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AFK Blog
Jan 06
AFK Alumni Profile — Tajliya Jamal

Today we are highlighting the work and achievements of one of our alumna: Tajliya Jamal. Taj has had a long history as a student in AFK programs, turned artists assistant and now as an exhibiting artist alongside her partner in the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. As a recent grad from Emily Carr University, Taj shares with us about her experience at AFK and how it lead to where she is now as a curatorial assistant at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. You can find more of her work on Instagram @tajliyaj.

1. What is your history with AFK?

I first went to Artist’s For Kids summer camp when I was about 12 years old, and I didn’t stop going each year until I finished high school. Now I return when I can to help out at the summer camp; it’s nice to give back in some way to a significant part of my childhood.


Taj working alonside peers at Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Art, 2009.


2. What's your favourite memory with AFK?

There are many different memories that I look back on fondly, so I think it’s difficult to pick something specific… As a kid lot of my favourite moments were making friends with peers who cared as much about creative work as I did. I also think fondly about the yearly campfire night [that took place at the Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Art] where everyone sat together like a big family and could enjoy each other’s presence and the peaceful energies of the land around us. Now as an adult my favourite moments are seeing the same spark I had in me appear in other children, and of peaceful bike rides between rows of trees :)


3. What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

It’s pretty stereotypical, I was always drawing and writing and making things as a kid, so I didn’t think I could do anything that wasn’t a creative career. Of course, I had many doubts around high school; people love to caution the viability and stability of creative work, but I’m really lucky to have had active support from my parents, my high school art teachers, and of course from everyone at AFK. It was especially encouraging to meet so many practicing artists at a young age, and to see the variety of people working at the camp (many of whom have careers involved with the arts in some way).


Taj working on a self-portrait project at Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Art, 2013.


4. How did AFK set you up as you went into Emily Carr? Or your new position at the Evergreen Cultural Centre.

It’s tough to think of something specific, but I think AFK’s summer camp provided a space for me to devote myself wholeheartedly to creative production. Of course, you can get that from art classes in school, but to have the experience of being surrounded by peers that were just as devoted and wanted to grow was really special. I think that raised my expectations of others and of myself, and helped me push harder in my creative work, and my work ethic overall. Exposure to so many working artists was extremely educational as well, and definitely taught me better listening skills (haha). 


5. What type of work are you doing at the Evergreen Cultural Centre? What's your favourite part?

My position is curatorial assistant; I get the amazing opportunity to do lots of research and writing, and exercise problem-solving. Admittedly, there is a lot of tedious email-writing and phone calls, but the focus is always on learning more about other artists, and developing a stronger arts community. My work also deals with better representing artists and increasing accessibility to diverse audiences of various age groups and cultural backgrounds, so there’s a lot to consider. I feel very lucky to learn about and be a part of the behind-the-scenes work that gives artists support -- it’s tough work but it is so essential. I really respect Evergreen’s curator Katherine Dennis for the work she does, and I have a new appreciation for the work of all curators out there!


6. Explain a little bit about the piece Torpor. What is it about, how was the collaboration aspect, what was it like expanding your medium to animation?

My partner, Randi Hamel and I came up with Torpor in response to the intense fatigue and lack of relief for ourselves and so many of our peers. “Torpor” refers to a state of lethargy and mental inactivity, and we wanted to make a space that would relax but also engage visitors. Leading up to this project, I had been drawing these repeated patterns that would help me stay somewhat focused and awake. These patterns kept coming up everyday in my notes, sketchbook, and prints, and I realized I wanted to see them moving. That’s how the animation medium became a clear next step for me; I’m lucky my partner studied animation and was able to not only create this work with me, but teach me the fundamental skills of animation. I’m really not equipped with the technical skills to put media together, so those aspects were taken care of by my partner. I took to light-tables, animating patterns by hand. It went better than I thought; this kind of project could never have been made, let alone thought of, without the conversations and ideas sparking between my partner and I.


Students sit beneath the digital media and sculpture work during a Gallery Program, 2019.


7. What was it like when you found out your piece was going to be in the gallery?

Honestly, it took a while to actually sink in. Daylen Luchsinger, who I’ve known for years, had come to see the project at the Emily Carr grad show and told me that he really liked it. He casually mentioned something about showing it, though my assumption was that it would be for a small event or workshop. Later, things set into place more clearly, and after realising our project would actually be shown in the Gordon Smith Gallery as part of a full length show, I was overwhelmed. It’s an amazing feeling to have been a child looking up to so many talented and hard-working people, to develop strong relationships with them, and then to have the chance to step up and be on equal footing with them. 


Artist Statement

Using various techniques including print media, publishing, and animation, my work engages the power of visual storytelling. Often working autobiographically, I choose to tell stories of vulnerability and invisibility in order to invoke empathy in my readers and viewers. Many of my works deal specifically with invisibility of multiracial identities, and subsequent feelings of discomfort, belonging, and difference. These topics are drawn from both personal experience and research. You can find more work on Instagram @tajliyaj.

Dec 12
AFK Academy and the Griffin Art Project

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AFK Studio Art Academy students are excited to have their work exhibited at Griffin Art Projects in January. Students created charcoal drawings under the mentorship of Sara-Jeanne Bourget, recent recipient of Griffin Art Project residency program.

Oct 18
AfK Staff Profile - Exhibiting Artist Emily Neufeld


While we at AfK love Emily for her unfaltering support for our many programs as a masterful studio technician, the public may know Emily for her work as an engaging Canadian visual artist!

Currently, Emily has on exhibition four pieces of her work at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, supporting the conversation of, Dwelling: People and Place.

When asked more about her ideas, Emily is generous with her imagery and words:

My work has always been about place. About searching for human traces within the built environment. There is a push-pull relationship between people and the environment that continually fascinates me. We seek to control the places we live by building homes, streets, fences and places of business. Yet as we do this, our built environment also, in turn, changes us. The view we see, the bacteria in our soil, the minerals in our drinking water all impact us. This back-and-forth is continuous and incremental, so we don't always notice it at the time, but as we constantly re-shape -- and are re-shaped by -- our environment, our surroundings and ourselves become indissoluble. Which one is controlling, and which controlled? It's hard to tell sometimes, but as we intersect with our spaces, it seems clear that it must be both. 

Over the past several years I've been making work in houses slated for demolition in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and in abandoned homes across the Canadian prairies. In these houses, I have created interventions -- sculptures made out of the various materials I find within the homes and in the yards, the idiosyncratic details that reveal the lasting traces of the people who used to live there -- which I then photograph, leaving the sculptures to be demolished with the homes. Each intervention is like a funerary rite, a final celebration of the indescribable synthesis between people and the place they occupied. 

The abandoned farmhouses on the prairies, in counterpoint to the houses being demolished in Vancouver, are far from urban centres and have little to no monetary value. As farmland is conglomerated into larger and larger holdings, the farmhouses that were once used by the smaller farms are left to fall back into the prairie they stand on. I travelled to 12 of these houses over the summer and created sculptures using what I found at each location. The work was left in place; again, I only photographed my sculptures, and they will eventually fall down along with the abandoned homes.

If you would like to see Emily's work, please do visit the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art from Wednesday to Saturday, 12 – 5 pm.  Additionally, you can check out her next exhibition this summer at the Richmond Art Gallery or visit her website at


Sep 30
AFK Alumni Profile - Creating a Climate of Change

​On the heals of the Climate Strike, AFK Alumni and Emily Carr student, Maddy Phillips, leads by creating a community with action.  Please read what can be possible for creating significant change and awareness in the reduction of waste.  Bravo Maddy! 

 Please check out the following link:

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Sep 23
Summer 2019 Interns

From May to August 2019 The Smith Foundation and Artists for Kids were lucky enough to have two summer interns working tirelessly to keep things running smoothly during summer programming. We couldn’t have done it without them!


“It’s a wonderful thing to have these graduates of our programs back supporting art education for the latest group of young artists. They come in with the experience of having participated in the very classes that they are supporting and can hit the ground running. We love seeing our alumni in this new role and can’t wait to see where life takes them next.”

Yolande Martinello, Artists For Kids Director


A few words from Julia Woldmo who spends the school year studying Fine Arts — Painting and Textiles at Concordia University.

Working with Tiko Kerr throughout the summer for the Smith gallery outreach programming was an incredible experience! Doing collage workshops with folks from diverse backgrounds throughout the community was a highlight for sure. Also, going up to the Artists for Kids camp never disappoints, my fifth year back as the studio tech was awesome. The takeaway for me and what makes this summer an invaluable experience is the inspiration and community that emanates from creating art alongside others.

Overall, a radiant summer!

A few words from Sophia Boutsakis who spends the school year studying Fine Arts – Painting and Printmaking at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

As a student of Artists for Kids, I learned valuable skills that have helped me achieve successes in my academic and professional careers. This summer, I was able to return to AFK as an intern. This opportunity allowed me to apply the skills that I acquired through their programs, to an administrative role that included teaching assistance with gallery programs and summer camps, studio management and maintenance, and archival work with the permanent collection. The opportunity provided even more learning for me as a university student and an emerging artist. It is a great feeling to be involved in the programs that provided me with such support and encouragement as a young artist!
Apr 08
Cove Cliff Report

Reid_REID002_Xhuwaji_Haida_Grizzly_1990.jpgIt is once again time to apply for the Bill Reid Cultural Grant.

The Directors of the Artists for Kids are pleased to announce one grant award will be available to North Vancouver elementary/secondary public schools in the coming year.

Successful applicants will develop projects which honour traditional indigenous  arts and their significant contributions to Canadian culture with the design and implementation of innovative school-based curricular projects.

This past year, at Cove Cliff Elementary School, the Reid Grant has been used to support a School Wide Weaving Project: Weaving in the Coast Salish Style.

The award provided opportunities to:

  • Bring in Angie Dawson, Squamish weaver to introduce weaving to our staff

  • Bring in Janice and Buddy George, Squamish weavers to work with our Gr. 3/4 students

  • Bring in Kiki Whitebear, Tsleil-waututh weaver to work with our Gr. 6/7students

  • Build 30 student looms

  • work with authentic yarn

IMG_8848.jpgStudents and staff worked with artists to learn the art of Coast Salish weaving, creating their own patterns with the wool fibers.

Coast Salish weaving is one of the great Aboriginal arts of North America. For centuries the Salish people of the Pacific Northwest have spun mountain goat hair and other fibers to produce exquisite blankets, robes, and tunics with colourful designs and emotional symbolism.

According to oral traditions, blankets have been used for ceremonial purposes since the beginning of time. Salish blankets identified the wearer as being a civic and religious leader in the community. Honored individuals would be adorned with a blanket to distinguish them or they would sit or stand upon their blankets so as to raise them in accordance of their honored status. Blankets also represented an individual's wealth and were often given away to members of the community or even other villages to show prosperity. Because of their high value, blankets  were also used as a currency for which other goods could be purchased or bartered.

Women were in charge of making the blankets. Young girls were trained by their grandmothers as early as ten years of age, with more intense training as they got older. Weaving blankets required serious commitment and could take long periods of time to complete. Additionally, they were often associated with spiritual tasks or rituals such as abstinence.

Here is an article from the North Shore News talking more about Cove Cliff's Weaving Project.


Mar 11
Animal Adaptations in Vortex at the Vancouver Aquarium

​Students from Rudy Martinello's 6/7 class at Ross Road Elementary spent time in the Aquarium Vortex exhibition and worked with the Ocean Wise resources to learn about the impact of plastic on our oceans.

Their project, partially funded by World Wildlife Fund, is an exploration of animal adaptations with a peek into what might happen if sea animals could evolve to use the garbage to enhance themselves.

After doing a stream cleanup along their local stream, the students created paper mace creatures and housed them in "specimen" containers created from plastic waster dispensers to remind the viewer that the water we drink is related to our oceans and the garbage that we allow to enter that environment invariably has an impact on us as well as the animals living in the ocean.

Stacked to complement Doug Couplands display of found objects, the tower acts as a monolith and a visual reminder that we must do better.


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Feb 25
Senior Art Enrichment Workshops

In January and February AFK is hosting two Senior Secondary artist led workshops. In these workshops students have the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by leading artists. Each year we offer students amazing opportunities like these to work with stars of the local art community.


Painting with Fiona Ackerman, students explore the subject of the surrealist still life. Working alongside Ackerman students create and capture a still life that is created with object from the art studio. They are then pushed to alter and modify their composition through the exploration of painting techniques, playing with realism and abstraction.

Take a look at Fiona's website.


Photography with Birthe Piontek, students explore the subject of fine art portraiture. For three days the Gordon Smith Gallery is transformed into a photography studio where students learn a variety of lighting techniques and are challenged in their understanding of a portrait. Figures, objects in the place of figures become portraits and then are transformed through collage and assemblage to be re-photographed and returned to a 2-dimensional work. Take a look at Birthe's website.



The students will celebrate their learning at an evening exhibition of their work at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. They will share with friends and family the experience they engaged in with the artist mentors guiding them.

Feb 10
By Todd Clark, Fine Arts Teacher, Queen Mary Community School

​Last March, I attended an arts conference in Seattle where the keynote speaker was artist Nick Cave. Nick Cave started making soundsuits after the 1991 beating of Rodney King. A soundsuit covers the wearer from head to toe and acts as armour against the world's violence and prejudice. When worn, identity is magically erased.  The 'self' becomes free of labels and one can masquerade as a life-force truly free. More information on Nick Cave's soundsuits can be found HERE.

I decided to teach students about soundsuits. I used the concepts of identity, labels, bullying, transformation, and anonymity in my teaching. 

We then made soundsuits of our own!


All of the materials we used for our soundsuits were found or recycled. I taught students how to sew and to make composite strands using glue guns. Three suits were created and they were put on display at the our school. The feedback from students has been wonderful.

"Cool! When are we going to perform in the suits," asked one student.

"Can I wear it?" asked another.

"I feel like a creature," said a student who was wearing the suit.

Overall, the soundsuit project was not only an excellent artistic project that taught the students about various art techniques, but it also offered students deep learning on inclusivity and acceptance.

Feb 06
Professional Learning at the Audain Museum

​The Artists for Kids Gallery teaching team takes their work seriously. On January 21 all ten members of the team spent the day at the Audain Gallery in Whistler to have a tour of the building and to discuss gallery programming with the education staff. Picture2.png

Dr. Curtis Collins, the Audain Art Museum’s Director and Chief Curator led us through the exhibition space providing a wealth of information to the group. We also had the privilege of touring behind the scenes to view the vault and loading areas as well as the administration offices and the second floor galleries that are ready and waiting for future exhibits.
The Audain Art Museum’s collection was very inspiring and we were happy to see many of our own patron artists represented there.

Thanks to a professional development grant from the Edith Lando Foundation, the teachers were able to spend a day at the gallery delving into how other institutions work with their audiences and their collections to engage them in learning about the exhibitions.

“Our team includes elementary and secondary teachers who are for the most part practicing artists themselves,” states Director Yolande Martinello. “This group is dedicated to ensuring that the students that visit our Gordon Smith Gallery get the very best experience possible.”

Approximately 1500 students attend the gallery program each school year with their class. The program runs three days a week from October to April each year. Classes attend a gallery tour in which the Art Teacher leads the students through a thoughtful discussion of the permanent collection exhibit. Each year this teaching exhibit is carefully curated by Artists for Kids to meet a specific learning outcome. The gallery’s team of teachers work together to plan the focus of the learning but each teaches a lesson designed by the individual teacher. These lessons in turn become available to the public once they have been published on our website resource pages. Picture1.png

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 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.