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Art lets Richmond students understand world through 'different lens'

The pandemic has cancelled in-person Education Week activities for SD38.
Kim Brown, Ella Rollo-Mulholland, Ariana Patricio, Leo Li and Viaan Wu created artwork at Steveston-London secondary to showcase endangered species.

Art classes are often the most diverse classes with a broad spectrum of students, explained Jeremy Thompson, art teacher at Steveston-London secondary, including ELL students, international students and students on modified programs.

“What we love is art can be this language that is somewhat universal,” Thompson said.

This week is Education Week for the Richmond School District and each day had a different them – on Wednesday, it was learning through the arts.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Week was held at Aberdeen Mall, to feature different aspects of the Richmond School District. This included visual art, drama and music.

Unfortunately, that has been shelved this year.

While many students who take art in high school won’t pursue a career in the arts, it’s another way for them to see the world, Thompson said, for example, they might continue to paint or journal even while pursuing some other career path.

But it can help them understand the world and themselves through a “different lens,” Thompson added.

In Grade 8, art students are energetic and “buzzy,” Thompson said, but by Grade 9 and 10, they are becoming more experimental. In the senior grades, they focus on skill development but they also start to think about art conceptually.

Art is more than just knowing how to draw, often seen as the “pinnacle” of artistic ability, Thompson said.

“We’re not just developing drawing skills… but how (students) think about what is art, what does art mean to (them) and how does art affect cultures and societies,” Thompson said.

Peter Shin, who also teaches art at Steveston-London, said youth today are surrounded by visuals, especially because they are so connected to social media.

“Everything is visual, so art makes more sense when it comes to connection,” Shin said.

“It’s a language they’re familiar with and we can help them understand it and decode it,” Thompson added.

“We definitely want to make sure they appreciate art and having fun is just our goal,” Shin said.

This is a “no field trip year” but, in normal years, Thompson and Shin try to give students as much exposure to art, for example, through gallery visits.

And Thompson said they hope to back at Aberdeen Mall next year for education week to showcase their students’ art.