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ELAN ArtEd: ArtistsInspire’s Realignment and Transformation: Responding to Arts Education Needs During Social Distancing

Art remains of utmost value to the education of our youth, to how they learn, and how they engage with the world and themselves. ELAN ArtEd also continues to ensure that Artists are remaining engaged, and able to collaborate and contribute in this new milieu.  ArtistsInspire experiences have undergone a transformation, but the program remains as committed as ever to our core values.

Immediately following the announcement that schools would be closed, Christie Huff, the ArtistsInspire team leader, acted swiftly to reach out to ArtistsInspire artists who needed to convert their planned in-person experiences into alternate activities. An online conference was organized to connect, share concerns and brainstorm ideas for online arts education. We began to conceptualize the possibility of designing quality virtual interactive workshops for youth and families in response to Quebec youth craving interactive educational experiences. Our target audience is anglophone youth and their households, though one of the strengths of virtual workshops is that they can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world.

Guillaume Jabbour, ELAN ArtEd Coach and music & sound artist, organized a second online conference with music & sound artists who had funding from our ACE and youth mental health projects, including Guillaume, Louise Campbell, Rob Lutes, Laura Teasdale, Greg Paul Stone, Ronnie Leblanc and Tim Piper. Though they were all experiencing varying degrees of anxiety in regards to the pandemic and their own circumstances, a productive meeting ensued and from that brainstorming Artists developed workshops, livestreams and more.

As the ArtEd team worked on the administrative model for these new virtual workshops, the artists sculpted their offerings.  Using Zoom as an instructional and interactive platform, the interaction between participants and artists remained a key focus for these workshops. The team worked closely with our educational partner, LEARN, who has been very supportive throughout the process.

ArtistsInspire’s Free Youth & Family Interactive Online Workshops

Our first workshops were offered in two-part series between April 20th and May 1st. During Part One, artists introduced themselves and the workshop, and led preliminary creation. Afterwards, a follow-up email was sent with instructional materials including documents, samples, videos, images and links so that participants could continue working. Participants were encouraged to email artists directly with questions, comments or requests for feedback as they worked throughout the week.  One key feature of the program was having a co-facilitator, Guillaume Jabbour, managing the technical aspects of the Zoom conference. This gave the artists the freedom to discuss the subject matter and focus their attention on participants.

In Part Two, participants were encouraged to discuss their artistic process and were given the opportunity to share their work. The artists were sensitive to the fact that sharing work can be daunting for any creator, and ensured a safe, inclusive, supportive and professional environment.  A final email was sent, including any new information and instructions for sharing content with ArtEd’s social media team.  Testimonials that were shared online increased our audience engagement.

Attendance ranged from 2 to 19 participants, with the majority between the ages of 10 and 17, and included youth from the Autism & Arts group based in the Laurentians. There were also a number of adults who participated, some of whom were teachers. Regardless of the age or location of the participants and facilitators, in a way we were all in the same boat together: we were trying to make sense of the current situation through art, either directly or indirectly. A second round of workshops were offered the following week, this time in a one-off format, which also worked well.

Highlights from ArtistsInspire Free Youth & Family Interactive Online Workshops!

“Quaranzine”: Designed & facilitated by Rachel McCrum & Lisa Kimberly Glickman

This workshop with poet Rachel McCrum and visual artist Kimberley Glickman explored how to capture the story of a day in these strange times on paper, and turn it into a book from a single sheet of paper.

Rachel McCrum is a poet, performer and workshop facilitator.  Originally from Northern Ireland, she has taught and performed in Greece, South Africa, Haiti, and Canada, and is currently working on the Atwater Poetry Project.  Rachel had been scheduled to work with youth at Laurentian Regional High School in Lachute with CHSSN youth mental health funding when school closures cancelled her plans.  She said that she “really enjoyed the Zoom platform, it was communal and collective, even though we were all separated and sitting individually.”   Rachel also expressed her appreciation for the facilitation handled by ELAN.  “It gave me the freedom to interact as an artist and a storyteller.”  She went on to say that “ELAN is so proactive in terms of evaluation and research.  They’ve been encouraging, supportive and strategic.”

Rachel said of her collaboration, “I’m not a visual artist but needed to engage visually with the zines.  Working with Lisa Kimberly allowed that in a way that was appealing and sophisticated.”  In turn, Lisa Kimberly said that working with Rachel was “absolutely amazing!  I love working in collaboration and across the curriculum.”

Lisa Kimberly Glickman is a visual artist, painter, art educator, and photographer.  She has an MEd in Arts Education from McGill and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.   Of the Quaranzine experience she praised the outreach of the online program, “I really enjoyed reaching an audience that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  The diversity was great and it was neat that anyone could join.  It allowed for a more heterogeneous, diverse group, rather than what you would see in a neighbourhood school.” ELAN ArtEd is “simply fantastic,” Lisa Kimberly said. “The work ELAN does for art in the community and now online is amazing.”  She continues her own work – currently on ‘corona-mandalas’ – though she notes,  “Art provokes a physiological reaction in a person. It’s hard to work alone in a vacuum.”

Lisa Kimberly Glickman’s own page from her ‘Quaranzine’, made in preparation for the online workshop.


In terms of participant response, the Quaranzine workshop was an absolute success.  One mother wrote us to say:

“Thank you and the other artists very much for organizing the Quaranzine workshop today. My son Benjamin enjoyed it very much. He didn’t quite follow the paper folding so the YouTube link was very helpful. Ben [is] a part of the same arts club for teens and young adults with autism and I think they would really like making these zines for our mail chain project. Here is what Ben did (after he figured out how to make the pages properly). Much thanks again!”

– Julie C-L, mom of Benjamin  (See below for Ben’s fantastic work!)


Benjamin’s amazing illustrations for his Quaranzine, made with the guidance from the workshop.

Benjamin’s amazing illustrations for his Quaranzine, made with the guidance from the workshop.

And some more comments from the kids who participated:

Guillaume Jabbour interviewing Quaranzine participant Ava and her dad, after the workshop.

Guillaume Jabbour interviewing Quaranzine participant Ava and her dad, after the workshop.


I really liked doing the little [quaranzine] book. It was fun sewing it and doing the pages. I did two more. 


I got to learn a lot of new techniques I didn’t know before, like shading. You’re able to make a little Quaranzine about what you did [during quarantine].


Some additional comments from the Tessellations workshop, led by Lisa Kimberly Glickman:

From the Tessellations workshop - Lisa Kimberly Glickman leading participants, step-by-step

From the Tessellations workshop – Lisa Kimberly Glickman leading participants, step-by-step.


I think it was really fun.  We made rotational tessellations that turn.  I’m gonna watch the video again when it comes out.  There was no end to the creativity, you could make whatever you want. 

-Oscar, 11

It was amazing.  The video that [Kimberly] made was how I made my picture.  I’d like to do something like this that’s different, something to do at home, and not just in the class.

-Nancy, educator and parent

Moving Forward

Regardless of how soon social distancing ends, virtual learning will become a very necessary part of our children’s lives. Elan ArtEd and ArtistsInspire are working on being even more proficient, responsive, and innovative at facilitating high quality arts education experiences that can be tailored to the needs of classroom teachers and individual learners. On-line learning will never replace in-person experiences, however, it can foster authentic and meaningful teacher-learner relationships and create a deeper understanding of and connection to the arts.

Please visit our website artistsinspire.ca and follow us on Facebook & Instagram @ELANArtEd to get up to date information about upcoming workshops and programs. We are here for you!

ArtistsInspire Grants are made possible by an ELAN Quebec/LEARN partnership for students from Quebec’s English-speaking communities to participate in arts and culture experiences, thanks in part to funding from the Government of Canada.