Friday 20 November 2015

When Art Meets Life: Connections with the Community

When the world famous Cirque du Soleil arrived in Penticton last spring, they offered the Pen-High senior art program an opportunity to help promote their show Varekai.  Senior art teacher Shauna Reid leapt at the opportunity to provide her students with the authentic challenge of taking on a marketing campaign for a very large production. The students decided to redesign their watercolour unit around the Cirque du Soleil show, and students based their paintings on the characters and costumes involved.

Not only did the students design promotional pictures but they also hosted a media event at Pen-High where both local newspapers, a radio station and Shaw Cable took photos and interviewed the students. The paintings then went to the local mall where they were on display for the week before the show. Reid said the project allowed the kids to learn about several angles of the art business including how to market a show, how to correctly frame professional work and all of the organization it takes to create a display for the general public. It was an exciting but daunting challenge. With any authentic tasks comes the anxiety of attempting something with no guarantees of success. 

When the show actually arrived in Penticton, the art was moved to the local venue (the South Okanagan Events Centre) for the duration of the performances.  The watercolours proved to be a perfect complement for the bright energy and whimsy of the show's themes. In return for all their incredible work, the students received free tickets to the opening night performance. Two students even sold their paintings to the Events Centre and it was a memorable experience for all involved. Some students had never even been in the Centre before. The icing on the cake was when the Cirque company donated all the frames for the artwork which the Pen-hi art program now has available for future shows. 

While the end result was a positive and memorable experience, it required a willingness on the teacher's part to take a risk and make some significant adjustments to previously planned lessons and schedules. Reid did not know that the Cirque offer would happen during the semester, but she found a way to make sure her students did not miss this invaluable opportunity to create art for an authentic purpose and a real audience.

Click on the slideshow below for more examples of student artwork.

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