EMSB Art Co-op merges education with community
by Wendy Singer
Artist and Social Integration (SI) teacher at Wagar Adult Education Centre Anna Persichilli has a dream of setting up a community art studio that would immerse her students in the world of art; a place outside of the classroom, where their talents would be honed, shared and valued. All she needed to make this happen was a committed community partner.
With perseverance and the help of colleague, artist and SI teacher Natalie Reis, Persichilli’s dream is about to come true. The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) Art Co-op is slated to open its doors for the 2023-24 school year in partnership with the Visual Art Centre’s (VAC), ARTreach Programme.
Located in Westmount, ARTreach has been bringing art education into the community for over 25 years. Amber Berson, executive director of the VAC, explained that, traditionally, VAC teachers are sent to schools and organizations upon request. In the case of the EMSB Art Co-op, students will have their own dedicated art studio and teacher at the VAC, and access to all mediums and genres available, from ceramics to fibre, painting, mixed media and printmaking, five days a week.
The Co-op will follow the same curriculum as Persichilli’s Art & Soul Social Integration classroom at Wagar, located in Côte Saint-Luc, where she weaves art-making with community integration, and life and social skills. Professional arts training and development, like how to apply to galleries or write a grant, will be added. “The EMSB Art Co-op is for the artist at heart. It will function as an educational site, where participants create art and contribute to all aspects of an artist-run collective,” she said.
Persichilli was inspired by the Creative Growth Center in Oakland, California, which hosts some 162 artists with disabilities, some of whom have had their work exhibited in prestigious modern art museums. This is precisely her goal: “Our students create wonderful works of art, and I feel they need to be seen.” >
Wagar students have been getting acquainted with the VAC this year, attending monthly artist talks and workshops. “The artists will be better set up for large-scale artmaking here. They produce beautiful work, and we look forward to showing it at an exhibition at the end of the year,” said Berson. >
The VAC is working towards the goal of universal accessibility. Currently, some of their studios are physically accessible, as is the gallery, and one washroom is fully accessible. Teachers are trained to work with varying needs in the classroom. “This is a major win for inclusivity and integration in our community,” said Persichilli.
An interview is required to be accepted into the EMSB Art Co-op. For information, contact Jennifer Campbell at email@example.com. To learn more about the VAC’s ARTreach Programme, visit www.visualartscentre.ca