Since November 4, 2013, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection has been the Monday stomping ground for five talented youth. Members of Kerry’s Place Autism Services completed a six week partnership program with the organization. The LIFE (Learning Independence Through Facilitated Education) Academy Program is a course offered to youth aged 18 and up, which is a socially interactive experience that develops life skills for post secondary education, independent living and employment. Drawing from the surrounding landscape and history, each participant completed a portfolio of vibrant works worthy of exhibition.
The program was taught by McMichael educator Christina Kerr, and Emmanuel Elkabas-Besnard, an instructor from Kerry’s Place and a professionally trained artist currently pursuing a Fine Arts Degree at York University. It was a great opportunity to merge teaching methods in a free-flowing environment against the stunning winter backdrop of the Humber River Trail.
Each week, the students intently worked on rough sketches and paintings. They also visited the gallery to experience the current exhibition You Are Here: Kim Dorland and the Return to Painting. Students had the opportunity to hear from the Toronto-based artist during a gallery talk, where they learned about his painting techniques and the influence of Tom Thomson, members of the Group of Seven, and other Canadian artists on his own work.
On Monday, December 9, the participants of LIFE Academy at the McMichael celebrated their final day by completing their portfolio pieces, inserting them into customized canvas bags. The group listened to Electro-Jazz, The Tragically Hip and St. Germain compilations during each brushstroke and pencil sketch. Kerr and Elkabas-Besnard awarded each participant their own certificate of completion. Before heading out into the brisk winter weather, the artists made a toast with piping hot chocolate and cookies.
It was a sweet ending to an awesome program that created new friendships and inspired innovative techniques. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see these pieces on our walls someday, parallel to Thomson and the greats.