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AFK Blog
Nov 09
Ceramic poppy project impactful in many ways


By Paul Best, Teacher, Lynnmour Elementary School

I was influenced by the Tower of London Poppy installation of 2014, where ceramic artist Paul Cummins, who suffers from dyslexia, and set designer Tom Piper placed 888,246 poppies in the moat. Each poppy representing an individual solider from the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth who died during World War 1. After the installation was dismantled, each poppy, complete with a certificate commemorating one of the fallen, was sold to the general public raising over $17 million dollars for war veteran's charities. 


I wanted to create a similar experience for Lynnmour Elementary School students, not only making the ceramic poppies but also directly tying it to an individual soldier, from one of the 17 British Columbian battalions, who died during the Great War.

To make it even more meaningful, I chose one of the most famous Canadian actions - the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the second week of April 1917. Sadly, 3,598 Canadian soldiers died and a further 7,004 were wounded that week. The first day of the battle, April 9, 2017, had the most casualties.

I researched the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) online and found more than a hundred individuals who died while fighting with one of the British Columbian battalions on April 9, 2017. Each student received a printout of the CWGC certificate with the rank, name, service number, battalion designation, and sometimes the age and next of kin of that particular soldier who they commemorated. As the students were creating their poppies, they had their printouts in front of them. I know that it resonated with them. 

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Jul 31
Twenty-Five Years in Paradise: Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Art

The glistening waters of the Cheakamus River and lush vegetation of the surrounding old-growth forest provide the perfect serene environment to explore creativity.

"There is something really meaningful and beautiful about being able to take kids outside to harness their artistic expression," said Daylen Luchsinger, Education Coordinator, Artists for Kids.

This year marks the 25th year for the Artists for Kids Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Arts hosted at Cheakamus Centre in Squamish. The program combines the ideal location of the Cheakamus Centre with top-notch artists for a five-day program for eight to 18-year-olds. Students are paired with a professional artist who presents on his or her work throughout the week. The students work with art specialist teachers to make art of their own in response to the presentations from the professional artists. There are also blocks of recreation time where the students go canoeing, hiking or sketch the gorgeous scenery that surrounds them.

Once again this year, the program sold-out with 104 participants.

"There's a new appreciation for a really strong arts foundation because it supports student learning in so many ways," said Yolande Martinello, Director, Artists for Kids. "And, it's five days in paradise!"

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To celebrate the 25th year, student work from the week was on display throughout the Cheakamus Centre grounds. Multimedia art was hung from wooden walk-path railings and paintings were propped against trees. The buildings were transformed into galleries with art of varying styles, shapes and colours. Parents were invited to join the students for a celebration reception.

"These young artists were amazing. They took risks and created beautiful work," said Martinello at the celebration event. "I think everyone this week has grown – not just the kids, but also the counsellors and adult staff."

"Thank you to all of the kids. You are amazing artists and it was a pleasure working with you and I learned so much from you," said Justin Ogilvie, Artist in Residence for the senior students at the program.

"I have been inspired so much from the students. I'm excited to get back into my studio. Thank you," said M.E. Sparks, Artist in Residence for the junior students at the program.

 To find out more about the Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Arts, visit:

Jun 27
Wishing you a creative and fun summer

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The summer holidays are an opportunity for discovery and exploration.

Our Summer Day Camps blend fun and skills-based learning. For children who have completed Kindergarten or Grade One, we offer our Art Explorers Day Camp. From July 3 – 6, 2018, young artists will learn techniques including drawing and painting and enjoy outdoor recreation, weather permitting, led by trained counsellors and supervised by the teacher.

For students who have completed Grades 2 and 3, we offer our week-long Mixed Media Day Camp. From July 9 – 13, young artists will be immersed in art exploration, while having fun and enjoying time outdoors, weather permitting.

Space is limited in both these Day Camps, so to avoid disappointment, please register your child soon.

Running until September 1, 2018, the Gordon Smith Gallery is presenting the exhibition 13 Ways to Summon Ghosts. Guest-curated by Dr. Kimberly Phillips of the Contemporary Art Gallery, this exhibit brings together the works of 13 artists that explore haunting as an artistic strategy. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Gallery will host talks and workshops. Please check the website for upcoming dates and times. We invite you to visit this thought-provoking show.

The summer also presents a great opportunity to establish creative rituals. Help your kids immerse themselves in hands-on art making with some family-focused ideas.

  • Make art a part of your week. Develop weekly creative prompts to focus your child's thinking. Consider colour exploration, a topic, or a form of media, such as painting or drawing. Giving them prompts allows them to embrace the freedom within a framework.
  • Go for a walk in nature. Ask your child to choose items from the walk, whether it's grass, or sticks, or leaves, as inspiration for a collage.
  • Set aside time in each day for creativity. Spending just 15 minutes each day exploring creative self-expression and the cumulative effect can be transformative. Create a sketchbook for your child to track their summer. Choose a start date and an end date, then challenge your child — and yourself — to draw or create every day this summer. The daily diary of your summer will inspire you and your child to see the world with fresh eyes and may spark a lifelong love of creative self-expression. In addition, it will become a precious memory book of this summer that you and your child will cherish. Visit for creative prompts and ideas. 

As we look forward to summer and the promise of warm days and long evenings, let's look at the coming months as an opportunity to establish fresh rituals and connect with the creativity in our community, in our kids and in ourselves.

We wish you a wonderful summer and we look forward to seeing you at our new teaching exhibition, Transformations, in the fall. 

Jun 20
Thank you to our volunteers

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Pat Quan, our Super Volunteer

It's been a remarkable year at Artists for Kids. We needed to extend our gallery days to accommodate the record demand for our teaching exhibit Memory • History • Story. Many of our programs ran at capacity with waiting lists. And the growing enthusiasm and support we've received from parents and teachers have allowed us to bring visual arts education to more young people.

We can only respond to this increase in demand for our offerings with the invaluable support of our volunteers. Through them, we host events, provide educational opportunities and keep the community up-to-date on our activities. It's because of those who give of their time and talent that Artists for Kids has been able to grow and thrive.

Our Super Volunteer, Pat Quan has been a vital part of our organization for 25 years. This week, she retired, leaving us all with a wealth of wonderful memories. Pat began with AFK, then provided key clerical support for the Smith Foundation in its early years. She returned to the Artists for Kids office and became an essential part of our organization.

Pat developed and managed Pat's Appeal, her annual request for support. She also wrote all the personal thank you notes to those who contributed to our organization through donations or through the purchase of a print. She was our contact for volunteers, organizing and managing the teams who helped us with mailings, back when we relied on snail mail for our communications. Pat was also the Sprit of Christmas throughout the month of December. She organized the toy drive not just for AFK but the entire North Vancouver Educational Resources Building. And thanks to her, our coffee cupboard was never empty.

Always smiling, Pat was a voice of our organization with artists, volunteers, teachers and the community. Her and her husband are also generous contributors, supporting our Summer Camp students with bursaries through the Chang Y. Leong Memorial Fund. We are so grateful that Pat entered our lives 25 years ago. It's through the dedication of people like Pat that Artists for Kids, our programs and our students have been able to thrive. 

"Pat has been a ray of sunshine in our office for as long as anyone can remember," says Yolande Martinello, Director of Artists for Kids. "She has helped out whenever asked, and has been our historian, our archivist of images and our institutional memory. We are so fortunate that she chose us to support. We'll miss her."

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Some of our RBC Londsdale volunteers

Other volunteers provide regular and vital assistance. RBC's Lonsdale branch in North Vancouver provides both time and financial support. Led by Lindsay Whitham, each year a group of 6-9 volunteers spend about 20 hours helping us behind the scenes. Whether painting plinths for the recent exhibition, assisting with the installation of art or maintaining our warehouse space, their burst of energy and commitment elevate the work we do. They also donate $1,000 annually to support our programming.  

We thank the wealth of others who contribute to our work. We're grateful for all the teachers who attend exhibitions of students' work and support our programs. Our management committee is a team of volunteers who provide their essential expertise and perspective to Artists for Kids. In addition, our staff gives so many additional hours of their time to ensure that our events and activities are a success.

Our organization is so much more than a sum of our parts. The support we receive from those willing to give so generously of their time and talent elevates the training and perspective we are able to provide the next generation. We are profoundly grateful to everyone who contributes to our programs and initiatives. Thank you. 

Jun 13
News in June

The end of the school year is always a busy time for us, however this month has been particularly active.

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Studio Art Academy Show

Through June 27, 2018, the lobby and the mezzanine of the Gordon Smith Gallery welcomes the works of our next generation of artists. 

Select pieces from students in the Studio Art Academy Program are on display. Through the Academy Program at Carson Graham Secondary School, senior secondary students  develop their skills, broadening their options and encouraging their success in post-secondary art studies. 

We invite you to take in this collection of painting, drawing and sculpture that reflect the students' remarkable range of perspectives, skills and talents. 

Welcome Pole

On Friday, June 15, we are proud to celebrate the completion of the welcome pole to the front of the North Vancouver Learning Services building. The Welcome Pole, or kayachtn was carved by master carver K'na'kweltn˜ Darren Yelton in conjunction with our most recent teaching exhibition Memory • History • Story. The carving took place during the visit of school groups, allowing young people to witness and sometimes experience carving and ask questions. This welcome pole will stand as a permanent reminder of the stories of our Indigenous People and the strong relationship of The North Vancouver School District with the Squamis and Tsleil Waututh Nations. 


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One of our teachers in the news

One of our AFK teachers, Meghan Parker has recently been in the news for her creative approach to delivering her Masters Thesis. Meghan graduates this month with a master of arts degree from Simon Fraser University after successfully defending her thesis, in the form of a 236-page graphic novel about art and teaching. Her story captured the interest of the CBC

"Meghan's innovative approach to her thesis is a demonstration of why art is a vital part of any education," says Yolande Martinello, Director of Artists for Kids. "Being able to address challenges and embrace problem-solving with innovation and creativity is vital in all walks of life. Meghan's wonderful thesis is a document of the creative process. We are so proud to include her in the family of Artists for Kids."

Summer exhibit opening reception

Join us on Saturday, June 23 from 2 – 5 p.m for the opening reception of the summer exhibition, 13 Ways to Summon Ghosts, and the book launch. Several of the artists as well as curator, Dr. Kimberley Phillips will lead an informal walkthrough of the exhibition and discuss both its works and thematic concerns. The exhibition runs through September 1, 2018.




May 30
Discover the talent of our artists at exhibits this month

​Just as our artists generously support our programs and our students, in turn, please consider returning the support by attending exhibits of their work.


Across Skaha November, by Ross Penhall, Oil on Canvas, 23 x 36 inches

Artist Patron Ross Penhall's latest work is on display at Gallery Jones in Vancouver. Entitled Meteora, the exhibition is a collection of his new large-scale oil paintings that reflect the mountainous West Coast landscape in the artist's distinct style. The exhibition runs through June 30, 2018. Gallery Jones is located 1 – 258 East 1st Avenue in Vancouver.

Artist Patron Etienne Zack is part of a show at the Equinox Gallery. Entitled Works on Paper, the group exhibition includes several pieces that incorporate acrylic and gel transfer on Arches paper, and mixed media on paper. The exhibition runs through June 30, 2018. Equinox Gallery is located at #110 - 525 Great Northern Way in Vancouver.  

Artist Patron Douglas Coupland has an installation at the Vancouver Aquarium. He is collaborating with Ocean Wise to highlight ocean plastic pollution in a new major sculpture exhibition. The year-long installation, Vortex, will immerse Aquarium visitors in a contemplative, emotive, and transformative experience at the nexus between art and environment. The installation runs through April 30, 2019.

Partner Artist Aimée Henny Brown is part of a group show at the South Main Gallery entitled In Situ. The artists in this show work with collage as a strategy to address contemporary notions of place and being. The opening reception is Saturday, June 2 at 3 p.m. There is an artist talk on Saturday, June 16 at 3 p.m. The exhibition runs through July 1, 2018. The South Main Gallery is located at 279 East 6th Avenue in Vancouver.  

We encourage you to visit these captivating and thought-provoking exhibitions, and support Canadian art and artists. 

May 23
End of Year Art on Display

​As the school year draws to a close, we are proud to feature and celebrate the works created by our students.

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From Kindergarten through Grade 12, students in the North Vancouver School District have a remarkable opportunity to explore and develop their visual arts skills and express the world around them.

"There is a revived and growing interest in sharing visual arts skills and creative problem-solving with our young people," says Yolande Martinello, Director of Artists for Kids. "It's reflected in the exceptional interest in our programs and in the support our young artists are receiving."

Throughout the year, we offer Enrichment programs for students in the elementary and senior grades. Over three full days, students work with a teacher and professional artists to discover specific visual arts skills and create a final work.

This year, students in Grades 3 worked with artist M. E. Sparks. Her practice explores methods of abstraction to reconsider the ways we engage with images. 

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Students in Grade 7 worked with the DRIL, a Vancouver based artist collective founded in 2009, comprised of Dylan McHugh, Rachel White, Ian Prentice and Leisha O'Donohue. The students explored man-made and natural elements to turn two-dimensional work into three-dimensional pieces. 

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Senior students worked in two distinctly different media. Students explored multimedia expression with Artist Lyse Lemieux. Working with form, they explored abstraction through other media such as thread and material.

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Artist Xwalacktun shared carving techniques with the students, who produced pieces that translated imagery to wood. 

Art from the Junior Enrichment programs are on display in the lobby of the Gordon Smith Gallery through Thursday, May 24. Art from the Senior Enrichment programs are on display from Monday, May 28 – Thursday, May 31, 2018. 

This year's Photography Enrichment program brought students together with photographer Michael Love. The students explored and photographed National Historic Sites such as Britannia Mines and Stave Falls. Their work will be published in an upcoming edition of the North Shore News.  

Students throughout the district have their work on display at Capilano Mall's Art from 44 exhibition, which runs through the end of May. We encourage you to visit the mall and take in the array of art created this school year.

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It's been a remarkable year for creativity in the North Vancouver School District. We invite you to view some or all of the art on display, and see the fresh ideas and skills emerging from the next generation of artists. 

May 09
Conference in Seattle inspires visual learning in classrooms

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In March, 2018, art educators from the North Vancouver School District attended the National Art Educators Association (NAEA) Conference in Seattle, Washington. With the theme: Art + Design = STEAM, the conference focused on expanding art throughout the learning continuum.

"It was a great opportunity for the gallery team and district art specialist to attend a conference dealing specifically with art and gallery education," says Yolande Martinello, Director of Artists for Kids.

The educators attended multiple sessions, including the keynote address by artist and educator Nick Cave. With its perspective of leadership and advocacy for the arts, the conference was invaluable when considering how to extend professional development by inspiring generalist teachers to engage in the arts.

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For example, Sally Bensusen, a NASA staff illustrator, gave a presentation on The Leonardo Principle: Introducing Drawing and Observing Skills to the Science Classroom. Her presentation explored practical, art-related exercises that help science teachers understand and use art in the classroom. She spoke about the pre-industrial style of documenting that is still in practice today. Using observational skills, such as a leaf comparison, students are able to enhance their understanding.

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"Seeing how she brings her documenting skills to science classes is a great way to understand how to extend visual arts in other fields, from math to languages," says Yolande. Guiding non-art teachers to art-based thinking allows them to incorporate visual skills throughout their teaching.

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Suzanne Chow, a Gallery Educator, attended a variety of sessions. Some offered lesson and project ideas, others were more theory based, discussing visual culture art education.

"I was interested in the discussions about how to teach students to think creatively and develop creative habits of the mind rather than replication of art," Suzanne says. These are the skills that endure, and that students carry with them throughout their lives.

Attending the conference in Seattle was vital for the teachers. It provided an opportunity to hear new theories and practices, discover lesson ideas and exchange best practices with other teachers at the conference. The annual gathering is usually a prohibitive distance, so having it just a three-hour drive from North Vancouver made it accessible.

We are grateful to the North Vancouver School District for the funding and support to attend the conference. The three days spent in Seattle broadened our thinking around sharing more visual-arts based education opportunities with students and teachers of other disciplines, for a more comprehensive learning experience for all our students. 

Apr 18
Studio Art Academy Mural at the Vancouver Art Gallery

​This semester, the students in the AFK Studio Art Academy along with those from Britannia, Jules Verne and King George Secondary Schools had a remarkable opportunity to meet a renowned artist Takashi Murakami, explore Japanese symbolism and create an expression of their world in a mural. The student art is on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery Annex through Sunday, April 22, 2018. 

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The Think Tank for Youth on Art and Ideas facilitate interactions with the Vancouver Art Gallery's exhibitions by encouraging students to think creatively and independently, while developing visual responses to their world. The project was three months in the making.

At the end of January, the students met the artist Takashi Murakami. His exhibition, The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is the first solo presentation of this Japanese artist's work in Canada, and is at the Vancouver Art Gallery through May 6, 2018.

In early February, the students spent an afternoon with the artist, accompanied by their teachers and local interdisciplinary artist Cindy Moshizuki

Cindy developed a workshop for the students, spending an afternoon at each school exploring representation in Japanese art, traditional Japanese Noh theatre symbolism, and Buddhist arhat meaning and representation.

In late February, the students returned to the Vancouver Art Gallery for a second visit to the exhibition, taking in the art through the insight gained in Cindy's workshop.

Then, on April 12 and 13, the students worked with the Vancouver Art Gallery education staff to collectively create the mural, which is now on display in the Annex Workshop. The result is a visual expression of the students' contemporary world, through the symbolism, inspiration and understanding of the renowned Takashi Murakami and Cindy Moshizuki.

"When I first started, I was worried about how I would feel about the end product. Everyone's different styles working together in one piece seemed far-fetched. I think now that it looks better with all the diversity. It's chaotic and I love it," says one of the Studio Art Academy students.

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The mural is on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery Annex through this Sunday, April 22, 2018. We encourage you to visit the remarkable expression of student perspective.


Feb 28
Spring after school art classes and summer camp

​Spring is about to arrive, and with it comes a new season of art classes for kids.  

Our Spring After School Art Classes are now open for registration. Starting the week of April 9, classes are available for those in the elementary grades. Our youngest students in Kindergarten and Grade 1 can learn drawing and painting skills in Art for Small Hands. Older students have a range of classes available. In Eco Explorers, those in grades 2-4 will be introduced to Gordon Smith's tangles, Jack Shadbolt's life force and Emily Carr's forests, and be inspired to create their own images based on our environment. For those in Grades 4-7, students can explore Photography. Kids will learn care of the camera, some composition guidelines including rule of thirds, viewpoint, balance and depth. They will also have an introduction to shutter speed and aperture, as well as some editing.

Spring is a particularly good time for art classes, as young people are able to discover new skills that they can continue to build on over the summer.

The price of registration includes the cost of all materials. 

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If Spring is here, can summer be far behind? Registration for our Summer Camps is now open. 

Our unique art-based summer camps run from July 8 - 13, 2018 in Brackendale B.C. It offers outdoor studio adventures for young artists with teams of experienced art teachers and professional artists plus guest artist visits and daily recreation activities including canoeing, hiking, archery, cave exploration, a campfire singalong and a variety of fun filled outdoor games. 

This year we are delighted to welcome M.E. Sparks as our Junior Camp Artist in Residence. Through painting she brings together found forms, personal narrative, dream imagery and art historical references. She has exhibited work across Canada and was a finalist in the 2016 and 2017 Annual RBC Painting Competitions and the recipient of the 2016 Nancy Petry Award.

Our Senior Camp Artist in Residence is Justin Ogilvie. His painting practice explores various tensions between traditional and contemporary modes of representational painting. Justin currently teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design as a sessional instructor, and has taught at the University of Alberta, Vancouver Film School, and for the Vancouver School Board. He is the recipient of numerous provincial and private awards, and is part of both national and international art collections.

To register your child for one of our art programs, please visit our programs page.


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 About this blog

About this blog
At Artists for Kids, we are dedicated to educating the next generation of Canadian Artists. This blog, which is updated regularly, shares stories of art-based activities, resources, events, exhibitions and classes, all which contribute to a richer creative and cultural community. We invite you to visit our blog often.