The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is offering a more creative way to enjoy and engage with their current temporary exhibit, Migrating Landscapes.
You may remember our coverage of the new exhibit in the pages of the Halifax Herald a few weeks ago, which features architecturally-themed sculptures peppered amidst a miniature city of lumber, inspired by their designers' personal experiences of immigration.
Now, the museum is offering a whole new way to explore these sculptures, through a series of drawing workshops called Drawing at the Pier.
“The drawing workshops were inspired by the architectural theme of the exhibit,” says Philippa Gunn, adult public programs co-ordinator at Pier 21. “Creativity's always linked to identity, so we thought the actual exhibit space itself lent itself well to developing basic drawing skills.”
There are four workshops in all, and each workshop focuses on a different aspect of art techniques – light and shadow, surrealism, and line work, all using and taking place in the exhibit space for inspiration. The final session will focus on creating a collaborative mural.
The workshops are presided over by Chris Woods, a fine arts instructor at NSCAD University. “I sent out an email to various people, saying 'I'm looking for someone who can adapt the themes of this exhibit,'” says Gunn. “Chris was the first person — he responded, and he was kind of perfect for it. He's really done a fantastic job of looking at architecture and applying it to basic drawing skills.”
Woods is volunteering his time and expertise toward the workshops, in order to bring the arts to a wider range of people.
“I love the idea of just anyone being able to work on drawing, and bringing drawing to the larger public,” says Woods. “Art is often put on a pedestal, and I feel that what's great is when people who really haven't much experience can come, and people really got into it in a wholehearted way.”
To that end, the museum is offering Drawing at the Pier free of charge, and provides the drawing materials for every session. Participants are welcome regardless of artistic experience – in the first session alone, art teachers sketched alongside those who have never drawn before, and everyone in between.
“I used to love drawing,” says MaryJoy McLaughlin. “I haven't done it for so long — what an opportunity.”
“I went to the University of Toronto and Sheridan — it's a joint program — for art and art history, and for a few years after that, a practicing artist,” says Nicole Schlosser. “During introductions, a few people mentioned that they had somehow been connected to the arts, but no longer are, and they wanted to use this as a way to get back into the arts. I think that's really great.”
The positive response from the public has exceeded the expectations of the organizers — as of press time, every session is full, except for the last one on Oct. 17.
“We were pretty overwhelmed by the response to these drawing workshops,” says Gunn. “We didn't realize there was such a desire amongst the public to be able to partake in creative learning and creative expression, but in an informal way.”
“I'm just grateful that these things are available,” says McLaughlin. “I'm a senior-type person on a low income, and it's really nice to come in and do creative things with others, for free.”
The Migrating Landscapes comes to an end on Nov. 11, but chances are good that budding artists will have more opportunities to come and draw at the Pier in the future.
“We could have offered twice as many classes, so we're going to look into that in the future,” says Gunn. “Fine arts is something that can be adapted to any theme — I think we'll continue to offer those kinds of opportunities, no matter what exhibit we're showing.