Connecting Teachers, Teaching Artists And Students Through Art Education

Sometimes feedback comes in that exemplifies ArtistsInspire’s goals of connecting teachers, artists and students through Art Education, learning more about themselves and others through art. Butler Elementary School participated in two iterations of ‘I Belong’, LEARN’s project that invites teachers and students to explore their identity and sense of belonging to Quebec society through the arts. ‘I Belong!’ is funded by the Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d’expression anglaise and is additionally supported by ELAN’s ArtEd team, who works with LEARN to identify featured artists and expand participation through the use of its Artists Inspire grants.

Cycle 3 teacher Christine Blinn of Butler Elementary School is enthusiastic about what participating in ‘I Belong’ means to their school and students:

Because we live in a remote rural area, we are rarely able to afford going into the city or larger towns to experience plays or theatre. Many students here, being from low income households, don’t get to experience a lot of arts and cultural activities, other than what we can get them involved with at school. I see these workshops, and one on one experiences with artists as a wonderful opportunity to get students to see what is outside of our little country box. They meet new people, discover new professions, find different ways to create art, and feel free to create in a way that is meaningful to themselves.

Butler Elementary School is working with different artists every year, providing their students with a diversity of artistic disciplines and approaches. In 2020-21, students created a mural with cj fleury as part of the ‘Make Art’ option of ‘I Belong!’ Christine writes,

It was an incredible experience and we learned so, so much. The class really formed a bond with cj as we met her every Friday morning via Zoom. She was part of our class. Though the in-person aspect is wonderful, it was amazing to be able to meet with someone [on the other side of the province] every week for an hour or two, and online meetings made that possible. I want my new class to experience making that bond, being creative, have fun, feel like they are being heard, and feel part of something bigger than our little school.

In the 2021-22 school year, Butler Elementary School explored puppetry with Daniel Hickie, through an ‘I Belong’ project funded by ArtistsInspire. As Christine writes,

[W]e loved our experience with Daniel. He was upbeat and fun, and that kept the students interested the whole time. The activities were short, simple, and varied so they could all follow along successfully. He had an excellent command of the room… After every session students would comment “I really like Daniel. He is really nice. That was really fun Ms Blinn. I can’t wait until next Friday!”

In The Words Of The Teaching Artists

Teaching Artist Daniel Hickie writes from his perspective,

My experience at Butler Elementary was brilliant. First of all, the teachers were a dream to work with… The students – what a double dream… [A]s an artist I was struck by how useful that introduction could be for building connections between students. The teachers requested a joint grade 5/grade 1 project, and watching these students communicate across age gaps, build stories from different imaginative places, was really rewarding for me.

Teaching Artist cj fleury writes:

I was so inspired working with Christine Blinn and the integrity she brought to our conversations. She exemplifies a perfect connector…from BEFORE the project and straight through to the celebration of the students’ successes, learning and promotion to the larger community, such a sparkling goal of artmaking as communicator and connector… These days we think of zoom as the portal to students’ hearts and minds and fingers and sense of belonging…but THE REAL PORTAL OF CHANGE IS the teacher.

Planning Ahead For Next Year

Teacher Christine Blinn is looking ahead to the next project:

This was my second time taking part in the ArtistInspire experience and both times I was very much impressed with the artist’s dedication to running well organized and fun activities for the students. I will definitely continue to apply each year. Thank you for organizing this wonderful opportunity for students and teachers to meet new people and allow them to be inspired!

We look forward to next year, Christine! As Daniel writes, “Thank you, teachers.”

Daniel Hickie introduces his puppet to Butler Elementary School students.
Butler Elementary School Students perform their puppet theatre.
Daniel Hickie leads Butler Elementary School students in a fun warm-up game.