Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Code Switching youth collective told stories with their art an an exhibit last week.
The show, titled Story Sense, had its opening reception on Thursday, June 16, and more viewings in the gallery’s Art Lab on Friday and Saturday, June 17-18. The showcased work explored storytelling through different languages of art, such as paint, perfumery, printmaking and animation.
The youth collective consists of children and teens split into junior and senior classes, respectively, who meet twice a month from September to June to participate in conversations about contemporary art and experiment with various media.
Yvonne Vander Kooi, art education coordinator for the gallery and instructor of the senior class, said that the program allows the gallery to bring in professional and regional artists to facilitate various workshops.
“Code is really about exposing youth to the different languages of the art form: the visual, photographic, the video, sculptural – all of these different approaches,” she said. “The artists that we have come in really work in contemporary ways, so they often embrace a pretty multi-disciplinary practice.”
Diyan Achjadi, whose show Carried Through the Water is being exhibited until June 26 at the gallery, has held two workshops with the youths working in watercolour and animation.
Olfactory artist Megan Hepburn held several sessions for the teens, working specifically in perfumery. From her workshops, Vander Kooi said the students “really stepped out of their comfort zones” to understand the world of smell.
“All sorts of smells remind us often of things – or we make associations when we smell something. And so we explored that through writing and through painting. We explored what came up for us in our imagination or in our memories,” said Vander Kooi.
For a writing exercise, the students reviewed and responded to a specific scent. In a similar exercise, they created abstract interpretive paintings of what colours and shapes a certain scent might have to inform the painting process. One student created a painting in response to the smell of cooking rice, and another responded to the theoretical smell of a rock.
“And they could respond to whatever scent they wanted to. It could be the smell of dog’s breath, or something more light and pretty like florals,” said Vander Kooi.
Aside from exercises, she said they also learned about the technical side of perfumery, such as identifying top notes, bass notes and heart notes.
Hepburn’s olfactory work will also be a part of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s upcoming exhibit Fielding Road, which opens July 16.
The current Code Switching youth program concluded following the art show, but will start up again in September.