Interactive art installation engaging for student creators and audiences alike

Community, Schools & Students

Nine grade 12 students from career programs around the district have been working for several months with two professional, local artists to create a large scale interactive art installation at MakerLabs in East Vancouver. Their completed project, entitled Uplift, was part of the East Side Culture Crawl, a renowned annual four-day visual arts, design and crafts festival.

 Uplift was made up of hundreds of notes held aloft by helium filled balloons in a cavernous white room. On the notes participants named what lifts them up. “I wrote a few, one of them was I like watching videos on YouTube,” says Eugenia from Magee Secondary. “I said ‘I love music so deeply,’” recounts Sally, a student from Prince of Wales Secondary.

 The completed installation was designed to be an immersive, dynamic experience that allowed passersby to contribute, discover and be playful. “We wanted to use clear balloons because they are sort of like thought bubbles released up into the air,” says artist and architect Hanna Benihoud, one of the project leads.

 “We were able to take a look at everyone’s different values towards life and what uplifts you and that’s a pretty cool thing,” adds Sally.

 Uplift was the brainchild of Benihoud and fellow artist Tiffany Blaise. The two applied for and won an Art Starts grant which supports emerging artists who specifically engage young people. They then reached out to the Vancouver School Board and Derek McQuillen from the VSB’s Career Programs and Learning Services department came on board. McQuillen coordinates work experience for students with diverse abilities.

 “With Uplift we had students with special needs working alongside typical students to foster a sense of inclusion and community and relationships to break down stigmatization,” says McQuillen. “This was a great way to create that kind of inclusive environment. We are always looking for ways for them to be mentored.”

 McQuillen sent out information to careers teachers across the district. Interested students came to an information session in October and were interviewed, as they would be for an actual job. The students were then placed in different roles. “Some worked on story telling, some worked on installation, some are going to be continuing on with the documentation part and then there are those who were team leads,” explains McQuillen.

 “We created a schedule with Derek and did some workshops to teach the students about the process of design and installation and a little bit about art and architecture in general, “ elaborates artist Blaise. “We did some prototyping as well, how to test your designs. Then we did the building. Next we trained them on how to docent, which is introducing the artwork. The students were here throughout the Crawl.”

 “It really has been an amazing process for the students to conceptualize an idea and then bring it to life,” enthuses McQuillen.

Uplift: Work Experience