by Sarah Ferguson

This article was published in SaskCulture's Engage magazine (Volume 6, Issue 2, Spring 2016).

An arts education is important for all children in Saskatchewan.  Yet, training is not always available in remote areas of the province.  Thankfully, LIVE Arts – a distance arts education program geared towards students from Grades 1 to 9 – provides students with access to a wide range of Saskatchewan artists and learning opportunities.   

LIVE (Live Interactive Video Education) Arts is a fee-free program that connects classrooms with professional art makers, explains Laura St. Pierre, artist and manager of the program. “We invite all kinds of Saskatchewan artists-- musicians, actors, songwriters, dancers, and visual artists-- to be guest artists.  Our programs are varied, from grass dance, to song-writing, to printmaking and more.”

Principal Sarah Phipps of Ecole St. Margaret in Moose Jaw, who participated in the program for the first time this year, says that, “Bringing in a ‘real-life’ artist to participate in workshops is always exciting for the students.  The fact that the program is offered in French is even better for us.”

Using a portable studio-in-a-box, LIVE Arts programs broadcast from host school classrooms across the province. “This way, we have students on-site, participating in the broadcast,” she says. “We also train older students--in Grades 7 and 8, or from a nearby high school--to be our crew.”

Carmen Clothier, a teacher at Stewart Valley School, located just north of Swift Current, shares that when her students were brought on as crew during a broadcast, “It was a memorable highlight for them.  They got the opportunity to show their knowledge through art.”

Each LIVE Arts program has two parts. St. Pierre explains, “First, students and teachers tune in to a live broadcast and learn about the artist. Then they do follow-up activities related to the program.”  She also notes that ‘Teacher Guides’ are created for each program and made available on the LIVE Arts website at http://www.liveartsaskatchewan.com.

Lynda Oliver, arts education consultant,  Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, explains how originally, LIVE Arts began broadcasting in the 2005-2006 school year with programming delivered by Artist-in-Residence Heather Cline at St. Peter School in Regina.  “Today, the program continues to respond to the needs of teachers and the Saskatchewan arts curriculum,” she says.

Clothier says her students have benefitted from LIVE Arts. “Thanks to the program, my students have written plays and raps, and have learned to jig,” she says. 

According to St. Pierre, 425 teachers from 160 schools across the province have been involved in LIVE Arts this year, and that number continues to rise. She also states that LIVE Arts programs have attracted over 25,000 student views online. 

“It’s a number we are very proud of,” she says.  “My hope is that students become curious about the arts, and participate in them. LIVE Arts introduces students to the idea that you can succeed as an artist in Saskatchewan.  You don't have to move to Toronto or New York or Paris…you can have a rewarding career right here.”

LIVE Arts Saskatchewan is supported through the collaboration of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the Government of Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Education, and SaskCulture with funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.