“It’s a very huge project for me because I didn’t feel welcome here at the school… [W]e wanted to spread awareness of what it’s like to be Queer and live as a Queer person, dealing with the misconceptions and … also the good things. We wanted to celebrate everyone’s differences and diversity.” 

Student participant, 

‘I Belong!’: Student Projects Highlight Reel (Year 1)

ArtistsInspire and LEARN joined forces with ‘I Belong!’, a project designed to empower students across Quebec to explore their identity and sense of belonging to Quebec society through the arts. As LEARN’s Emma Legault says, the aim of the project is: 

“…to give English speaking students an opportunity to reflect on what it means to belong to Quebec society… A lot of the research points to the arts as a great and powerful mechanism for entering into conversations around belonging and deepening our sense of belonging.”

In 2020-21, the first year of the project,

  • 46 English language schools, 100 classrooms and 1780 students participated
  • Over 900 digital stories produced by students;
  • Over 200 spoken word pieces produced by students;
  • 26 make art projects involving 553 students
  • 9 comic zines created by 184 students
  • 12 ELAN ArtEd artists facilitated workshops: Jessie Currell, Scott MacLeod, Laurence Dea Dionne, Deanna Smith, Jason Selman, Liana Cusmano, Emily Reed, CJ Fleury, Kate Battle, Mary Hayes, Daniel Hickie, Rachel McCrum

From the artists’ perspective, Spoken word artist Jason Selman said the I Belong project “held up a mirror to how we’re living and how we’re doing”. In the inspiring first year of the project, Emma Legault notes:

“[T]he kids took us back to basics. A lot of students pointed out the importance of simple gestures like kindness, saying hello, being accommodating, inclusive, celebrating people’s differences, allowing space for people’s differences and how those small gestures can make the biggest difference in terms of their sense of inclusion and belonging.”

As one Gr. 8 student put it, “You have to help people belong to make you belong.”

We are delighted that ’I Belong!’ will continue in the 2021-22 school year, and are excited  to see what the project brings. Stay tuned for details on the ‘I Belong!’ website for this year’s offerings and artists and how to sign up. 

Links:

‘I Belong!’: Student Projects Highlight Reel (Year 1)

‘I Belong!’:  Student & Teacher Insights Video (Year 1)

La Tuque (CQSB), Make Art. Collaborating artist Emily Read.
Laurentian Elementary School (SWLSB), Spoken Word. Collaborating artist CJ Fleury.
Butler Elementary School (ETSB), Make Art. Collaborating artist Jason Selman.