The Environmental Angels Project

June proved to be a very busy month, full of environmental artmaking both inside OISE and in our partner schools.  I was fortunate to be asked to do an inaugural eco-art project at Holy Angels Catholic School in Toronto’s west end this spring, and wanted to share the results. 

 This project was intended as a way to get the school community thinking more sustainably by starting a schoolyard collection of student eco-artwork.  As the theme of angels runs deep in this school, we came up with the idea of focusing on the importance of stewardship by asking students to think about what they want to protect in the local environment.  The students from classes in grades four and eight worked in pairs to photograph features of their neighbourhood that they value, and then used these to inform large scale drawings.  The drawings were then traced onto plywood, cut out with a jigsaw, and painted by the pairs of young artists together.  The resulting installation covers both side of the school fence.  To finish, students wrote poems about the images in their paintings, shared in a poetry slam.

 Despite the school being on the edge of an industrial zone on one side, and a suburban neighbourhood on the other, the student artists all chose natural features of their neighbourhood as the subjects of their paintings, from plants and trees to squirrels and snails.  A few thought about the ‘big picture’ by focusing on water, the sky, or the sun.  And they seemed to get the concept that the same practices used by environmental artists (like reducing waste, decreasing material toxicity, and cleaning up the mess you make) could be used by all of us to better protect the local environments in which we live.  I hope this learning about stewardship will stay with them in the years to come.

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