These days, Oakville Galleries spends as much time delivering programs off-site as we do at our gallery spaces. While our bricks-and-mortar home will always be at the heart of our mandate, we’re also dedicated to ensuring that Oakville’s the kind of place where art gets to exist well beyond the museum walls.
Most of these programs are directly inspired by the incredible local organizations—from libraries and hospitals to seniors’ residences and community foundations—that we partner with in the shared goal of bringing art to all corners of our community. This spring, we’ll launch three new programs with ArtHouse, our longest-term offsite programming partner. Since 2009, this partnership has seen us deliver free art workshops to over 1,200 kids, largely in lower-income communities. Instead of offering the old standards of art education, these programs are designed around the needs and interests of the kids we serve. That means we’re often learning alongside our participants, reshaping our programs on the fly to ensure kids are given as much space as possible to discover, experiment and play. This spring marks nearly seventy-five programs with ArtHouse—amongst dozens of other community initiatives. We look forward to the next seventy-five!
Earlier today, Oakville Galleries was honoured to accept a plaque from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in recognition of their funding for Art-ish, a new visual arts program for youth living with mental illness, delivered in partnership with Halton Healthcare. Led by an art teacher and professional art therapist, weekly workshops facilitate learning about and producing artworks that support healthy self-expression, promote social and adaptive problem-solving skills, establish positive self-identities, and foster patient self-confidence and empowerment.
The name Art-ish was inspired by the children’s book, Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds. The story addresses that inevitable developmental stage when kids become self-conscious about their artwork, and start to feel pressure to make something that looks perfect. As many kids get older, they receive the message that they shouldn’t spend time on the things they don’t excel at, and that creativity is reserved for those with “talent.” As a result, many young people lose the enjoyment that comes with the creative process and making something just for the fun of making it.
Art-ish was designed to be the antidote to that, and to provide youth with opportunities to be creative, to express their inner selves, to reflect the world around them without fear of reprimand or being told they’re making a mistake or getting it wrong. Our hope is that this can extend beyond the hospital, into these teens’ everyday lives, where art becomes a way of engaging with themselves and the world around them, and enables in them a sense of belonging and worth.
Late last fall, Oakville Galleries initiated Seniors Studio Connection, a series of hands-on art workshops for seniors of varying abilities, including those living with physical or cognitive impairments. As a way of making the program accessible, several workshops include free bussing from local seniors residences to the Galleries and back.
It seems fitting that participants travel together for the program, since the art we discuss and make frequently evokes stories about the places we’ve been and where we’d like to go. Participants at one recent workshop made collages loosely exploring that topic: one woman created a red carpet scene set in Paris with an invigorating wash of blue sky in the background, while another assembled her dream garden with a bench to soak it all in, hemming her scene in a pink painted border. Anecdotes, aspirations and artistic advice abounded—including on the bus ride home—reminding us that some journeys are best taken with others.
The next workshop is January 26 in Gairloch Gardens. For more information, visit our website.
We recently spent the day tie-dyeing in our summer camps. A summer classic, tie-dye never disappoints—kids are inevitably thrilled with the results and the process is a lot of fun.
Kids’ amusement is as good a reason as any for an art project, but the reason we return to tie-dying again and again has more to do with what the process models, encouraging children to experiment with materials, to make choices—often blindly—and be comfortable not knowing what their finished product might look like. For us, success isn’t necessarily measured by a project’s final form, but through the discovery and delight generated throughout its production.
As Sir Ken Robinson has famously said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” It’s an idea we think about often in the Galleries’ education department and one that can be a powerful revelation—having things turn out differently than expected isn’t always so terrible. Such outcomes provide a foundation on which to build confidence and creativity, to develop problem-solving skills, gain access to important forms of self-expression, and to discover new ideas. In fact, some of our greatest artistic achievements—in summer camps and otherwise!—have come from accidents, mistakes or oversights. Little bloopers like these, simple as they may seem, can really add up to create rewarding relationships with our own imaginations.
Bet you’ll never look at tie-dye the same way again!
“My kid could do that.” It’s a comment we hear from time to time at the Galleries, especially when we’re showing artwork that might, at first glance, seem deceptively simple to produce. More often than not, these remarks lead us to the best kinds of conversations with our visitors, about how and why contemporary artists do what they do, about what we want from art and about why we value some kinds of aesthetics over others.
But what’s so bad about kid’s art anyway? Anyone who’s stepped foot in a primary school classroom knows there’s some pretty genius stuff going on in there. A couple of years ago, an unnamed first grader from New York City got more than a bit of attention in literary circles for a poem they wrote during National Poetry Month:
We did the soft wind.
We danst slowly. We swrld
Aroned. We danst soft.
We lisin to the mozik.
We danst to the mozik.
We made personal space.
It was Sojourner Truth Parsons, one of the artists currently on view at the Galleries, that sent this poem our way, proof positive that kids have moments of brilliance that rival their adult peers.
Parsons’ own works are often lauded for their wonderfully ingenuous point of view. With their poppy colours, sparkling glitter and deliciously loose brushwork, these pieces are a delight for the eyes, and make for especially great viewing for our youngest audience members. That was confirmed this morning when we opened our doors before regular hours so that families and babies could enjoy an exhibition tour, story and song time, and a craft inspired by Parsons’ work. Hosted in partnership with the Oakville Public Library, the program saw moms, grandmas, aunties, and babies come with open eyes and open minds to turn out some lovely little artworks.
With most of Oakville Galleries’ education programs running at our location in Gairloch Gardens, it’s easy to identify what we do with this place. A conversation I have almost daily is how stunning it is here. And it is! The gardens, lake and horizon are all pretty spectacular. But what makes Gairloch so special, I think, isn’t just the view beyond our windows, but all the formative encounters with art that take place within our walls.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a group of local moms and toddlers for an exhibition tour and artmaking workshop. For a few of the little ones, it wasn’t just their first time visiting a gallery, it was their first time getting to paint! A two-year old boy learned how to hold a paintbrush for the first time; a little girl discovered finger painting, using every colour she could get her hands on; another was blown away to see how red and white mix together to make pink. These are the moments—moments that have happened thousands upon thousands of times here—that make Gairloch such a wonderful place to come to work every day. What may seem at first glance like child’s play is really a milestone for parents and children: in their cognitive and creative development, and in their relationship with each other.
Want to experience a little of the magic firsthand? Come by our free Family Day workshop this coming Monday and see where it can lead! Or bring the whole family to visit one of our exhibitions and follow it with some at-home craft time. You’ll be delighted to see what creativity it prompts.