Margit Hideg

Visual Art in Local Language Classes

On May 17, 2017  new Canadians created colourful art pieces for The Wisdom of the Trees arts project during their regular English class at the Beaverbrook Library.

As each participant becomes a part of the installation, they acknowledge their position in our human forest: in their community. Margit asks each artist to visually describe how their roots influenced their choices in life and share these stories with the group.

It was interesting to see how the universal language of visual art helped to communicate various ideas of identity with the participants in each wokshop. Everyone was interested to find out how we define Canadian Identity. I chose to work with the idea of trees and forests which I thought symbolized how this multicultural country accepts and celebrates diversity.” says Margit as she reflects on this workshop.

This was another opportunity to collaborate with a language teacher and create a learning environment in which students are working with a professional visual artist alongside the language teacher.

It was fascinating to see how art making stimulated students’ vocabulary, command of syntax, and use of metaphor.  This experience demonstrated how teachers can use visual art as a powerful tool to help  language learners encounter language in dynamic ways, build vocabulary, and make rich cultural connections. Participants were able to practice strategies for engaging with works of art and collaborate with peers to develop connections. While the emphasis of this workshop will be on teaching foreign languages through the visual arts, this method is also applicable to teaching any other discipline. Many teachers feel that through integration of the arts into their academic lessons students are able to learn more deeply because they use varied ways of thinking and problem solving.

One artist rights “Peace, harmony and diversity” on her tree. Another draws the flags of the countries that she has lived in and another simple writes that she drew her tree beside water because she feels the need to live close to the water. Another draws the roots of her tree in gold and writes that they represent her family members who are so good, they are represented by the colour gold.

Margit adds: “Artmaking in a participatory setting becomes a process of discovering within us our inner child, the sensitivity needed toward fantasy in everyday life. Each creation becomes a cosmogram holding the frequency of love and curiosity needed to maintain our creative energy. This simple change of consciousness carries the potential for us to look around and see how life shines. Once this change is made it was easier for students to open up and translate their artwork into words.”

It was a great experience to bring some extra fun to our local library language lessons! We hope that the participants will continue to use art as a way to relax and organize their thoughts in a visual way.

Margit Hideg, June 2017

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