May 20, 2020 | Arts & Culture
Since the beginning of the Fall 2019 term, the AGAD 203/223 project management students in MacEwan University’s Arts and Cultural Management program had been working hard to bring to life “Learning All Ways,” an initiative to promote the Terra Centre’s Child and Family Support Centre, educate the community about the importance of early learning, and engage the centre’s children and their parents.
The students came up with the idea of coordinating an artist-in-residence program at the Terra Centre in which the chosen artists would document what the centre does in its early learning programming. At the end of the residency, the students would host an exhibit of the artists’ work and invite community members and families to attend. With guidance from Assistant Professor Annetta Latham and sessional instructor John Mahon as the principal project managers, the students split into four teams (concept development, fund development, marketing and special events) to manage the project.
However, two weeks before the residency wrapped up, COVID-19 restrictions shut down events throughout the city — including the students’ exhibit plans.
But these creative minds and future leaders didn’t let that discourage them from providing a final product to the Terra Centre. The project management course is about putting theory into practice, so it made sense that the students now had to problem solve a real-world problem.
They scrapped the plans for their marketing and special event teams and worked with their artists to come up with a solution. Photographer Emily Welz created a series of photographs and writer Dr. Norma Dunning wrote a series of poems specific to the project, which production designer Ben Franchuk (originally hired to design the exhibit for the final event) pulled together to create the Learning ALL Ways Interactive Board Book. The Terra Centre staff could then use the book to promote their program and educate people about the importance of early learning.
“The book is intended to engage an audience through an interactive process that reveals the story as the book is perused,” explains Carol Sullivan, director, Early Childhood Services, Terra Centre for Teen Parents. “This project is a unique opportunity to tell a Terra story using a different lens and to a potentially wider audience. Now we are tasked with thinking through how to exhibit the final work in the new virtual world.”
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An early look at the Learning All Ways board book. Photo by Ben Franchuk.
“Thankfully, Dr. Dunning and Emily have been amazing, and Ben was fully capable of switching gears to create this book,” says Tania Gigliotti, second-year student and one of the marketing team members along with Courtney Dewar and Julia Keinanen.
Though Terra Centre staff wish that a final exhibition would have been brought to life, Carol and her team appreciate the students’ efforts and the artists’ work.
“I know I learned through the process and hope they did too,” says Carol. “I particularly appreciated the knowledge, resources and curiosity students were able to bring to the project and the power in numbers. There were 13 students dedicated to the project, and we would like to thank them for all their hard work.”
Community engagement is a key part of the course. “This is a practice-based course, so it literally grounds everything we do back into the community,” says Annetta. “This is fantastic for the students because it means their learning belongs in the community, not just in the hallowed halls of Allard Hall.”
It also gave the students a better understanding of what it means to work in the field of arts and cultural management, and the importance of following through with their commitment to a community-based organization.
“We feel like, as a team, we came together to meet this challenge in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and have met the needs of the Terra Centre,” says Tania. “And, I can tell you, the work the artists created in residency is incredible! The photographs and poems tell such an evocative story, one that is meant to be put into a book so that it can have long-term impact.”
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