by Sigalit Hoffman
The Concordia community art education programs 43 second- and third-year
students have just begun their internships at community groups around
Montreal. Each student will teach at one of 10 centres, including Tyndale
Saint George, the Caldwell Residence and Chez Doris womens shelter.
The program challenges students to tailor their teaching to many types
of people, like teens at risk, seniors, children of low-income families,
and the physically and intellectually challenged.
Art education is not therapy, said Linda Szabad-Smyth, coordinator
of the community arts program. The students are teaching art
having the participants discuss art forms and artists in addition to making
art but the results are also sometimes therapeutic.
Many of the students have already experienced the benefits of art first-hand,
and want to share the joy of art with others. I wasnt good
at math or chemistry, said 22-year-old Jessica Bruzzese, so
art was an outlet. As an only child, she recalls filling her time
with art projects, turning brooms and roller skates into companions.
Im not always really balanced [myself], said 29-year-old
Audrey Lavallée, who will be doing her internship at the Chez Doris
womens shelter. I want to give the women the tools to be more
Marianne Chemla has proved that art can make a surprising difference in
young lives. She graduated from Concordias art education program
last year, and now works at Lavoie High School with 20 teens considered
at risk. She and masters student Adriana de Oliveira started the
pilot project last year, and this year, it became a paying job.
The objectives of the art program were to create a sense of belonging
to the high school, to raise self-confidence, and to cultivate a desire
to learn, Chemla said. Despite the projects lofty goals, the
results speak for themselves.
When it started, the after-school program was limited to 10 students.
This year, that number doubled. The students ended the year with an exhibit
of their work, which has since been integrated into the schools
décor. They made their mark in the school, she said.
Theres a lot of satisfaction.
Lavallée says these achievements are hard-won. Teaching people
with special needs requires a lot of trust and relationship-building.
Its not like an adult who pays. We have to invite them
they can refuse to do it.
Lavallée is working hard to find a group project to celebrate Chez
Doriss 25th anniversary. First, she must get to know the women better,
and find something that will interest them. Its not easy,
Bruzzese, a second-year art education studentc will be teaching at Loisirs
Soleil, a centre for intellectually challenged youth between nine and
17 years old. Though she was nervous at first, she was impressed with
her students enthusiasm.
Theyre so happy to be there, she said. Its
really heart-warming. You can feel the need for such an outlet.
Though the art education students interests vary, their love for
art unites them. While their personal rewards vary, they agree that making
art can improve self-esteem and communication. Art, for me, is about
making your mark, Chemla said. Its an affirmation of
who you are.