The Lake Country Youth Art Project & Exhibition

by Katie Brennan

Since she began her practicum at the Lake Country Art Gallery this past September, 4th year UBC-Okanagan BFA student Heather Leier became more and more aware of how close the Lake Country Art Gallery is to George Elliott Secondary.

“People kept mentioning to me that we’re right across the street from the high school and ‘What do we do to get kids in the door?’”.

This inspired Heather, a natural self starter, to create the Lake Country Youth Art Project, for which she wrote a successful grant application to the United Way which secured some funding for this initiative.The project began with Heather contacting George Elliott art teacher Angela Hansen to talk about what kind relationship the gallery and school could create to best serve the students.

“We decided on doing something for the older students, grades 11 and 12”, says Leier. “There are lots of opportunities for students to become more involved in sports or band or theatre. In art, there isn’t much beyond what happens in the classroom and sometimes going to a gallery to have a look around can be intimidating”.

The Lake Country Youth Art Project takes the form of a casual drop-in sessions at the gallery that Heather facilitates.

“We’ve done a book deconstruction project, with the books being our found objects. We played with drawing in books, cutting them up, making them into sculptures. We’re also thinking about how these as pieces can become part of an art installation”.

Through brainstorming sessions with the students about what kind of projects they would like to pursue – the drop-in sessions are all learner-focused – Heather has discovered just how diverse the students’ interests are.

“One night, they just wanted to do still life drawing. I was really surprised, but they really wanted to do it. They wanted some practice at it. They would also like to do some life drawing hopefully”.

For some of these students, this is likely the most interaction they’ve had with art in a long time – some haven’t been in a gallery since they visited on an elementary field trip. The Lake Country Youth Art Project has the students working in the gallery, in amongst the exhibitions, which has led them to consider the work hanging on the walls in a different light. During the recent “Lose Yourself to the Answers Within” exhibition at the Lake Country Art Gallery, a show of monoprints by local Lake Country artists Cee Bond, Julie Elliott and Petrina McNeill, the students “were mostly curious about how the pieces were made”, say Leier, “hence why I did some printmaking with them, pulling out some printing plates and inking them up”.

The Lake Country Art Gallery continues its involvement in visual arts education and community outreach with Lake Country students in the upcoming ‘Art on the Edge – 2012. An Exhibition by the Students of Lake Country’ which will open at the gallery on Saturday April 21st. Beyond the work of the students in the Lake Country Youth Art Project, work will also be shown by students from Davidson Road Elementary, Peter Greer Elementary and Oyama Traditional, as well as work by high school students from George Elliott Secondary.

So where does Heather Leier hope the Lake Country Youth Art Project, a collaboration between George Elliott Secondary and the Lake County Art Gallery will be in five years?

“I think the students will continue coming to the gallery. I’ll keep doing it as long as it is possible. And then maybe down the road, they can become the leaders, when I have to step out and it can continue to grow on its own”.

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