in a student-journalist, Melissa Landry, to document the project. Lisan states that, “with Melissa onboard, I was able to completely focus on the workshops without having to think of capturing photos of moments at the same time. Having someone independently writing about the project really makes this project special for me. ACE Consultant Paula Knowle’s idea of presenting a timeline of the project with photos and comments from the participants was also a valuable idea. It helped me to communicate the story of what we are doing to everyone in school, and also to all participants. These are ideas I can implement in future projects as well.”

By welcoming a student-journalist into the project, Lisan increased the intergenerational connection that she values in her projects and encouraged multidirectional learning; she herself realized the benefit of welcoming someone into the project with communications expertise to relieve herself of the task, and of the importance of documenting and sharing content to broadcast the impact of the project to broader communities.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Melissa Landry, meanwhile, was able to develop her journalism, documentation and curation skills. Melissa states that: “this opportunity gave me a solid introduction into what journalism entails and provided for me a safe place to try it out for my first time. And because it was intergenerational, I got to work with both children and seniors which I believe doubled the value of this experience. Learning in this environment helped to sharpen the multitasking skills required in the documenting process between taking pictures, logging writing ideas, and washing little hands”.

Melissa Landry’s mother, Andrea Landry, also reflects on how the project developed her daughter’s self-confidence and her ease in working in diverse environments. She writes that, “from the moment we entered the beautiful Metis Beach School cafeteria, I knew the “Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors” project was going to be magical for us. Most interestingly for Melissa. As the workshop progressed, I could see that taking part with the lovely seniors and adorable children had invigorated her. Just as mirrors reflect us and plants bloom when they are planted in pots, I was grateful to see her grow from this experience.”

Inviting a student-journalist into her project benefitted Lisan’s goal of promoting the growth of intergenerational community and self-confidence, extended the multidirectional learning already present in the project through having Lisan further learn and benefit from Melissa’s counsel and skills, enabled Melissa further hone in on these skills, and ensured that the successes and moments of reflection of the project were well-documented and shared. Similar benefits can be gained in other ACE Initiative projects that invite-in student-journalists to document their progress.

Photo credit: Melissa Landry

Jessica Houston is an multimedia artist and participatory arts facilitator. She facilitated two ELAN ACE Projects this year, the “Magical Garden Window” project at Sunnyside Elementary in Stanstead in the Fall of 2018, and the “Future Landscapes” mural at St. Mary’s school in Longueuil, Quebec, this Spring! Read on for her reflections on her most recent project, and her practice. 

ELAN ACE: What is your artistic practice?

Jessica: My multimedia projects examine questions related to our changing natural world, and our nature within it. I have traveled from pole to pole—using photography, painting, oral histories and objects—to evoke nature and culture entanglements. Through a variety of interventions, my works challenge the premise that we are separate from nature, looking at ‘it’ from a distance from a position of privilege. My projects often include site-specific oral histories that amplify the memory of a place and evoke land as a living process. I have worked on projects involving communities and their relationship to their environments in the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and Italy.

ELAN ACE: How have you incorporated your practice into the ELAN ACE project you are currently involved in?

Jessica: In my current project “Future Landscapes” with the students at St. Mary’s school, we have been working on envisioning our future. Based on discussions around environmental issues, including climate change and sustainability, the students created a 15-foot long mural depicting what they would like to see in the future.

Teaching is very much an extension of my artistic practice. I have worked with communities around issues of sustainability and their relationship to place in the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, Iceland and Europe. In terms of thinking about the future, I recently deposited a time capsule in a glacier in Antarctica containing 22 handwritten letters to the future from contemporary thinkers across disciplines. No one from the present has read the letters.

Photo: Jessica Houston

ELAN ACE: Can you describe the project that you are working on?

Jessica: This collaborative piece at St. Mary’s School involved group discussions around ecology and sustainability, and thoughts about what present-day decisions will impact their future. As a group, students decided about what future they wanted and how to give their ideas vision. They delved into questions of color, scale and composition, as they painted a 5-meter-long mural of their future landscape. This work includes an Arctic with ice, biodiversity of animals, electric cars, wind and water energy, forests, mountains with minerals left in them and not extracted, and revolutionary zero energy architecture. This mural is an artwork onto itself, and it will be used as a setting for a film that the students are making that involves a robot in the future. It speaks to the way art engenders the capacity to envisioning things differently than they are. This four-day art marathon was invigorating for the students and teachers alike. The project will culminate in a school-wide event where the gymnasium will be transformed into a science museum.

ELAN ACE: How do you see the students and the teachers that you are working with growing through your project? 

Jessica: The teacher that I am working with said that he was able to see different aspects of his students emerge through artmaking that are not apparent to him during other school activities. In both school projects that I have carried out, the art experience engenders in children the capacity to imagine things differently than they are. It is this ability to envision that is so important to our democracies and societies. It is also crucial for our own path as human beings.

There isn’t a lack of data supporting the evidence of global warming, clearly, we need more than data to move forward into a sustainable future. The value of imagination is pivotal to our ability as humans to respond empathetically to our world. The process of making a collaborative mural required students to think about the entire composition, and how their piece fits within and contributes to the whole. Working together, students experienced ecological thinking through the artmaking process.

ELAN ACE: Can you think of an example of co-learning that you witnessed and participated in through this project?

Jessica: The students learned a lot from one another, and I surely learned a lot from the students. Mostly, I am heartened by their spontaneity, curiosity and ability to think freely without too many censors. Of their own accord, they come up with many viable solutions to environmental issues. They surprised their teachers, who had a different idea of the future. As a result, they changed their narrative for the film they will make with the robot moving through the future landscape.

ELAN ACE: What is your vision of the future relationship of the arts to education? What do you think is the value of integrating the arts into education?

Jessica: Students’ ability to be whole human beings is awakened in the practice of making art. They use empathy, imagination and agency when making things. These elements are essential to imagining our future – art should be a core requirement to any school curriculum.

Photo: Jessica Houston

This is the first story of a new ELAN series, “Lessons Learned”. In this series, we will be highlighting insights of key stakeholders in our ELAN Artists Community Education (ACE) Initiative project on facets of the projects they are engaged in. This story was written when Louise Campbell was in Grosse Ile. 

Photo: Louise Campbell

When Musician and Participatory Arts Facilitator Louise Campbell first arrived in Grosse Ile for an artist residency supported by both ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative and the Culture in the Schools program in the Magdalen Islands, she used music to introduce herself to the community. Campbell grew up in Southern Alberta, and she says that there were many similarities between both locales, namely the big skies and wind. Contrasting her experience in Southern Alberta with her current hometown of Montreal, she improvised music to help the students of the Grosse Île School and community understand and relate to her background and the idea of making music and art inspired by place.

 

Throughout her project, Campbell maintained the theme of connecting to place through improvised sound and colour in order to help the students deepen their understandings of their community. She writes that the people of Grosse Ile, “have a very strong sense of place; working through sound can highlight this and give [the residents] a way in to making music based on their own experiences”.

 

Stories emerged out of the brainstorming sessions that Campbell partook in with the students of Grosse Ile School. Many of these stories centered on the sea, from students’ favourite memories of time spent with friends and family at the beach, to tragedies evolving out of the reality of living in such close relationship to the ocean.

 

Such maritime tragedy is part of the lived and mythic experience of the Island; known as the “Island of a Thousand Shipwrecks”, community members have recently opened an exhibit called “People of the Sea” that remembers and commemorates the lives of those lost at sea.

 

Louise and the students of the Grosse Ile School developed short narratives that delve into the range of experiences the students associate with their home through the medium of radio play. To better express the narratives, they began to build up a repository of sounds, a sound library, using Foley-style sound effects, boom whackers, loop pedals and sounds recorded in the natural environment.

Photo: Amber Mckay

The efforts that are being taken in the project to narrativize experience and understand the natural landscape are central to relating to place and its natural elements in ways that broaden understanding and empower the students to think of the natural environment with both awe and understanding.

 

During her residency, Louise also developed a special educator-student relationship with a young student with extreme sensitivity to sound. Similar to empowering the students to articulate the natural environment in clearer ways through sound and narrative, Louise helped the student understand and appreciate his sonic environment more through developing ways with him to first manage, and then play within his experience of everyday sounds.

 

Louise recalled first arriving and playing clarinet for a class, and having the student react very strongly and negatively to her music and sound in general. Following this class, Louise showed the student how to use an equalizer on his computer to neutralize sound to adjust the balance of specific frequencies, in the hopes that he would be able to adjust the sound so that it would be more comfortable for his hearing. Louise states that “once I had done this, in ten minutes, he went from being quite mad to being very content and started having a lot of fun playing with sound”.

 

With consent from his teacher, Louise invited the student to take a break from his classroom when he was done with his schoolwork to help with the recording of sounds for the sound library. She recalls that the first time that she first gave the student this responsibility, “I heard him stomping around and slamming a door and running water; creating all these sound effects”.

 

Since then, the student has started to mix sounds effects to create music, including a short piece featuring the sounds of a wind storm and another of a train leaving the station. He has also thrown himself into pitch and rhythm games using boomwhackers, showing exceptional aptitude and taking great pleasure in playing these games alone and with others. Louise reflects on the importance that creating a positive association to sound for one student can have on the community at large, saying that this student, “has been a huge part of my experience here, and is one of the ways in which I think I am really creating an impact through my project. In such a small school, one kid affects so many others. If I can have him understand sound as fun and interesting, it may help him develop important coping strategies to deal with this acute sense of hearing”.

 

Before leaving Grosse Ile, Louise has been teaching as many people as possible how to help the young student equalize, edit and mix sound with software downloaded onto his computer, as well as play pitch and rhythm games using boomwhackers. She hopes that this, and the momentum built up around contributing and using the sound library to create both music and stories, will encourage the students of Grosse Ile to experiment with sound in order to understand themselves and their environment in deeper ways after her residency ends.

 

Louise states that she believes that creative approaches to learning are essential to help diverse peoples integrate into schools. She also believes that creativity helps people process their life experiences. Through helping the student with sound sensitivity relate to sound in both more manageable and healthy ways, Louise is helping him be and feel more in control and successful now, which will help him later in life. In helping the students of Grosse Ile understand their environment better through sound, Louise is encouraging healthier relations to the natural environment. Both facets of her project encourage more complex relational learning through the sound. The skills developed through recording and mixing sounds will hopefully serve as catalysts for deepening learning of sound, to create stories that help both locals and newcomers relate to the realities of Grosse Ile into the future.

Photo: Louise Campbell

Follow ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative on Instagram: @elan_quebec_ace_inititiatve