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October 25, 2001 Interns share their creativity with the community



Adriana de Oliveira and Marianne Chemla

Adriana de Oliveira and Marianne Chemla

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Sigalit Hoffman

The Concordia community art education program’s 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 women’s 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 wasn’t 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.

“I’m not always really balanced [myself],” said 29-year-old Audrey Lavallée, who will be doing her internship at the Chez Doris women’s shelter. “I want to give the women the tools to be more autonomous.”

Marianne Chemla has proved that art can make a surprising difference in young lives. She graduated from Concordia’s art education program last year, and now works at Lavoie High School with 20 teens considered at risk. She and master’s 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 project’s 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 school’s décor. “They made their mark in the school,” she said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction.”

Lavallée says these achievements are hard-won. Teaching people with special needs requires a lot of trust and relationship-building. “It’s 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 Doris’s 25th anniversary. First, she must get to know the women better, and find something that will interest them. “It’s not easy,” she said.

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.

“They’re so happy to be there,” she said. “It’s 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. “It’s an affirmation of who you are.”