Renee Jackson said, “art is so much more than making something beautiful.”
Jackson joined the Tyler School of Art as a professor of art education this semester. She said she hopes to replicate the work she has done in her hometown by exposing kids in Philadelphia to art.
Jackson worked for Culture for Kids in the Arts, a nonprofit based out of Ontario, Canada dedicated to making arts programming more accessible to children in the city.
“Our belief is that the arts are important to human development,” Jackson said.
The organization was founded by Vitek Wincza and Victoria Long-Wincza in 1999.
Wincza migrated from Poland as a professional dancer and toured across the United States and Canada. He said he fell in love with Hamilton, a city in Ontario, Canada, and decided to stay. He said he was amazed, however, that art was not as available to kids in Canada as it was in Poland.
“It’s all about the children’s voice,” Wincza said. “We want them to be imaginative and use their imaginations as a guide. It’s really all about the experience.”
In order to strengthen the organization’s mission, CKA created a program called Artasia. According to CKA’s website, Artasia is a “multi-faceted city-wide visual arts project” for which CKA partners with education and community organizations to bring arts programming to sites across the city, like summer camps or the YMCA.
Artasia reaches nearly 500 kids every summer through about 18 different sites in the Hamilton area.
“We want to take the kids art seriously, not in a strict sort of way, but in way that we display the art as professional art would be displayed,” Wincza said.
Jackson worked closely with Wincza and Long-Wincza to teach individuals how to help kids interact with art for Artasia.
“My vision would be to replicate this apprentice-mentor model in other communities,” Jackson said. “It’s not impossible that I could begin to grow something in Philly.”
“We work very closely with community organizations, and the model that we practice should be shared,” Long-Wincza said.
Jackson has a doctorate in education and a master’s in art education from Concordia University.
During her time at Concordia, she was involved with the university’s Technoculture, Arts and Games Research Center — an “interdisciplinary collaboration in digital game studies and design,” according to its website.
Jackson’s dissertation also focused on creating video games.
She said her vision would be to apply her research about video games to the youth in Philadelphia under a possible Artasia program and the first step would be to work in collaboration with the local schools with the possibility of developing a video game lab to create games in social change for kids.
“It’s important to observe the context of these schools and to be important to that context,” she said. “Art is part of who we are and our hope is that every kid can experience that.”
Patrick Bilow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.