The winters are tough in Saskatchewan. DeLee Grant has a number of ways to cope with that — including visits to the local grade school.
Lead Image: DeLee Grant and students at Balgonie Elementary School in Saskatchewan
Grant, who lives in Balgonie, teaches art in nearby Regina, and she also makes a point to travel to warmer climes (such as Cuba) during the winter, a season that in Saskatchewan means “extreme cold and blizzards,” according to the artist. Grant also enjoys photography and travel, and she gets speaking engagements in wintertime on these topics and on art. She also visits plant conservatories and similar spots for the chance to paint from life indoors. But interestingly, Grant finds that winter is also a great time to grab some likeminded friends and go to elementary school. She joins up with four other painters and works during class hours on location, planting the seeds of art education in the kids.
“Some schools don’t even have art in their curriculum,” explains Grant. “It’s the first thing to go when staff is short or funding is scarce. But kids are very interested. Some will even critique our work, which is kind of cute. One time I was painting and it wasn’t going very well. This girl said, ‘I think you should put a deer there.’ I handed her the brush and she was thrilled to put it in herself.”
The school is likewise thrilled to have the artists come and donate their time. The administration set aside space in the school library so the artists could set up. The teachers brought students by to see the painters work, and the kids also saw them painting during their library time and during breaks. “It’s like a demo with a rotating audience,” says Grant. “I really enjoyed answering their questions. It is really fun to have kids come around and talk to us about our work.”
The students were exposed to four different artistic approaches. The other artists included a floral painter, a watercolorist who paints portraits, and an oil painter with a predilection for tight realism. Grant and her cohorts started painting at the school in winter about four years ago, when one of them had children attending Balgonie Elementary. For a while, there was a very active art teacher who further enhanced their involvement, at one point designing decorative tiles that are now a permanent part of the facilities.
Grant says she sometimes sees an immediate effect from their visits. “It opens up their eyes to the possibilities of doing something like that,” she says. “ They are enthusiastic. I really enjoy that interaction. Some will tell me they are interested in trying painting, but mostly that seems to depend on the environment at home. But the children tell me that they tell their parents they want some paints.
“That age group — kindergarten through 8th Grade — is a good age group to try these things with, to involve in art.”