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Students get to act up in the classroom

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There was a student movement of a different kind at General Vanier School recently.


Chris Sigurdson — a Winnipeg actor, director, and mask-maker — spent Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 instructing students at the Windsor Park-based school.


His week-long artist residency was set up through the Artists in the Schools program, which is run by Manitoba Arts Council. Through subsidies and a portion of money paid by the school, the program brings professional artists into the schools to teach students a specific type of art.


There are more than 50 artists, who offer a variety of art disciplines to choose from. The school signs up for the program and selects which artist they would like to instruct their students. Last year, more than 40,000 students across Manitoba participated in the program.


Sigurdson’s program encourages students to explore their imaginations through learning mime, mask-making, and telling stories with movement.


He says that while students may be initially hesitant to join in, he tries to make sure they feel comfortable expressing themselves on their own terms.


"I make it clear that any participation is great. It takes a lot of confidence to stand up and perform, but they all find opportunities to get involved," Sigurdson said.  


General Vanier principal LeeAnn Mytz started at the school this year, but said that almost all of the schools she’s worked at previously have participated in the program.


"There’s just so much variety, and the program changes all the time. It’s nice to get professional artists and performers in to do this with the kids," said Mytz. "I’ve never seen the same thing twice."


To be added to the directory, artists who apply have to be established professionals, and also present an instructional plan to MAC.


Sigurdson is a seasoned performer, whose local theatre acting credits include Wizard of Oz and Beauty and the Beast at Rainbow Stage. His local theatre directing credits include Einstein’s Gift at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre and The Goat at Manitoba Theatre Centre.


The main intent of the program is to offer as many options as possible for schools to choose from.


"Our directory has to have a full range of programming, and we want to fill in what the schools are asking for," said Leanne Foley, MAC’s communications manager.


"So, if we have two dance teachers and they offer similar programs, then we’d be looking for something that will expand our program," Foley said.


Mytz said the program enhances the existing art programs at the school, which are currently integrated with the regular courses.


Although it’s not confirmed if the school will participate in the program next year, Mytz is optimistic: "It’s usually really well received by the kids. It’s always fun and new and interesting."


For more information, visit artscouncil.mb.ca.

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