In partnership with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV), these grade three and four students, from Selkirk Montessori School in Victoria, are creating an “art installation”.
It’s a way to help these young minds understand a tragic piece of Canada’s history – Residential Schools.
“At first we thought” explains Tasha Henry, the Special Education teacher at Selkirk Montessori, “this is a leap…
“Art installation is conceptual art, these are eight and nine year olds.”
The learning began weeks before, in the classroom.
“The students would create a plate” says Henry, “as opposed to a canvas, with toxic markers – as a symbol – a gesture toward the children who didn’t get to eat off regular plates.”
“Their first question was…’do we get to take these home?’ And we said no, these are not for you, they’re a gesture to children that…are unaccounted for. It’s a call to action.”
Henry adds that the call to action is for “the missing and unaccounted children due to residential school – so that was a leap for them, but they got it.”
Jennifer Van de Pol is the Educator of School and Family Programs for the AGGV.
“They were very careful to learn to not culturally appropriate” explains Van de Pol, “but to learn what proper designs to put on the plates in respect to the First Nation cultures who’s designs those are. They’re Haida designs.”
Some of the children explained why they placed their plates where they did.
“Me and my friend decided to put our plates underneath the table, because it represents that some people didn’t get to eat at the table.”
“We wanted to put ours in the corner because maybe some people would think the table was a bit too loud.”
At the Gallery, the children heard from Songhees First Nation Master Carver Butch Dick, who was moved by the children’s artwork.
“There’s so much work, and effort, and feeling, that the students have put into this project.
“It’s difficult” adds Dick, “because these are very young children, and they’ve got a whole world ahead of them, and you want that world to be filled with positives, not reflecting on the dark past of residential schools.”
And he adds, thoughtfully, “I think it’s all about hope.”
Van de Pol agrees with Dick’s poignant statement. “Healing together is part of the intention of why we did this work today.”