Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj
by Scott McRae
Arthur Lismer was not only a member of the Group of Seven, who gave
Canadian landscape painting a national identity, but he was also a staunch
proponent of art education. Although he was one of the most influential
art educators in Canada, his contribution has only recently been explored.
Last Tuesday, Grigor, who looks very much like a kindly schoolteacher
herself, returned to Concordia to share her research in the same room
where she once taught children Saturday art lessons
He loved interacting with little kids and getting down on the floor
to play with them, said Grigor. He really understood children
of all ages, and wanted to give them the opportunity to express themselves
Such a humanistic outlook was a long time in coming. When Lismer went
to art school in 19th-century England, goals were vocational, and the
system promoted copying to produce skilled craftsmen.
When Lismer emigrated to Canada and began teaching at Halifaxs
Victoria School of Art and Design, he brought this point of view with
him, but he was also unhappy with the system in which he was trained and,
after reading the work of several prominent progressive American thinkers,
he radically changed direction.
He became a leading and controversial figure in the modernization of
art education, lecturing widely to spread his ideas of creative liberty
and hands-on learning. They were really not out of the 19th century
at that point. He was trying to pull them into the 20th century.
Now, however, art education is no longer fighting to define itself
its fighting to survive. Art education is very undervalued,
Grigor said. Its a field thats rapidly disappearing.
She told a small audience of mostly art education professors and grad
students that its up to you guys to bring it back, and
suggested that they write about their experiences.