Students and staff of Mission’s Cherry Hill Elementary school went on an artistic journey that came to a triumphant conclusion last week.
The 254 students at the school each created an art canvas based on the book The Elders are Watching – a poem and paintings that convey a message of concern from Aboriginal leaders of the past.
The result is 254 paintings on display at the local school.
Susan Osoup, Aboriginal Liaison and project leader, along with Anna Abbott, an inclusive support teacher at Cherry Hill spearheaded the project.
Abbott said the idea began last year when they applied for funding to create the project.
The actual painting began in January of this year.
“We have been reading the book, sketching and painting every day,” explained Abbott.
“We read the story to the students and had them visualize it. We asked them what spoke to them.”
Students picked out elements that they felt a connection with whether it was a colour or image.
A minimum of six sessions per class and up to 15 to 20 sessions took place.
While the painting continued, teachers had the option to dive into the literature of the book as well.
“Our goal was to blanket the school in art therapy – give them a chance to be still, paint and to connect with nature and themselves,”Abbott said.
Older students were allowed more freedom to add more details to their painting while teachers made it a little simpler for the younger classes.
“Every single student was enjoying the process,” Abbott said.
School principal Shane Sliziak said the beauty of the project is the collaboration between Aboriginal education and inclusive-support programming. He called it a true interwoven collaboration between the two.
And the students were all on board.
“Under the umbrella of inclusivity, all of our students were held up to the same esteem. Everybody created a piece of work that they could take home with them and be proud of for the rest of their life,” Sliziak said.
Some of the artworks were even on display at the Mission Art Gallery as part of a student show.
Sliziak said some of the students were obviously excited and proud to be in a gallery.
“Just seeing the power of inclusivity with the message – through the Aboriginal education program – of The Elders are Watching which, well, it’s a really beautiful message in and of itself.”
He said he is ecstatic that the project has been successfully complete.
Last week, the school held a brief ceremony to showcase the art pieces to parents, guests and members of the school board.
“Art brings people together. There is no gender, there is no race, there is no sexual orientation, or age differences. People look at art and it has an impact on them no matter who they are.
“This bodes well for the future. The next generation will be far more accepting and have far more understanding,” said Randy Cairns, vice-chair of the Mission School Board.