Friday, August 5, 2011

Kids Discover Emily

From the desk of Kim Gough, Program Developer at the Royal BC Museum

Camp Inside-Out at the Royal BC Museum lets children between the ages of 8 and 10 experience a week at the museum. Kids get to visit with curators, go behind the scenes and go into the galleries early. This year they are also learning about Canada’s greatest woman artist, Emily Carr.

Jessie Jakumeit is one of this year’s camp coordinators. An artist herself, she has loved Emily Carr since she was a young girl. Most of the kids in camp know about Emily Carr, but unlike Jessie, they aren’t all fans of her art – at least when the week starts. They do like to hear stories about her – especially when it includes anecdotes about her pets.

During the camp, Jessie tries to emphasize the process of making art rather than the finished product itself. Although kids like to get their hands dirty, and have big imaginations, they can struggle with knowing where to start. Following the philosophy of John Cage who says “begin anywhere”, Jessie leads the kids in some simple warm up exercises like drawing a straight line down the page and drawing circles that get smaller and smaller as you go.

Once the kids are warmed up they get to experiment with all types of mediums and formats. One of Jessie’s goals is to expose the young campers to a variety of new materials. In addition to crayons and markers, kids try water colours, tempera, charcoal, ink and even making art with rocks.

One thing that surprises Jessie is the amount of direction that they want; she finds that she needs to demonstrate each art activity for them. After a general demonstration, she visits each artist with her own sketchbook so she can answer their questions in a visual way.

Making art and learning about Emily Carr is just part of this year’s camp, and the kids enjoy the variety of activities. The art is highlighted at the end of the week when their parents are invited to the museum and the kids proudly show them their art work displayed in the gallery.

By the end of the week the campers know a lot more about how the museum works and about the people who work there. And if they haven’t all learned to love Emily they have learned to recognize that rather than depicting a realistic scene Emily was depicting feelings and emotions in her art. As Emily once said, “It's all the unwordable things one wants to write about, just as it's all the unformable things one wants to paint – essence.”

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