When fabric artist Bonny Macnab was in high school, she struggled academically. She couldn’t understand why school was so difficult, and she began to doubt her intellect. As an adult, she read a book about the characteristics of right-brain dominant people, many of whom are artists. Suddenly, everything made sense. “We need mathematicians to make sure the bridge is sturdy, but we also need someone to make sure those bridges are beautiful. We need to have people who challenge literal thinking, we need a balance. That’s what right-brained people do,” she says.

In addition to her artistic practice, Macnab works as an artist in schools, where many students relate to her experiences. “I want to teach these kids how important the arts are. I want to enforce that they are equally as important as other subjects. It’s important to create, to be curious.”

Macnab’s latest project was a brief residency at Turtleford Transition School funded by an Artists in Schools Micro-Development grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. The school gives students who have struggled in the regular system an opportunity to graduate at their own pace. Macnab began by teaching them about the colour wheel and colour mixing through the creation of self-portraits. She then introduced the idea of clothing as a canvas and invited students to bring in personal items to paint.

“One of the girls really liked puzzles. She got a black pair of boots and started painting puzzle pieces on them. Another girl was really connected with her grandma, who does beadwork. Her pattern, which she put on a purse, turned out quite similar to beadwork. They all used what they learned about colour and transferred it to their projects,” Macnab says. “I am always blown away by the talent. It’s just so exciting to see the creativity come out of people.”

Vice-Principal Mladen Loncar says the project was very valuable for students, enhancing their self-esteem and promoting new opportunities for self-expression. “Bonny is very good at talking to students about her own experiences and what art has helped her achieve in her own life. Her accomplishments can inspire students to take that route as well.”

Turtleford Transition School has received several Artists in Schools grants from the Arts Board over the years, for larger projects lasting weeks. Loncar found that applying for the Micro-Development grant program was simple and straightforward. “It took less time than the Artists in Schools application, and the projects are usually smaller, too, so it was easier for us to do.”

Photos courtesy of Bonny Macnab