Public art project celebrates sport through eyes of local youth

In honour of the Canada Summer Games, which get underway in Niagara this weekend, local youth are celebrating sport through art and sharing their work with the community.

Students in Grade 4 to 12 from six schools across the region have created artwork related to sport as part of a research project led by Peter Vietgen, Associate Professor in Brock University’s Faculty of Education.

The project, “PARTicipation Niagara 2022: A Celebration of Sports and Art through the Eyes of Niagara’s Young Artists,” was funded under the 2020-21 round of Brock’s VPR Canada Games Grant program and will see the art showcased at venues throughout Niagara this summer.

Vietgen worked with eight Brock teacher candidates to run visual arts workshops with an ‘Art and Sports’ theme in local elementary and secondary schools, helping students to learn about the determination and passion that drives athletes competing in the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

A painted jersey with orange arms and a white body that reads '2022 Courage to Soar.'

Students from the Courage to Soar Program collaborated to create a ‘Team Courage to Soar’ lacrosse jersey commemorating their class identity and celebrating the sport, which was invented by the Haudenosaunee people.

“As they were working on their artwork, students were able to see how the creative process and participating in sports share common elements — both require a high level of concentration and both revolve around skill development that can be nurtured and advanced,” said Vietgen.

With the help of his team and their teachers, about 150 students from across Niagara worked in different media to create works exploring topics related sports and nationalism.

A high school visual arts class at Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Grimsby, for example, created storyboards and tableau sculptures expressing their interpretation of teamwork, while students at St. Mary Catholic Elementary School in Welland collaborated on a pictorial representation of a turtle shell, in honour of the Summer Games’ mascot, Shelly. Students from the Niagara Catholic District School Board’s Soaring Eagles Alternative Secondary Program created art inspired by the stories of Indigenous athletes.

Students also participated from A.N. Myer Secondary School and Simcoe Street Public School in Niagara Falls, Connaught Public School and Eden High School in St. Catharines, and the Courage to Soar Program, which is offered by Fort Erie Secondary School and the District School Board of Niagara at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre.

The student artwork is now on display at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery, Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, Welland Public Library-City Hall Complex, St. Catharines Public Library’s Central Library Branch, Niagara Regional Native Centre and Niagara Falls Public Library.

The exhibitions will run until the end of August. Details on each showcase are available on the project’s website.

Vietgen’s project was inspired by his experience as an arts educator and his research in art education and community practice.

“I’ve seen first-hand that public art projects can help schools connect with their communities while giving young people opportunities to express their ideas in different ways,” he said.

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