Gordon Smith Gallery

art4kids

A “one of a kind” Art Experience for Kids

By Janet Nicol

Vancouver artists, both young and old, have been creating great works beneath North Shore’s twin lion-shaped peaks.   Among them is Gordon Smith, internationally renowned for his art–and as an art educator.  So it’s no surprise a unique artist program for youth, “Artists for Kids,” which Smith helped establish, has been thriving in North Vancouver for more than two decades.

A year ago, the organization moved to the newly-built Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, housed in the North Vancouver School District building. In the lobby, students’ art work from the area’s public schools is displayed.  The exhibit changes each month—and since the building opened—has been in high demand.      

The lobby exhibit is only a small portion of this unique ‘teaching gallery’ for “kids,” supported by the Gordon and Marion Smith Foundation and conveniently located near retail shops at the top of Lonsdale Street. A visit, whether to register your child for art classes, or to take the family for a gallery walk, is a great weekend outing.  

The concrete and glass building is fronted by a small park, with a meandering path to the entrance foyer.  That’s where I met up with the Smith Foundation director, Astrid Heyerdahl and Artists for Kids director, Yolanda Martinello, to have a tour of the building and learn more about the programs offered.

“We have many public events,” Astrid says as we move through castle-size cedar doors, beautifully carved with storied images by Xwalacktun (Rick Harry), a Coast Salish artist.  Astrid says the Foundation is just getting started with its plans for outreach events for youth and families all over the Lower Mainland.   There is plenty of parking space nearby and transit access is only a sea bus and chain of bus stops away. “Our location really opens this up,” Astrid says.  

Below the gallery’s high ceilings is a maze of low partitioned walls.  The current exhibit, pulled from more than 500 art pieces from the program’s collection, has many recognizable works by Canadian artists, including Artists for Kids’ other co-founders, Jack Shadbolt and Bill Reid.

“We offer a one day program to grade five classes across the Lower Mainland,” Yolanda says.  “In the morning students view and critique the gallery exhibit and in the afternoon, they work on their own art.”

At the back of the gallery is a space for students to watch videos and examine artist tools, such as print makers’ carving tools and wooden blocks.

“We hire Canadian artists and critque Canadian art,” Yolanda emphasizes, although she says educators will discuss art influences from other parts of the world.    “Canadian art is very rich, she says, “British Columbia especially.”

Yolanda says the grade five program captures a keen age group, willing to take risks.  It’s a popular “school field trip,” and interested participants can then consider enrolling in Art for Kid’s after school program and the summer camp.  

The after school program targets youth from kindergarten to Grade 12 offering courses in everything from jewelry making to acrylics painting. Classes are once a week, for eight weeks, at an affordable cost.   Students’ works are exhibited in the gallery space when the course ends.

At the summer camp, youth of all ages have an exciting opportunity to create under the direction of a Canadian artist.  Last summer’s guest teacher was Vancouver-based artist, Attila Richard Lukas.

 “It’s an enriched art experience,” Yolanda says.  “Students work with highly qualified artists who collaborate with art educators.”

The visiting artist also donates an original work of art from which limited edition prints are made.    Every year Artists for Kids sells the prints to the public and the original piece is added to the program’s valuable collection.  

 “We have alumni from our program come back to teach at the summer camps,” Yolanda says. “Some of these students go on to be artists and art teachers.”  The artistic process allows for youth to work in a non-judgemental atmosphere, Yolanda believes.  “They become self-aware, confident and can voice their opinions,” she says.   She has also observed students who are at-risk in school environments may “fit well in an art room.”

“We nurture their creativity and this stretches in to other aspects of their lives.   It’s life changing.”

For more information go to:  http://www.gordonsmithgallery.ca/

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