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Eclectic Circus | Penticton, Princess Margaret and Summerland Secondary School Visual Arts Students

The title we have chosen for this show pretty well sums up the day to day activity in the art room; an often loud beehive of activity with students going madly off in all directions. For many, this seemingly disorganized scenario is not the standard for learning but it is from this energy that so many creative works emerge. The latest document from the Ministry of Education touts the merits of individualized learning and student-focused learning. This is nothing new in the art room. As I repeat numerous times to students; I may be presenting a project to the group but the results are all individual. The creative voice does not come from prescribed learning outcomes or prepackaged lessons; it comes from the opportunity to play, experiment and express.

This year our school purchased a number of IPads for teachers and students to experiment with. As with any technology, it does not replace the act of creating but complements the creative process. Students have usedthe applications for research in the “Dinner with …”  project but we havealso used different apps for developing imagery. Students, of course, embrace technology as a matter of daily life but to direct it in a creative way is often new to them. The kaleidoscope paintings and the large charcoal drawings had them compose using the IPad and from that image they created a new artwork.

My basic philosophy is, and has been for 20 years as an art teacher, that it is opportunity that gives us permission to be the best we can be. Providing an array of approaches to art-making gives students that opportunity to try different media and techniques. As the old Buddhist proverb goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. ” ~ Dawn Richards, Penticton Secondary School

Prepare yourself for anything.  A trip to the circus will most certainly offer a wide variety of talent ranging from daring displays of balance on the high wire to unique clown performers who leave the old and young rolling in the aisles with laughter.  The circus is a forum for diversity.  It promotes talented individuals with a wide range of skills and abilities.  When the show is over, the performers and their props all pack up to move on to the next audience.

In many ways the visual art world serves a similar function. Artists are those quirky folks with unique abilities who create for their own personal satisfaction, as well as allowing their audience an opportunity to see the world through their eyes.  The public and private galleries are a forum to display the wide range of artists who exist in society.  When a show comes down, one can rest assured that the artist is busy in their studio preparing for their next visual event.

I have been teaching visual art to students ranging from grades 9 to 12 for the past fifteen years.  The room I teach in allows me a forum like the circus and art gallery to entertain young people about the importance of being an individual in this world.  The materials we manipulate often reflect the diverse approaches we all can take when creating art.  The art room is a place to celebrate triumphs and failure.  The process of creating should allow room for joy and frustration.  Unlike the circus and gallery, the process of making art never ends.  It is my hope that students discover that learning to be creative is an event that hopefully never just stops.  There is always room to grow and learn from the old as we move forward to new challenges.  ~ Brad Gibson, Princess Margaret Secondary School
Art and creativity are critical components in the development of every child and they permeate every aspect of human existence. Exhibitions such as these are vital as they serve to validate the importance of creativity in education and in life. A visual arts education helps students develop a higher order of thinking through creativity, critical thinking and the ability to pose and solve problems. Through this process they also gain an understanding of self-discipline and increased self-confidence. Albert Einstein once famously stated that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Years of research show that an arts education is closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity. A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual's life, it "can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing," creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion. And strong arts programming in schools helps close a gap that has left many a child behind: From Mozart for babies to tutus for toddlers to family trips to the museum, the children of affluent, aspiring parents generally get exposed to the arts whether or not public schools provide them. Low-income children, often, do not. "Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences,'' says Eric Cooper, president and founder of theNational Urban Alliance for Effective Education.

Thanks as always to the students for sharing their creativity and to their teachers, Brad Gibson from Princess Margaret Secondary, Donna Cowles of Summerland Secondary and Dawn Richards from Penticton Secondary School. It’s due to the commitment, passion and dedication of teachers such as these that students are able to reach outside of themselves and challenge the way they see and interact with the world around them. While the majority of these students will not pursue a career in the arts, they have all been given the gift of creative thinking which will manifest itself in ways yet unknown for the rest of their lives