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June 04, 2018

Exploring Arts Integration in the Okanagan

Last month, we held the first Arts Integration Learning Lab designed specifically for artists in the Okanagan region! We welcomed nine artists to Ellis Art Studios in Kelowna on Syilx territory for five jam-packed days of learning, exploring, experimenting, sharing and collaborating. It was our new Program Manager Leah Horlick’s first time facilitating the Learning Lab, so we asked her to reflect on her experience and share with us!


Hi Leah! This was your first time facilitating the Learning Lab! Did you have any worries or excitement before the program?
I was super lucky to be joined by our Director of Programs, Emily Beam, and our teaching artist Ewa Sniatycka, who have facilitated many previous Labs — it was so wonderful to have their support in planning and delivering the program! My biggest worry was making sure we met the needs of artists in the Okanagan since I’m a settler and not super familiar with the region. I’m glad we got positive feedback, and that we learned more about how ArtStarts can support artists and educators on Syilx and Secwepemc territory in particular!


Emily Beam, Director of Programs at ArtStarts facilitating one of the Arts Integration Learning Lab workshops

Can you tell us about the cohort of artists you worked with during the Lab?

We were so fortunate to work with nine incredible artists from the Okanagan region, and we were technically twelve artists strong! Two representatives joined us from Ballet Kelowna to introduce us to both the directing and dancing side of the organization. We also welcomed Ewa’s friend and guest artist Cathy Stubington on Thursday to share her experiences about school culture with the group. It was a full house but still a cozy, informal atmosphere! We got lots of positive feedback that connections between smaller communities can be hard to make, and I hope that the community we created through the Lab will continue to send ripples into the region! Thanks to our hosts at the Ellis Art Studios, we were also immersed in local art and had a chance to meet some residents during the week as well.

Were there any big takeaways for the group? What surprised you the most?

The Learning Lab is designed to act as an incubator for new projects that could be eligible for our Artists in the Classroom grants. I was stunned by how artists really dug into the time we allotted them and came up with fresh, inspired ideas that immediately applied the learning we’d done to get familiar with the revised BC curriculum. I was also moved by participants sharing stories about moments when they saw arts integration in action — and conversely, moments when an arts-integrated approach would have made all the difference for a developing artist.

My predecessor Elfred emphasized to me that much of what makes the Learning Lab powerful is naming the work that artists are already doing — demonstrating that they are already empowered to make their work accessible to students with tools they have already built into their artistic process! It was so powerful to see the work of naming in action and to support artists as they identified concepts from education already embedded in their own practices.

The Facilitators from L-R: Leah Horlick, Emily Beam, and Ewa Sniatycka

How did the Arts Integration Learning Lab affect your own artistic practice?

The Learning Lab was not only an incredibly nourishing experience for me as a facilitator — it was an important chance for me to integrate my own learning as an emerging teaching artist. I’m currently fortunate to be the 2018 Writer-in-Residence with the Surrey English Teachers’ Association, and it was so wonderful to be able to share what I’ve learned in classrooms over the past month and develop new strategies alongside the participants and our veteran guest artists! I even brought in my original lesson plans to show participants the evolution of my process and how I’ve slowly learned to integrate concepts from the revised curriculum myself. I was particularly happy to hear artists express that they had more in common across disciplines than they had perhaps originally thought; I’ve participated in many retreats for writers, but this was my first time in a multidisciplinary retreat and was thrilled to notice the same thing myself!

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