Exhibits of Original Art More Accessible to Rural Students

If you can’t get the art student to the gallery, why not take the art gallery to the student?

That’s the idea behind a new educational outreach program being launched by the Department of Education, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Canada Council Art Bank.

Original prints from the likes of the late landscape painter Toni Onley, abstract painter Vera Frenkel and 15 other artists will be on exhibit to public school students and community members in museums and school houses around Nova Scotia.

The first exhibit opens today, Feb. 8, at the Queens County Museum in Liverpool. Exhibits are also planned this school year for Amherst Regional High School and Cape Breton University in Sydney in the weeks ahead.

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“This is a great way to make art more accessible to students who cannot always get to the city because of the cost and the distance,” said Education Minister Jamie Muir. “We want all students in all areas of the province to be able to view original art.”

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It is important that students and their teachers be able to view and reflect on original art so they can better understand and appreciate what they are being taught in their art classes, he said.

“Although we can look at artwork in a textbook, there’s nothing like actually being in touch with the artwork itself,” said provincial arts education consultant Eric Favaro.

Over the next year, the province, with the help of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, expects to have art, donated by the Art Bank, displayed at sites across rural Nova Scotia. The gallery will also make available an interpreter for show openings and educational kits with information and printmaking materials for each visiting class.

“Artreach exhibitions provide accessible first-hand art experiences for audiences across the province,” said Art Gallery of Nova Scotia director Jeffrey Spalding. “It is a wonderful opportunity to share this art with the young people of Nova Scotia.”

School classes visiting the exhibits will also have the opportunity to make their own art, adding an extra dimension to their field trip. The travelling displays will also help elementary classroom teachers, who are not normally art specialists, better understand art making.

Susan Leger, a Grade 4 teacher at Dr. John Wickwire Academy in Liverpool, said her class of 23 students will benefit greatly from seeing original art up close and participating in the printmaking workshop.

“They will learn so much more by being involved and being able to create something to go along with what they are learning,” she said.

This is the first time the Canada Council Art Bank has partnered with a province to bring art closer to the people.

“This initiative, to donate works on paper from the Art Bank collection, to Canadian collecting institutions for use in their communities, is an excellent way to reach a wider public,” said Victoria Henry, director of the Canada Council Art Bank.

Artreach co-curator Willie Reid said the program creates a vital link between the art gallery and public schools. The cost of travelling from places like Yarmouth and Sydney to the art gallery in Halifax can be prohibitive for some schools.

“We really need to reach out,” she said. “We want to make it easier for schools to send students to see original art.”