| Dec 10, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - December 10, 2009 Celebrating the arts at Harrowsmith PSBy Julie Druker

Grade 8 students Julianne DeBruyn, Kristopher Burke and Dustin Stufko with their Canadian mammal paintings

Principal Jim Horan at Harrowsmith Public School is a self-confessed lover and consumer of the arts and regularly attends local theatre productions, concerts and other arts events.

He has brought that love to HPS because he strongly believes that by promoting Canadian arts and by exposing young people to them, his students will benefit and grow as individuals.

Horan explained, “We want students to have a lifelong interest and commitment to the arts, one that can be developed and sustained throughout their lives. I also believe that the arts offer an opportunity to students to enhance their personal lives.”

To facilitate this exposure to the Canadians arts and artists, Horan introduced the “Hats off to the Arts program” which is now in its second year at HPS.

The program promotes and profiles Canadian arts by inviting theatre and musical groups, as well as art teachers into the school, and exposing students to their works, thereby giving the students an opportunity to create their own.


The cost of the program is provided three ways: school fundraising events throughout the year, support from the HPS Parent Council, and support from individual donors in the community.

Last week the program included a performance of the Canadian play “All for Beaver Hats” by the Limestone Teachers Theatre Company, a rollicking, slapstick play written by David S. Craig, which covers the history of the fur trade in Canada from the early 1600s until the mid-1800s. The play was presented to students in grades 6 through 8. The unique theatrical experience engaged the students and exposed them to an important part of our Canadian heritage.

Other performances planned throughout the year at HPS include a concert by Kingston musicians Brassworks, and productions by the Purple Dragon Puppet Troupe of Kingston, and The Thousand Islands Playhouse.

Hands-on art workshops are another element of the Hats Off program whereby students create works of art commonly with specific Canadian themes, which are usually included as part of their curriculum. Retired art teacher Wolfgang Piribauer of Kingston presented six half-day art workshops at the school this year to various age groups.

Grade 8 students in Mrs. Bly’s class were exposed to an art process called "segmentation" and created paintings of Canadian mammals in their winter habitats. Wolfgang explained the process to me over the phone. "Students take a design, in this case an animal, and break it up into different areas and using five complementary colours paint it. The students learn about layout, composition, positive and negative space, and how to create colour schemes, tones and blends."

The student works are striking and when the students showed them to me, their pride was apparent.

Wolfgang’s other workshops this year included projects such as northwest coast native and Inuit art, Canadian winter birds, and Canadian landscape painting in the style of the Group of Seven.

He is currently planning a workshop on the work of Canadian artist Ted Harrison, which he plans to present to students later this year.

While many schools are seeing a decline in art programs due to a change of focus in curriculum and the tightening of school budgets, it’s encouraging to see that efforts are being made to expose and engage students in Canadian art and art history. Thanks to the passion and efforts of Jim Horan and a very supportive school community, “Hats off to the Arts” is ensuring the health and wealth of the Canadian arts at HPS.

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