Ambitious Slocan art project nears completion

Nearly 60 students involved in multi-stage W.E. Graham celebration of area’s past, present and future.

Every student at W.E. Graham Community School in Slocan participated in a multi-stage community art project celebrating their past

Every student at W.E. Graham Community School in Slocan participated in a multi-stage community art project celebrating their past

While the Springer Creek Forest Products sawmill was being demolished after nearly 50 years in Slocan, signalling a historic shift in the community, W.E. Graham primary teacher Halii Raines was busy brainstorming ways her students could commemorate its influence on the community.

“The mill was coming down and the town was in this transition stage. I was listening to old stories and trying to find the best way for the students to celebrate their past, present and future,” said Raines, who was awarded a grant to pursue a multi-stage, year-long project called Village Visions that involves all 58 of the school’s students.

And now that it’s nearly complete, she can’t wait to share her students’ work.

“It’s bigger and better than what I imagined,” Raines told the Star after presenting to the Kootenay Lake school board at a recent meeting. “The kids have really come together to make something special.”

Before they began, Raines said students were encouraged to think about “the Sinixt nation and native lands in the area. The school was invited to a Sinixt pithouse where they engaged in storytelling, music and a walk about.”

That prepared them for the first stage of Visions, in which students designed their own clay tiles to commemorate the community’s past with the held of local potter Willo Treschow. Those will all be combined into a colourful mosaic that will be displayed at their front entrance.

The second stage was a metal osprey sculpture celebrating the present. Raines is particularly pleased with how it turned out.

“The metal sculpting artist, Darren Ireland, helped the students assemble these pieces to create a beautiful 6-feet high osprey that will be displayed in the Slocan community garden,” she said.

The garden is adjacent to school grounds.

“They created images and stencils depicting present day in Slocan. They then spray-painted these on to their metal feather. We’ve designed each side of every single feather.”

The third aspect of the project consisted of students depicting the imagined future of Slocan on banners with the assistance of BC painter Tina Lindegaard.

Raines said the students were less interested in science-fiction predictions and more concerned about retaining the nature-loving spirit of their town.

“They all wanted nature, mountains, the lake. There’s people skiing, people swimming, biking. Basically, the future looks the same as what we have now.”

These banners will replace the ones currently hanging on the lamp standards of Harold and Slocan Street.

Superintendent Jeff Jones said he was thrilled to learn about the project.

“I was in awe of the art these students were showing, and the description of the project. I think it’s wonderful that it included all of the students from K-10,” he said.

“One of the things that’s important is it embraces the district’s vision of creativity, imagination, citizenship and resiliency. We’re welcoming students to the learning process in ways we don’t traditionally see.”

Jones said he would like to see more community-oriented projects like this in School District 8.

“These students are deeply engaged in a long-term project with multiple forms of representation of what they learned. And they’re connecting with the larger community.”

He loves that their art will be on proud display.

“The banners they painted are going to be hanging on light standards and poles in the Village of Slocan. The fact that they could use old saw blades from the mill is just amazing.”

As part of the funding agreement, the projects will be displayed in Vancouver. Jones is proud that the Slocan students’ work will be viewed by so many people.

“As a district we’ve said ‘go ahead, work in this way. This is the kind of learning environment we want students of today to participate in.”