As it prepares to move into a much larger new facility, Arts Umbrella is expanding its training much farther afield with a new online program.
One caveat in accessing Arts Umbrella’s programs in dance, theatre and visual arts is that you need to be located in Vancouver. But now, through a joint partnership with TakingITGlobal and the Connected North program, students in some of Canada’s most remote communities can access the award-winning training offered by the arts education organization.
The Northern Arts Connection pilot program launches in Winter 2019 and will engage up to 1,000 young people ages five to 18 at over 41 schools.
Ultimate goals when the full program launches in 2020 are to reach over 2,500 students. This new initiative arrives at the same time that Arts Umbrella is moving from its present Granville Island location into the buildings that formerly housed the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Arts Umbrella president and CEO Paul Larocque says the new outreach engagement is a logical extension of what the organization has done since its establishment in 1979.
“This new building and opportunity to establish this epic centre for arts education for young people is something that isn’t happening on this scale anywhere else in North America and we are so excited about it,” said Larocque. “Our model is truly unique, with such a deep program running from age two to 22 committed to accessibility with over 80 per cent of our over 22,000 individual students getting served through donor-funded community programs. This new program gives us the opportunity to really reach out across the country and pursue our mission to be Canada’s leader in arts education for young people.”
The Northern Arts Connection presently reaches into Nunavut, the Yukon, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and the Northwest Territories. In many locations, students at these schools would have no opportunity to access the unique curriculum offered at Arts Umbrella. Now through digital uplinks and real-time training, cultural exchanges between both students and Arts Umbrella as well as inter-school collaborations become possible free of geographic location.
“Students in Canada’s remote communities deserve high quality educational experiences that help them develop their creative skills,” said Jennifer Corriero, TakingITGlobal’s Executive Director. “Having Arts Umbrella provide programming as a key partner will provide the students we serve with access to unique and diverse Arts programming to help them explore and grow creatively.”
One of the instructors involved in the program is theatre artist Laura McLean. She says that the distance learning model has its challenges, but it’s been great so far working with modern technology. Her workshops into Laban Movement Analysis, based on the work of Rudolf Laban, provides key tools in developing a method for breaking down and analyzing different styles of human movement.
“I’ve been delivering this workshop for a long time in person to students, but when creating it for this pilot program, we took into account some kind of plan to for delivering over what is, essentially, Skype,” said McLean. “There are definitely things to adjust, classroom management-wise, in terms of how to adjust to them seeing me on screen and so forth. It’s also been scaled in such a way that it can be delivered to Grades 1 to 3 — which might be grouped together — right on up older ages who get something more.”
Larocque and McLean both say that the feedback on the classes has been extremely good and it is shaping the way the instructors deliver the training to have greater impact on the students. Thanks to technology, Arts Umbrella can reach those who might never have had the opportunity to get inspired by art.
When it finally gets rolled out in full, the Northern Arts Connection has the potential to nurture a whole new generation of Canadian artists that might have otherwise missed out on the opportunity.