Bob Kingsmill at George Elliot Secondary. - Credit: Contributed

Project connects youth with elders

The Elder Artists in Classrooms Project is on display at the Kelowna Art Gallery

An Okanagan arts project is connecting elders with students.

“Most students can quickly name a local athlete or an accomplished actor or musician from here, but chances are that few, including the art students, can tell you about any of the incredible artists that have called the Okanagan Valley home,” begins artist and Mount Boucherie Secondary School art instructor Jim Elwood. “I wanted to change that.”

This realization was the starting point for Elwood to launch a new initiative in early 2017 – the Elder Artists in Classrooms Project.

The project’s aim is to honour the rich history of visual arts in the Okanagan Valley and to show the importance of connecting that history to young artists, according to the Kelowna Art Gallery.

The project partnered seven teachers in the Central Okanagan Public Schools with the work of seven elder artists from the Okanagan Valley.

Nearly 200 art students from grades 4 to 12 learned about their elder artist as a person, as an artist, and as a member of the Okanagan community. Lessons focused on how each of these elder artists explored subject matter, colour, style, and composition to communicate their understanding of their surroundings and their community, said the gallery.

Students then created works of art inspired by the purpose and presentation of the elder artist they studied. Sixty-five of the resulting works were selected to be included in the exhibition at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

“We are so pleased to be able to share the work that youth created as a result of this experience,” said executive director Nataley Nagy. “It is clear that the students were able to learn more about and make strong connections with their Elder Artists, and hopefully a more meaningful connection with their community as well.”

Elder Artists in Classrooms Project is on view at the gallery until Nov. 26.