Jimmy Baptiste is an Arts Facilitator, Muralist, Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Graffiti Artist who facilitated an ELAN Quebec ACE project at Richmond High School, in Richmond, this Spring. Below are his reflections on the project, and on the importance of including art in education.

ACE: What is your artistic practice?

Jimmy Baptiste: I’m an Arts Facilitator, a Muralist, an Illustrator, a Graphic Designer, and a Graffiti Artist. I do mostly arts-based projects with students or people from the community around street arts, graffiti, visual arts and graphic design.

 

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

Jimmy Baptiste: The ELAN ACE project that I was involved in directly fits the type of practice I have been doing. In the last fifteen years, I’ve been going around to different schools, community centres, YMCA’s and universities, and creating different art-based activities.

Often, we will go focus on a specific subject or theme that the organizer wants to explore, and from that, we will try to envision visuals, from which we will design the artwork that we want to do. I accepted the project when I first met Paula Knowles from the ELAN Art Ed Team, even though I wasn’t sure how a project that revolves around the theme of geography would work. The teacher and I began to brainstorm together, and the project ended up coming together very nicely.

Photo credit: Siu-Min Jim

ACE: Can you describe the project that you worked on?

Jimmy Baptiste: In this project, we were exploring natural disasters, and the human response to them. The project touched on three different subjects: English Language Arts, Geography and Art. To incorporate the English component, the students had to write a page on the natural disaster that they chose, why they chose it, and what their reflections were on the project. They then had to add a quote onto the poster, and a visual. It was really about trying to create something impactful from the first view; to affect the viewer and impart a message on the impact of natural disasters that was both immediate and contextual. The students were pretty clever, and I was quite impressed with their play on words, whether it was to modify the font, melt the words into the image, or use puns. We had a week to enact the project, and while it usually takes more time to do a poster project, the students did great within this time-frame. I think that once they felt as though they had structure and were aware of how to implement the themes they were wanting to develop, they were able to really explore their creativity within the time and project boundaries. Throughout the week, I was accessible to the students; I would move through the classrooms throughout the week to discuss the development of the project with each student. There were also different blocks throughout the day when students could come and work on the project when they didn’t have other work. At the end of the project, we had a vernissage, and parents were invited in to view the work of their students.

 

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

Jimmy Baptiste: One of the things that I really liked was to have the teachers participate in the project. It’s a cool moment to see students and teachers working on equal ground. It is a humanizing moment that destabilizes the traditional teacher-student dynamic and encourages co-learning. I think that this perspective creates a healthy environment and motivates the students to understand their school environment differently.

 

ACE: How has your own practice deepened through this project?

Jimmy Baptiste: Definitely. Every project that I do enables me to further evolve. I see the value in this project because the theme was new for me, and it was a good challenge to adapt my arts facilitation practice to work within geography curriculum.

 

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

Jimmy Baptiste: Yes, I can think of a few. During this project, I was working with a boy who had high energy and found it hard to focus. I learned from this project of the importance of creating dynamic learning so that he was always engaged; it forced me to adapt my material. I also think that I witnessed co-learning with the teachers working alongside the students on developing their themes through the posters. The teachers and students were bouncing ideas off each other.

Photo credit: Siu-Min Jim

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?

Jimmy Baptiste: I think that as we move into the future, jobs that focus on creativity are becoming more and more important. With the advent of artificial intelligence, it will be important to develop skill sets that highlight creative innovation, and not just repetition or patterned thinking; the arts can promote this. I also think that projects like this one are great to refresh teacher-student relationships and expose students to thinking they might not usually have access to in their community.

ACE: Did you observe any changes in particular that indicate the community or school will continue to support the arts?

Jimmy Baptiste: I hope so! I had really excellent support of the teachers and the principal throughout my project. Also, I was hosted by a really lovely teacher-couple and received great feedback from parents.

 

Laura Teasdale is an actor, playwright, musician and drama teacher hailing originally from the Maritimes who has facilitated two ELAN ACE projects, one in the Eastern Townships and another in the Maria, Gesgapegiag, and Cascapedia/St. Jules villages of the Gaspé Peninsula. Below is an interview taken while she was facilitating the project in Gaspé, featuring her thoughts on the project and the importance of art in education.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

ACE Initiative: What is your artistic practice?

I am an actor, playwright, musician and drama teacher. A passion of mine is writing historical theatre and creating community-based theatre events.

 

ACE Initiative: Can you describe the process of, and the project that you are working on?

When I first met with community coordinators at New Richmond, they were undecided on the kind of art project they wanted to have, but they knew very clearly what they wanted to see come out of it: a sense of pride in the community. Students at New Richmond come from the nearby villages of Maria, Gesgapegiag, and Cascapedia/St.Jules.  The Mi’kmaq, French, English, Scottish and Irish all lay claim to the founding of the area. As a history buff, this intrigued me. So, I asked the community if they would be interested in creating a performance based on the history, and they said yes. To develop the play, the students and I have been going to local Seniors’ homes and speaking with Elders. We’ve then turned these stories into performance pieces. There were three phases of this project, first we had a phase where I was introducing drama and comedy and storytelling through workshops. Then we had a phase where we were documenting the stories and creating the script. Now we are in the rehearsal phase. All of the elementary students are performing, and some senior high students are supporting with music and dancing.  Local musicians are also volunteering to play in the house band for the show. I am here for 5 weeks total.

ACE Initiative: How do you see the students growing through your project?  

With the kids- it’s the way it always is with kids, when there is music and art. It’s really apparent to me when I’m with kids who don’t have these things. There have been students who were initially so shy, and who would never perform who are now really engaged.

For example, recently, a girl who is so shy, and who I thought I might never break through to started singing to me.  Her teachers tell me she seems to be flourishing, even though she still won’t perform in front of anyone but me. I thought, how is this going to impact the course of her life? There is another kid who I pegged as the sharpest knife in the drawer, and who I realized couldn’t read, when we were reading a script. But he had such high emotional intelligence and really thrived in my workshops. It makes me think, that if he had arts regularly in his education, he might understand his worth and abilities differently like, “reading is a struggle for me, but I’m worth it”. In general, there has been a real growth of self-confidence in the students, through creating the play, and exploring facets of their personality through the drama, comedy and storytelling workshops.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

ACE Initiative: How has your own practice deepened through this project?

I think that deepened is really the word. When you are up in front of the students all day teaching, it’s like acting. Any teacher would tell you that. And I came here knowing no one. So, to connect, I needed to let all the newness of the community touch me.  Not acting in front of them, but being really me there with them. This investing in connection has in turn made this project about more than just teaching. It’s connected me to the community which in turn is influencing my work.

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

The teachers and I have been continuously surprised at what the kids have been coming up with. They’ve been creating all of these songs and scripts from the stories of the Seniors and Elders- it’s been really lovely to see. And in documenting the stories, the students have been learning history from their Elders. I know that everyone has been working to be open, and this in turn is helping me to be vulnerable and take more risks.  The teachers tell me everyday what exercises and games they will continue to use in the future.

ACE Initiative: 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?

I am going to advocate for integrating arts into education for the rest of my life. I started teaching about twelve years ago. I’ve been an artist my whole life, and I didn’t think that teaching was my calling.  I still don’t.  It’s really hard work! But I find that now, I can’t stop. I can’t un-see what I’ve seen. The compassion and closeness that these projects engender. Art is play and playing is so valuable for developing authentic communication and relation skills. It also empowers kids and makes them less self-conscious. This impacts those who aren’t even going to get on the stage. Having the opportunity to think creatively and develop empathetic skills is also so good for the brain.  Also, selfishly, I know that if we aren’t promoting creative thinking in schools, we won’t have art in the future to enjoy.

Photo credit: Darlene Dimock

ACE Initiative: Did you observe any changes in particular that indicate the community or school will continue to support the arts?

Definitely. Throughout the process, the teachers have been super supportive, and they’ve been very willing to participate in all of the workshops I’ve been doing and lend a hand in the production. The principal, when I first arrived, seemed sort of hesitant. But then people in the school and community started coming up to him and were like, “Hey, who is this person? She’s doing stuff!”. And he’s been on board and has been very instrumental in helping me. Just recently, he told me that if the school can’t get funding again through ELAN, he would like to find other funding to bring me back. A community up the coast (Gaspé) also just reached out about having a project in their school. The community of New Richmond has also been coming up to tell me of the joy that they see in their teachers and students through the project. So, everyone has been super supportive and helpful. Even today, I had two teachers and people from the local Irish association volunteer to perform with the older kids in the band. That everyone has been so involved and good to me indicates how much this sort of project is needed in communities like this one.

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

Lisan Chng is a mosaic artist, facilitator, coordinator and initiator of community mosaic projects and participatory art. She created and coordinated the ELAN Artists Community Education Initiative (ACE) project, “Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors” at Métis Beach School, in Métis Beach, Quebec, this year. This interview took place when Lisan was completing her project at Metis Beach School.

Photo: Bertin Bélanger

ELAN ACE: What is your practice?

Lisan: My practice is predominantly focused on community-building through mosaic-making. I like the journey of bringing people together through art. In Quebec, this is also considered as cultural mediation, which is the process of building bridges between the cultural and social realms. In my work, I feel like I’m the glue. I bring people together, like tile pieces. In both my life and my work, though the vision isn’t always fully formed; it develops as I bring projects, people and stories together.

 

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

Lisan: Before ACE came into my life, I was facilitating community art projects intuitively. But since knowing ACE’s Lead Consultant, Christie Huff, and Project Consultant, Paula Knowles, I’ve really focused on taking more care into connecting the people who are involved in my work. The community-building focus of ACE allows me to focus on being more conscious of the kinds of partnerships I am building and take more care in nurturing the relationships between people. I think that the ACE model has made community-building more structured for me and equipped me with tools and ideas that I can use in this project and in future projects.

 

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

Lisan: When I was developing the project, I had a few goals. First, I wanted to bring seniors into the community project and connect them with the kindergarten and grades 1-2 students. I also wanted to focus on bridging connection with the linguistic community and between older and younger people beyond their nuclear families. My project is called “Magic Pots and Talking Mirrors”. I first taught the seniors how to create mosaic mirrors, which express their life stories. They learned some basic mosaic skills and were then able to help the students in the making of mosaic pots. The pots were chosen for the students because gardening is important for the community. With the pots, the students learn to tend and grow as well. As the project developed, the art teacher at Metis Beach School, Ms. Lynn Fournier, and I wanted to bring students from Grades 3-4 students into the project as well. In our process of research for additional funding, we found the OseEntreprendre Challenge. At this point, we thought that it would be interesting to challenge the older students to develop the entrepreneurial mindset; we could sell the pots at the farmers’ market. The older students were challenged to create and add features to their pots to make them more compelling for sale. So, it was a project with a base, and it really grew from that. With Culture in Schools, New Horizons For Seniors and ELAN ACE‘s support, we were able to expand the intergenerational project to include the kindergarten, grades 1-2, and grades 3-4. The project started its CREATE phase at the beginning of February. All of the creating work is done, and we now will sell some of these pots with the students in May and June. Some of these pots already have interested buyers! For the younger kids, they could each bring a mosaic pot home, planted with seeds and soil, and give it to their mother for Mother’s Day. All this is made possible with the help of senior participants who chipped-in their time to assist the students in the process.

Photo: Melissa Landry

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

Lisan: First of all, I’ve never worked with students this young before on difficult process like grouting. Lots of artists wouldn’t even go there. I think that my naivety and the support of the teachers have let me expose the students to something that they haven’t experienced before. It is a project that the students have really learned from, and which has also challenged me in my teaching. I’ve been very lucky to work with artist and art teacher at Metis Beach School, Ms. Lynn Fournier, who has inspired me a lot in the way she teaches art to her students. A lot of the credit for the project’s success goes to her, as we brainstormed together on how to develop the project. It is not easy to have community and another artist come into your class as it can be a lot to manage; Ms. Fournier’s willingness and openness to bring the generations together is pivotal. The seniors’ involvement and presence turned out to be really generative and helpful. There was also an excellent synergy between the math teacher and art teacher, Ms. Fournier, in developing a method to combine curriculum objectives while enacting this project. We were like, hey, it actually makes sense to teach math through art! For the community, I think the community-building aspect pushed some people out of their comfort zone in positive ways. For example, there was a senior who was French-speaking who initially thought that she may not be comfortable working with students in English in an English-speaking school. Another senior participant thought she was not good with working with children. They came and thoroughly enjoyed and learned from the process.

 

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

Lisan: I didn’t really plan for my project to incorporate co-learning, but it has really developed that way on its own. I am just really impressed with the community’s intelligence. When I first came to this project, I was nervous that I was going to have to bear a lot of the project. As I’ve progressed, I’ve realized that you open the space to have people connect and then their intelligence comes in, and all I have to do is be observant of the learning. For example, when one student gets an advanced concept of cutting or mosaic setting, she gets it done on her pot. Soon, other students see the results and they get up to speed as well. Because we spend more time with the students on techniques and concepts, as the seniors accompany them, they learn and pick up the knowledge as they help the young ones well. We are all learning and absorbing all the way through the project. As we get towards the end of the project, we see the learning accelerating and the production too. It is really quite amazing how the learning becomes concrete and how we all influence each other in a collaborative environment.

 

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?

Lisan: Honestly, I take it for granted that that is the way that the future of education will develop. I see art being so vital. I think that the direction of art now is so community-oriented, and out of the galleries. Art is now used for healing, for community building. The value I see in including art in education is that it helps to address the issue that different students learn differently. Our academic systems really only value certain types of learners. In our art project, I see some learners with different abilities pick up on the art project so quickly, even quicker than some adults can manage. In this project, for example, there is a girl with developmental delays who has impressed all the adults in her mosaic skills. On her own, she covered an entire pot with cut tesserae in precise fit, with the motif of her favourite bird in the center. Art taps into different learning abilities. And we have to cater to different learning styles in education.

 

Lisan Chng’s Website: http://mosaicjam.com

Lisan Chng’s Instagram: @mosaicjam

ELAN Quebec’s ACE Initiative’s Instagram: @elan_quebec_ace_initiative 

This is the first feature of a new series that we will be sharing on ELAN News of Artists and Arts Facilitators who are working in ELAN’s Arts Community Education (ACE) Initiative. Louise Campbell  is a Montreal-based musician whose professional hats range from clarinettist to conductor, community arts facilitator to musicians’ health therapist. As a performer, improviser and composer, Louise seeks to interrogate and renew the ways in which we make music by creating new works with everyone, regardless of age, ability, level of prior experience, or training. 

This interview was conducted when Louise Campbell was engaged in her ELAN ACE residency in Grosse Île.

Photo: Vivian Doan

ELAN ACE: What are your artistic and teaching practices?

Louise: I am a musician, and I specialize in facilitating music and participatory arts. I will work with basically anyone who wants to make music, with any level of training. A huge part of what I do as a musician and a participatory arts musician is through improvisation.

My artistic and faciliatory practices are completely intertwined; they influence each other and often go together. I find that my participatory arts practice exposes me to very unique sounds that I wouldn’t be exposed to if I only worked in ensembles with professional musicians. It’s very much integrated in what I do. I have been facilitating and implementing participatory music for over 20 years. My project with ELAN Artists Community Education (ACE) is one way that I’ve been doing this work.

 

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

Louise: The community I am in is Grosse Île in the Magdalen Islands. The community has about 500 people in it, and the school has 42 students. I also engage with the seniors of the community. My project is very much about looking at place and community through music to strengthen community bonds. This is my first time here, and because of geography and weather, it is especially isolated in the winter. It is unusual in fact for me to be here right now as most visitors come in the summer. I’ve used my status as a newcomer to ground my connection in place. When I first got here, I improvised music to introduce where I’m from to the community. I then encouraged the students to introduce their favourite places to me and each other by thinking of the colours and sounds they associate with their favourite places. From there, stories started to emerge, which we are now using to create ‘radio plays’. We’ve built up a library of sound samples for this project including Foley-style sound effects, guitar loop pedals, boom whackers and other approachable instruments that I brought, and field recordings. The project has evolved a lot over the course of my month-long stay, a stay that was made possible through funding from the ELAN ACE Initiative and MELS Culture in the Schools.

Photo: Louise Campbell

ELAN ACE: What do you think will be the impact of this project on the community? Do you observe any changes in particular that indicate that the community or school will continue to support the arts?

Louise: I think the best people to answer this question are the people who live in Grosse-Île, since they are the people who make up this community. From my perspective, people here have a very strong sense of place, and the work we have been doing with music and sound may help them understand and articulate their sense of place in different ways. The sound library is a big part of how I hope the students will continue make music when I am gone. I always think of longevity when I’m doing projects like this one; the last thing I want to do is to introduce students to basic sheet reading and the first three notes of a recorder when I know there is no one here to follow-up on music taught this way. I hope that in this project, I am invoking imagination and helping the students develops skills and tools so they can continue to create music when I’m gone.

 

ELAN ACE: How has your own practice deepened through this project?

Louise: In my regular life in Montreal, I am always making sure that many different projects are growing every single day. To focus on only one project is incredible. The opportunity to think through place and be a newcomer in such an intense way is a very unique experience. This project was partially funded through MELS Culture in the Schools, and they ask that their artists-in-residence produce a work. When I make music, it is always for other people. With this project, I really want to make sure that the work I make is in service of the people here. I’ve proposed making music for an exhibit called People of the Sea, and the exhibit’s curator is very receptive. I’m trying to be very intentional about place as I create this piece, and in this way, I think that this project made me think of integrating place as part of community into my artistic process; this ties in with the artist-community emphasis of the ACE Initiative as well.

Photo: Amber Mckay

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

Louise: This week, I wanted to start recording some of the stories with the students. There is a student here who is very much into technology and making music through technology. When I asked this student if he would help teach the other students how to download the app and access the sound library to create their stories, he instantly said yes. It became a really lovely case of student mentoring, from an older student to younger students. His self-esteem and leadership ability were boosted, and the students got to learn from someone other an adult.

 

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?  

Louise: I think that all people are inherently creative. Given the DIY era we live in, I think that we should be focusing on nurturing the creative abilities of students. Some students rebel when they don’t have creative input or control; I see this especially with kids who have difficulty integrating into a school. To approach learning creatively is crucial to have such students succeed at school, and at objectives later in life. Creativity also helps older people process events of their life. Many people haven’t been given the opportunity to be creative and understand their life through the arts, and creative activities help people access their experiences in ways they haven’t before.

 

Louise Campbell’s Website: http://louisecampbell.ca/wp/en/

Louise Campbell’s Instagram: @mlouisecampbell

Elan Quebec’s ACE Initiative’s Instagram: @elan_quebec_ace_initiative