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How virtual field trips are bringing animals, art, music and more directly to students –



Among her childhood artistic inspirations, spoken word artist and singer I.M.F. recalls visitors at her school assemblies. Seeing performers and spoken word artists at a young age boosted her confidence to pursue that path; she’s hoping to come full circle with virtual field trip experiences she’s taken part in this month with the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

“I hope there is someone out there today watching and [thinking], ‘I can do it and I’m going to start,'” the Toronto-based singer and spoken-word artist said of her Friday sessions with musical partner Raffiki.

In live-streamed sessions led by an AGO specialist, I.M.F. and Raffiki reflect on specific artworks from the gallery’s collection and then perform new creations inspired by those works. Woven through the half-hour visits, they respond to chatroom queries and feedback from students tuning in from their homes and classrooms. 

“I want the kids to be inspired to take this and and start something of their own. Art is beautiful. It’s powerful. We’re able to have these important conversations using art and really shed light on Black creatives and Black artists,” I.M.F. said.

Spoken word and music duo I.M.F., right, and Raffiki have joined in weekly this month for some of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s virtual field trip sessions. (AGO)

“Looking at [an artwork], having those conversations, but then introducing that auditory piece where we have the music playing — DJ Raffiki with his set, then me being able to sing and him accompanying me on the drums — it was amazing. The feedback was great.”

The coronavirus pandemic has stopped many classes from venturing out on trips and halted groups making in-school visits, but some Canadian cultural institutions are revamping their educational programming to offer virtual field trips that reach students in nearby neighbourhoods, across the country and beyond.

Access and engagement

Having the duo join AGO virtual field trip sessions to show students Black artists as part of contemporary life has been “so exciting, goosebumps-exciting,” according to Audrey Hudson, the gallery’s chief of education and programming.

When imagining how to stay connected with schools during this unprecedented time, Hudson and her team aimed to recreate the magic moments from in-person visits when students respond enthusiastically to an art educator explaining a piece of art in front of them. 

She also wanted to make the digital experiences — themed, live-streamed 30-minute sessions that spotlight art from the AGO, include a wellness component and end with an art activity for students to complete — as widely available as possible. 

“I wanted it to be live, so that we could nurture those conversations and listen and hear students as we would in the gallery,” Hudson said. “I really wanted to think about cultural, economic and geographic access to art. Who sees art and who doesn’t? Who has access to the arts? I wanted to bring it to mass audiences, more so than we could bring in the gallery.”

Nurturing a vibrant chatroom experience has been an important evolution that’s fostered student participation. Hudson has also been happy to discover students sharing the artwork they create following the sessions on social media.

An educational specialist at the Calgary Zoo offers an up close view for students taking part in a virtual field trip. (Calgary Zoo)

At the Calgary Zoo, pandemic closures challenged the education team to expand on earlier digital offerings to create more robust virtual visits.   

“We didn’t want to just take our in-class programs or in-person programs and put them online. We wanted to really leverage and really take advantage of what virtual can offer,” said Jen Duffy, the Calgary Zoo’s conservation education specialist. 

“I, as a single human with a camera, can go places that 30 young students can’t go,” she said. Duffy has visited young chicks in the penguin habitat and gotten up close nd personal with a komodo dragon for her virtual sessions. “We can sort of see [the animals]a little bit differently than we would with a big crowd.” 

Connecting with students through conversations in spite of the distance was also a priority.

“In an online program, it can be pretty easy to sort of just shut off and watch. But our educators are so engaging: answering questions and asking questions and breaking that fourth wall,” Duffy said.

“We’ve had beautiful questions from students, even trying to grapple with the situation of the pandemic: asking about animal diseases or asking about how diseases are transmitted. And that’s really interesting to talk about with them.”

WATCH | Calgary Zoo specialist on the value of virtual experiences:

Conservation education specialist Jen Duffy on what the Calgary Zoo has learned in boosting its virtual experiences for students. 0:42

Working with teachers

Collaborating with educators to develop virtual programs and ensure they connect to current curriculum is also important. A teacher advisory group that works closely with the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, for instance, has been a valuable part of creating lesson plans for Parliament: The Classroom Experience — as well as for spreading the word about the new project to colleagues, said Kit Frost, the library’s chief of virtual experience. 

Parliament: The Classroom Experience was crafted as a way to continue “visits” — via virtual reality — to Parliament’s iconic Centre Block during its extended closure for restorations and renovations. However, after the pandemic scuttled the project’s launch in spring 2020, the education team spent last summer and early fall retooling it into a 360-degree video experience that doesn’t require VR headsets.

“Things change so quickly in classrooms. We wanted to ensure that it would be useful to teachers and something that they could just grab and go,” said Frost.

“Teachers are very appreciative right now of any resources that would allow them to take their students on a field trip — even for 20 minutes. I think that we’ve all been challenged during the pandemic to find ways to connect, to find ways to to visit places, see things, do things we can’t do.”

WATCH | A vibrant look at Parliament’s Centre Block during its closure:

How a 360 video project is keeping the currently under-renovation Centre Block open for ‘virtual visits’ by students across Canada. 1:42

The teams behind several of these projects are already seeing success in reaching more students than ever before, in spite having just a few months of experience under their belts. 

“Between October and right now, we’ve had over 70,000 users of the [Parliament: The Classroom Experience] 360-degree video and the classroom website is not that far behind,” Frost said. “We’re getting pretty good use and the visit times are pretty high.”

The AGO’s educational programming reaches about 40,000 students in a typical school year, noted Hudson. That figure has skyrocketed due to the virtual program, she said, with 42 per cent of the current “visitors” coming from outside Toronto, where the gallery is based, compared to just nine per cent before.

“Seeing that we reached over 180,000 students in 10 weeks [through virtual school trips], that for me is just absolutely phenomenal. And it speaks to the need, speaks to the desire [for] a program such as this.”

The only major impediment to participation has been time zones, said Calgary Zoo’s Duffy. 

“We’ve talked to some people in Japan. We’ve talked to some folks definitely outside of Alberta: in Ontario, in B.C. We had a few folks from the [United] States,” she said. “Once we can [reopen the zoo] safely, everybody can come. But if we can reach them now without any geographic barriers, we are happy to do so.”

WATCH | Virtual content spreads VSO’s music education far beyond Vancouver:

Christin Reardon MacLellan, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s director of education, describes how its new virtual subscription offerings is spreading world-class music education wider than ever before. 1:53

In response to the pandemic, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra launched a subscription-based online concert hall with a dedicated virtual education section dubbed The Music Room. “It’s kind of like Netflix for orchestra,” said Christin Reardon MacLellan, VSO director of education and community programs.

The B.C. orchestra usually sees about 50,000 young people a year, from students who travel to Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre for concerts to those who welcome VSO musicians into their schools across the Lower Mainland.

“This year, with the total online subscriptions we have, including [those purchased by] school districts, we estimate that we’re able to reach about 200,000 people. So it’s almost quadrupled,” MacLellan said.

“We’ve always aspired to have virtual programming and a digital concert hall, but until the pandemic hit there always seemed to be so many other things to be doing.” 

A silver lining of COVID-19, she said, is that it compelled the VSO to devote time and resources into creating engaging digital experiences that, while no replacement for seeing the orchestra live, still offer up something valuable.

“Instead of sitting in your seat, kind of removed… [watching virtually] you’re able to feel like you’re right there on-stage watching the musicians up close.”

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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix



In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.

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Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.

1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery

In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.

Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood.
Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party

Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

3. Check out local performers

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Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.

4. Have some family fun

The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at or by calling 306-477-0808.

5. Drop off your hazardous waste

The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at

  1. Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring

    Little art gallery brings colour, connection to Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood

  2. Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon

    Persephone Theatre brings in community co-leads for new Artists’ Working Group

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio



Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.

The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.

“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”


Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.

Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.

“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.

“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”

‘We need a territorial gallery’

The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.


“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”

YK ARCC’s first home is pictured in 2011. Photo: Submitted
Casey Koyczan stands in front of a painting at a YK ARCC show in 2014. Photo: Submitted

Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.

The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.

“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.

That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.

“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”

“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.

“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”

YK ARCC debuted its mobile gallery in the summer of 2019. Pictured are board member Brian McCutcheon and artist Terry Pamplin. Photo: Submitted
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Art by Shelley Vanderbyl is displayed in Yellowknife’s mobile gallery in May 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A YK ARCC show in 2018, called Social Fabric, was held inside a former bank in the Centre Square Mall. Thirty-two artists were featured and 800 people attended. Photo: Submitted

Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.

“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.

“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.

“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”

‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery

In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.

The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”

“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”

Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.

“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”

More spaces that can host art are on the way.

Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.

Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.

As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.

YK ARCC staged an outdoor installation in 2017. Photo: Submitted
Rosalind Mercredi, first president of YK ARCC, at the mobile gallery. Photo: Submitted

“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”

Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”

“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.

“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”


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Imaginations, creativity of Mountview students on display at Cariboo Art Beat



Creative, imaginative artwork of students from Mountview Elementary School will be on public display at the gallery of Cariboo Art Beat until April 9.

“The students of Mountview elementary were all invited to participate in an art contest,” Tiffany Jorgensen said, an artist at Cariboo Art Beat.

Each class was separately judged by three professional artists at Cariboo Art Beat, Jorgensen said, based on the students’ creativity, techniques, use of space and originality.

“It was extremely difficult to select pieces from the abundance of beautiful art presented,” she said. “There is so much talent and fantastic imaginations.”

The artist of each selected piece was given formal invitations to their art show to distribute to whomever they choose, and Jorgensen said anyone is free to view the beautiful artwork throughout until April 9.

Honoured at the show were works from local artists Ryker Hagen, Annika Nilsson, Rylie Trampleasure, Angus Shoults, Izabella Telford, Isabella Buchner, Kai Pare and more.

“Come view their wonderful pieces to get a glimpse into the minds of our creative youth,” Jorgensen said.

“It’s been so fun. The kids have come in and seen their work on display with their grandparents, parents, and they’re all so excited.”

Following up on the success of the Mountview art show, Jorgensen said more elementary schools have been invited to participate.

April will feature the works of Nesika and Big Lake, followed by Marie Sharpe and Chilcotin Road next month.

Cariboo Art Beat is located at 19 First Ave., under Caribou Ski Source for Sports’ entrance on Oliver Street.

Rylie Trampleasure, Grade 2, has her work on display at Cariboo Art Beat. (Photo submitted)

Angus Shoults, Grade 4. (Photo submitted)

Angus Shoults, Grade 4. (Photo submitted)

Grade 3 student Izabella Telford. (Photo submitted)

Grade 3 student Izabella Telford. (Photo submitted)

Grade 6 student Kai Pare shows off her artwork. (Photo submitted)

Grade 6 student Kai Pare shows off her artwork. (Photo submitted)

Isabella Buchner

Isabella Buchner

Source:– Williams Lake Tribune – Williams Lake Tribune

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