Even though January is technically the start of a new year, September always feels like the true beginning. There’s a freshness in the air and a feeling of forward momentum, with the summer’s languid humidity making way for an invigorating autumnal spirit and aura of possibility. You might feel this when you see back-to-school ads in the August newspaper, when you crack open the crisp blank pages of a new notebook at work in September, or when you push yourself or your children to try new things and projects. In the spirit of exciting new beginnings, we’re happy to welcome two intelligent and passionate artist-educators to our Visual Arts Department. Both Melissa Star Charles (a.k.a Charlie) and Alyssa Robinson bring new ideas and creative experiences to the classroom. We spoke to both of them about their teaching philosophies, how to foster a child’s love of art-making, and the ecology of Hamilton’s arts community.
Charlie: I attended weekly summer art camps as a child (and later became an instructor) at Glenhyrst Art Galleries in Brantford, and had a significant art teacher in public school when I was in grade six. He introduced my class to the Group of Seven- we share the same hometown as group member Lawren Harris. I remember feeling like I made works of art that year that seemed advanced in comparison to what I had previously accomplished. Ironically, by the time I got to grade eight I was making stick figure comics. At that time it was a good way for me to express my oncoming teen angst with humour and creativity. I continued making comics all through high school but also deepened my art making skills. I took art every year throughout my education, but often felt restricted in the ways I could express myself. Fortunately, I was friends with a group of creatives and we all kept our own art journals. We’d draw together and pass our books around. I found ways to stir up my imagination outside of my class and it inspired me to explore art education once I graduated. After attending free workshops and their portfolio day, I was enthused to apply to the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U). This was an excellent fit for me because it was an art & design specific school and it opened a vast world for me to explore and experiment within. I still reference a lot of the works I created during my education and look back on the experience as very formative. I was even awarded the opportunity to study abroad my final year in Florence, Italy with a group of 23 other students which instilled strong ethics in sharing space and working collaboratively, and Hamilton’s arts ecology.
As young artists in the Hamilton community, how would you characterize our city’s visual arts scene?
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