Drawing of coffee cup

The Remaking of the Art Program

Much like the music and physical education programs, RSGC’s visual and creative arts program has been completely reworked amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Luckily, Senior School Drama teacher Dr. Chris Newton, Senior School Art teacher Leanne Mladen and Junior School Art teacher Jennifer Stroud already have creative minds and they’ve managed to find ways to have their students producing beautiful works – despite not having their art rooms or the beloved Black Box Theatre. 
Dr. Newton and his students have certainly felt the loss of live performance, and having to wear masks makes it difficult when you’re trying to express yourself. Challenges aside, he and the boys have come up with other ways to thrive in performance arts. One of the things they’ve been spending time on is voice. 
“We’ve been working on voice-overs and the boys have been expanding their repertoire and range. We’ve been using Pixar animation and they’ve been adding their own voice over to it. They’ve been writing their own dialogues and scenes, and creating their own sound effects,” said Dr.  Newton. “We have an alumni parent, Andrew Sabiston, who does a lot of voice over work, and he’s ‘coming in’ to speak to us. It’s a great opportunity for the guys to use their technical skills as well.”
Dr. Newton has also taken advantage of the fact that students have to wear masks by making their own “grotesque” masks from The Twilight Zone’s Eye of the Beholder. Overall, Dr. Newton has been really impressed with his students’ patience and creativity. 
“I come up with an idea that they take to another level. I push them downhill and they gain speed and reach the finish line,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
In visual arts, Leanne Mladen continues to love her work as an art teacher, despite not having a home base – she goes to the boys in their classrooms, hauling as many supplies as she can. 
“We don’t always have everything at our finger tips, but it just teaches students to be flexible and increases creative problem-solving,” said Ms. Mladen. “The guys all understand that we’re in a different setting and that we all have to work a little harder to be inspired. We also can’t get paint on the floor anymore!” 
While Ms. Mladen is in person with a cohort one day, the other cohort is working from home. She’ll have the students work on watercolour paintings that are small enough to bring back and forth, or colour matching and creativity projects that are easy to work on at home and at school. Even when art was fully online, Ms. Mladen was ready with some found object and home made clay sculpting assignments.
“Online, we were able to have some great critiques and students could receive feedback. The hardest part is and has been not always being with the boys as they are doing their work,” said Ms. Mladen. “I always feel blessed to be an art teacher, but now even more because this is one of the only subjects that will get the boys off their computers and making things with their hands – a much welcomed and needed change in the online routine.”
Unable to showcase work in See House as she usually does, Ms. Mladen has also exhibited student work differently this year, through videos that showcase student creations. 
In the Junior School, Jennifer Stroud only sees the Grade 5/6 cohort in person and the rest of the time, works out of a little conference room on the second floor. She has designed several virtual art programs that are age appropriate and expose the boys to a wide array of artists, styles and techniques.
“Visual arts class is all about creativity, problem-solving and making with whatever time, space and materials you have,” said Ms. Stroud. “Although we can’t use the same variety of media, the boys have developed a great depth of skills when observing, seeing and drawing.”
She is really impressed with the quality of art the boys are producing.
“Their individual styles have really shone through this year, and I am seeing varied and unique work from these young artists,” said Ms. Stroud. “The boys’ observational skills have been developed through their artistic practice and they’ve shown a lot of confidence and growth.”
Ms. Stroud suggests that art has had a positive impact on the lives of her boys. 
“This year, visual art has been more important than ever perhaps, with so much required screen time. It can be the kind of meditative, reflective time needed in the day,” said Ms. Stroud. “Art class has been a time and space for the boys to express thoughts, emotions and feelings.”