Art lovers took in the show at Wagalus School last month.

Art lovers took in the show at Wagalus School last month.

Wagalus classroom transformed into art gallery

A black-draped art gallery temporarily took the place of an everyday classroom at Wagalus School of the Kwakiutl Band in Fort Rupert.

Paige Aoki

Special to the Gazette

A black-draped art gallery temporarily took the place of an everyday classroom at Wagalus School of the Kwakiutl Band in Fort Rupert.

The public was invited to a student art display at the school, hosted by teachers Jacqueline Hunt and Karen Aoki.

More than 70 people attended the Feb. 28 event, including students, parents, and members of the community.

The general reaction to the transformation of the school and the artwork on display was positive.

“It was beyond our expectations,” said hosting teacher Karen Aoki.

The classroom-become-art-gallery was packed, the refreshments disappeared almost as soon art-goers came in the door.

“I love it. I wasn’t sure what to expect… I’m blown away,” said one attendee.

The display was centered on student artwork taught to the school’s Kindergarten to Grade 7 students by First Nations Canadian artist, George Littlechild.

A Plains Cree born in Alberta, Littlechild is known for his work in mixed media using imaginative images and bright, bold colours.

Also on display at the show was student artwork in the style of three masters; Van Gogh — post-impressionism; Wassily Kandinsky — modern abstract— and George Seurat, known for pointillism.

Before the show, students participated in a three-day workshop with Littlechild — thanks to Artist in Education funding and money from First Nations Schools Association: Parent and Community Engagement — when they created self-portraits that focused on respect, confidence, and optimistic self-description.

Each student traced an outline of their body onto a large sheet of paper and set the outline against colourful, imaginative backgrounds of places or activities, such as “Swimming with Mermaids” and “Center of the Earth.”

The children also took part in activities where groups of students made positive comments about each other, which they then incorporated into their self-portraits by describing words pasted into the outlines of their bodies.

Littlechild was at the school three years ago, and Wagalus hopes to have him visit again, to provide future students the same opportunity.