The changing environment is the central theme for a children’s art exhibit produced by the Winnipeg Art Gallery and hosted at the Pavilion at Assiniboine Park, opening this weekend.
Through the Eyes of a Child will feature the works of approximately 215 elementary school students, including 120 children from the Winnipeg School Division. It showcases drawings, paintings, mixed-media collages and pottery produced under the guidance of WAG Studio’s artist instructors.
"Children are very aware of the environment and how crucial kids are to the ecosystem," said Chrystal Gray, the instructor who led seven different classes of students in putting together a large art installation called Ecosystem. "All the children who worked on this were in our Fall 2019 classes."
Ecosystem includes artwork representing the ground, showing plants with their roots in sediment. The background shows a forest and the sky. Mixed in with this are animals and human figures, as well as birds and bumblebees, plus several mobiles.
"We stuck to the theme of Manitoba for this, so there are northern lights in the sky, which the kids think are so pretty," said Gray, adding it was a fun challenge to have each of the classes contribute to the overall artwork, which is largely made up of recycled material as well as chalk, paint, clay and bits of wool.
Another piece featured in the exhibition is a honeycomb made of watercolour painted cells with paper-and-ink bees pasted onto it. The work was made by young artists from Brock Corydon, Carpathia, Harrow, La Verendrye and Robert H. Smith schools.
The Winnipeg School Division sponsors approximately two students per school, said Cara Mason, the learning and programs coordinator with the WAG Studio. The students take free Saturday morning art classes in the Young Artist Program.
"Each child gets 10 art classes, with the final two or three dedicated to art made for the exhibit at Assiniboine Park," says Mason, adding that the children are between the ages of five and 14. The WAG Studio also has classes for Winnipeg School Division students up to Grade 12, but these older students were not included in this exhibit.
Thanks to construction at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the exhibit was first moved to the Pavilion in 2017. The Assiniboine Park Conservancy and the Associates of the Winnipeg Art Gallery also sponsor the show. In previous years, the exhibit was held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery since its inception in 1986 in Eckhardt Hall.
Art classes allow for more than just learning techniques, said Mason."The world around us is changing and children are talking about it. It’s a conversation that can sometimes be difficult, especially for young people, so we wanted to give the students the space to present their thoughts and feelings on this topic in a creative way.
"I feel our theme this year — of the environment — is very timely," she said. "When classes began back in September and October, the students were hearing about climate change activism. This exhibit is their voice, a way to express themselves in how they feel about the environment."
Through the Eyes of a Child runs Feb. 8 to April 13 on the second floor of the Pavilion at Assiniboine Park.
Susie Strachan is the community journalist for The Sou'wester. Call her at 204-697-7150 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org