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Instructor has students looking beyond the screen to create physical art – The B.C. Catholic



As the world undergoes incredible challenges in the midst of COVID-19, Sarah Matossian, art department head and instructor at Little Flower Academy in Vancouver, has risen to the occasion and found success encouraging her students to create physical art, as she continues to provide a project-based curriculum for her students.

Instead of digital art assignments, she has her students create hands-on art projects in their own spaces at home and document them online.

Little Flower Academy was faced with the shutdown in late March, just as students were about to return after spring break. The school quickly transitioned to teaching on Zoom and through the school website.

“Overnight, our world has been forced to depend on screens even more than usual,” Matossian said. “This is the reality that’s out there, and I didn’t want to just be swept away in that thunderous current. My students were already overwhelmed by social media and screen time for so many hours of the day before the pandemic, and I was seeing the negative effects of this then. So I asked myself, how can I help my students look beyond the screen? How can I guide them to continue to interact with the physical world and to be creative without becoming even more dependent on screens?”

While planning her curriculum, Matossian’s goal was to engage her students without completely depending on a screen.

“This has been wonderful. It is so critical for our mental health, as well as our physical and emotional well being to keep being creative during challenging times. In addition to painting, sculpting and drawing, it’s quite remarkable how many of my students have been choosing to return to pastimes of old, such as embroidery and crochet. They have been re-purposing and redesigning clothing and sneakers, embroidering atop old photographs, and enjoying the slow and careful process of these ‘old-fashioned’ creative methods. They’ve been telling me how it’s been so enjoyable for them and how much better they feel when they engage in this process.”

“Since we can’t meet as a physical community, the presentation of art is where I decided to make our biggest pivot,” Matossian said. “We showcase projects through photography and video, and also share during our Zoom classes.”

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Matossian’s art students exhibited their projects during their annual art show for friends, family and community members.

Additionally, the halls of Little Flower Academy rival art galleries in Vancouver with more than 700 art pieces on display, which according to Matossian “help our student artists feel a sense of pride and bring colour and life to each hallway of our school.”

Matossian said she and her students often visit Ronald McDonald House to do face painting and lead crafts for children who are undergoing treatment at B.C. Children’s Hospital next door. I

“It’s a special way to give back to our community and try to spread joy during difficult times. Art brings us together in such a meaningful way. Over the years, when a few of our students and staff faced life-threatening health concerns, such as cancer, having my students make artist trading cards for them was a way to share encouragement and messages of hope.”

Matossian began her relationship with the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising when she invited the institute to share classroom workshops at Little Flower Academy. Her classes enjoy watching the DEBUT Runway Show and learning about creative careers. 

Inspired by institute, Matossian led her students in classroom projects such as unconventional material dresses on mannequins, creating shoe sculptures, fashion drawings, and jewelry design, to name a few. Matossian also believes her students who attended the institute’s 3 Days of Fashion Summer Program had their eyes opened to the possibilities of a career in creative fields.

“They have returned excited and feeling more empowered about pursuing their creative passions,” said Matossian.

Article courtesy of FIDM. Reprinted with permission.

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Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre receive new arts infrastructure funding – Nanaimo News Bulletin



Two arts and culture groups in Nanaimo have received more than $100,000 from the provincial government to help improve their spaces and support arts programming.

On Jan. 22 the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport announced in a press release that nine arts and culture groups on Vancouver Island and its adjacent islands received more than $440,000 as part of the B.C. Arts Council’s new arts infrastructure program. Among the local recipients are the Nanaimo Art Gallery, which got $75,000, and the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, which got $31,933.

NAG executive director Carolyn Holmes was thankful for the grant and said the funds will be spent on expanding the ArtLab studio.

“These renovations will make it possible to increase the capacity of our programs and involve more members of our community in art-making experiences,” she said in the press release. “This recent year has showed us just how important these creative outlets and learning opportunities are for our well-being.”

Other recipients on the Island include the Belfry Theatre, CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers and Victoria Baroque Music Society, all located in Victoria, as well as the Cumberland Museum and Archives. The Hornby Island Arts Council, Alert Bay’s U’mista Cultural Centre and the Sointula Museum and Historical Society also received funding. In all, 49 group from across the province received nearly $2 million in grants.

“Art and creative expression are so important for people to maintain healthy lifestyles, especially right now,” Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson said in the release. “We are supporting arts and culture spaces across the province and here in Nanaimo, assisting them through the pandemic and helping to make them better for the future.”

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Montreal art gallery vandalized by QAnon-inspired graffiti



Vandals spray-painted QAnon-themed graffiti across the windows of a Montreal art gallery this week, prompting an investigation by the SPVM’s hate crimes unit.

Tuesday evening, just after 9, a man and a woman wearing black clothes and carrying cans of spray paint approached the BBAM! Gallery on Atwater Ave. in St-Henri. Surveillance footage shows the couple tagging the gallery, painting “pedogate” and slinking away when cars passed.

The pair then moved north, toward the downtown core, where similar vandalism appeared on a daycare centre. The Montreal police hate crimes unit is investigating both incidents, a spokesperson said.

“It’s awful,” said Alison E. Rogers, who co-owns and operates BBAM! with her husband, Ralph Alfonso. “It comes from hate and ignorance.”

“We’re still trying to process it,” Alfonso said.

They discovered the graffiti Wednesday morning, cleaned it and called the police, who, upon realizing the significance of the vandalism, became worried.

Source: – Montreal Gazette

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Indie Success: Art to Heart – Publishers Weekly



In his independently published First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art, Dan Hill uses facial coding and eye tracking to observe how viewers look at artworks. Hill is the founder of Sensory Logic, a company that measures emotional responses to outside stimuli for market research purposes. BookLife spoke to Hill about what he has learned about human perception and emotion.

How did your interest in art develop?

When I turned six years old, our family moved to Italy for two years because my father had a posting there for the company 3M. It’s fair to say my interest in art started during those two years. For one thing, my mother ensured we went around to visit many of the great art museums. For another, I didn’t know Italian at first and often had to read my environment visually more so than verbally—and it was a very interesting new environment to take in. Finally, on the way back to America, we stopped in Holland, where I first fell in love with Rembrandt. I minored in art history in college, and, in my work as a market researcher, I continued to apply my interest in visuals to analyzing advertising for over 50% of the world’s top 100 companies marketing to consumers.

How did you conceive of First Blush?

I always wanted to use the two tools I specialized in for business—eye tracking to capture where exactly people look, and facial coding to read expressions and learn how people feel about what they’re seeing—applied to art rather than just helping sell, say, more baked beans. The specific inspiration was an article that mentioned people spending on average about 20 seconds per artwork in viewing them in a museum. That struck me as too long an estimate. So, on my next business trip to New York City, I spent the equivalent of about a day sitting in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Frick, and the Guggenheim observing visitors. My finding: on average, about four seconds to view an artwork, five seconds to read the title plate, and another one-second glance at an artwork before moving on. From that confirmation of my instincts, I became eager to go further and capture the “inside scoop” on how people really experience art.

How did you find participants and choose the works? How did you conduct research?

Eye tracking has been used in studying art, but, as best I could find, nobody went in-depth. My study is easily the largest ever of this kind, with 88 artworks and 96 demographically varied participants ranging from age eight to 80. Each person got 15 seconds to view an artwork, and halfway through that period I would say aloud the last name of the artist and the work’s title to simulate people reading the title plate in an art museum.

Choosing the artworks to include took a lot of investigation online and via art books. I started with the obviously most famous works. Then I wanted to have a strong dose of more contemporary works. Ensuring gender and racial diversity was important. So was my getting in some works from Africa and certainly Asia, for instance. I varied the mediums, integrating photography, sculpture, and ready-made pieces. Finally, I added in artists that would introduce a few interesting variables: figures who made the most money, were the most popular, and/or were the most critically acclaimed. Trying to spread the choices around by era was yet another factor. All in all, a very tricky proposition that left out some personal favorites, like Matisse.

What surprised you most?

I can’t say I was surprised that 80% of people’s visual attention and emotional responses centered on faces when they were a part of the composition. However, there were other strong findings, too. How does one’s gaze move through an artwork? The best bet is the lower middle as the starting point, with the four corners being a little like Outer Mongolia. The study confirmed that the vast majority of participants’ viewing and emotional involvement happened within the first four seconds. Other findings: vertically oriented compositions performed best; red was the most emotionally engaging color, and blue the most appealing, or most associated with positive emotions. Titles that were poetic or meaningful did well; those that were obscure or untitled were panned emotionally by my participants. In terms of titles, the single best performer was Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie. The title provided them with greater insight into the visual content. Now, the participants could see the Manhattan grid of streets, the yellow as taxi cabs, and the overall brightness as the lights of Broadway. Suddenly, participants really connected with an abstract piece.

Do you feel that the ability to intuitively see visual art is “learned out” of us as we age?

It might be. It’s striking that more time is spent in a museum on the title plate than the artwork itself. Yes, we’re seeking context, and I support that as an analyst! But, as an art lover, it’s a bit of a disappointment to think that maybe people are looking for more understanding or confirmation that such and such artwork is “important” as opposed to being absorbed by what one sees and responding accordingly.

What were the key takeaways? What do you hope readers gain?

My book is very, very visually oriented. It’s in four-color [printing], and the eye tracking results are shown in color based on what’s known in the trade as colorized “heat maps.” Reds and orange mean more gaze activity, green less, and no color could account for the parts of an artwork that the participants barely observed. So the key takeaway concerns what kind of content and composition elements draw people in. I think this “inside scoop” can be useful to practicing artists, to teachers, to museum curators laying out the next exhibit, and to the general art lover.

Is a purely emotional response to art as valid as a more critical response?

Certainly. The scientific estimate is that about 95% of our mental activity isn’t fully conscious. A lot of that activity goes to monitoring intuitively how our body is doing. But lots more goes to subconscious than conscious processing of the world around us and our experiences of it, including art. I’m as vulnerable as the next person to taking in the title plate and confirming this is such-and-such important artist to pay attention to in an art museum. But, at the same time, I often enter the next room and try to start by asking myself: what piece in this room grabs my eye and heart most?

A version of this article appeared in the 01/25/2021 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Art to Heart

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