Wednesday, 10 December 2014 16:06

Esplanade’s education programs get some extra ignition power

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Joanne Marion, director/curator for the Esplanade Art Gallery was sitting in one of the comfortable chairs near the information desk the morning of Nov. 27. She had a big smile on her face.


It would be easy to say it was because of the Igniting Minds! event that was to be held later that evening which was a celebration of Cenovus’ commitment to the Esplanade’s education program.
It was also probably because she was watching a group of students gathering after just finishing a tour of the facility. The students’ energy and excitement represents part of the reason why Igniting Minds! is so important.
The Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre gets a lot of attention for the concerts and live performances of drama or comedy that it hosts. However, its educational capabilities are appreciated as the 160 school tours who have gone through in the last year just got a boost Nov. 27.
Esplanade workers officially launched Igniting Minds! Nov. 27 with Cenovus Energy contributing $25,000 for this year and also $25,000 in each of the next two years to the Esplanade’s Education Programs.
Marion was thrilled. She says money will be targeted towards the School Art show in the art gallery and support the awards that goes towards.
“We get involvement from all of the schools in the area — K-12,” explains Marion of participation from Grasslands, Prairie Rose as well as the public and separate school divisions based in Medicine Hat.
In addition, schools from southwest Saskatchewan such as Maple Creek and Shaunavon have also visited the facility.
She says for that particular show there were 700-800 pieces entered so the commitment to hand out 50 awards and recognize the teachers there is important.
Marion says the school art program has been going on in Medicine Hat for 35 years including since the Esplanade opened in 2005. Money like this helps.
The Esplanade has also made it easier for teachers to do tours. They have a new electronic way for teachers to check out what’s going on at the facility.
At www.esplanade.ca click on the neon green link on the far right near the top marked “Education.”
There is a place to book school visits as well as a list of current programs. It’s been in operation for a couple of months and already has made a huge difference in booking numbers. Marion has seen a noticeable increase in the amount of bookings. While generally a lot of tours are “clustered” in October and November, there is a jump with bookings for future ones.
“School programs are created here and content-wise teachers can get advanced notice,” says Marion.
She adds the knowledge the staff have and what they continue to learn also helps whether it’s in the museum, art gallery or the archives, the staff are constantly learning new things.
In general, the public has embraced the Esplanade because the goal is to try and make it available for everyone. The education programs have helped because children are encouraging their parents or at least telling them about the wonderful and informational time they have had.
“(It’s) not high. The fees are quite low, the admission fee is low, (so there are) no barriers whatsoever,” says Marion. “People can come back take half an hour in their lunch or the theatre or go into the galleries ... it makes for repeat visitors.
“(With students) parents get to know the Esplanade.”
She says the southeast corner has supported the education program.A lot of the exhibits now are interactive and Marion says the Esplanade can handle many of the travelling exhibits that come through. The building itself is constantly trying to adapt its capabilities for whatever new exhibitions arrive.
“You have to decide what exhibitions are coming and then divide up the space and have enough time and space to not only set up, but to show,” explains Marion. Organizers have to have a finger on the pulse of what people want. The idea with the education program is be able to offer program, exhibitions and a variety of grade levels and provide activities and make sure they are all able to attend.
“We also look at our content and school’s curriculums and the objects we will pour a lot of resources into it. (We) provide those activities and changing exhibitions.”

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Ryan Dahlman

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