Wow! 10 days went by so fast! We have already concluded the Exchange Youth Program which connected young Vancouver artists with two local art institutions, Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECUAD) and the CAG. Exchange has been the perfect opportunity to reflect on co-authorship and participatory arts practice in art and design with one-on-one mentorship from professional practitioners, engaged in a cultural discourse around the idea of home and identity (Keg de Souza and Walter Scott). It also has allowed for lots of food for thought around alternative pedagogy and methodology, creation processes and experiential knowledge accumulation.
With only a 10 day time frame, Exchange was a packed program that included visits to the Museum of Anthropology and a guided tour by members of the Native Youth Program, artists talks, a food justice picnic, studio time at Emily Carr, creation, exhibition of works and reception.
As the learning assistant at the CAG, and researcher of alternative methods of pedagogy and experiential learning, Exchange personally offered me the opportunity to deeply consider some of the ways in which these types of creative and experiential practices unfold in real time – out of the theory books and into the real world. Given the short time period that the participants were given to come up with a concept and execute it, I was totally impressed! Not only that, but each group also had to develop instructions to inform the other group of how their projects came to be, and in turn, receive a new set of instructions and start anew, creating something totally different.
Exchange prompted me to think, what really is learning? What is instruction? What is exchange? These are words we toss around a lot, but I can’t help but think they all have a deeper meaning. I’ve often been inspired by bell hooks’ take on learning, and I thought about her book Teaching to Transgress several times over the course of Exchange: “To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin” (hooks 1994: 13).
To exchange is to give and receive (especially that of the same type of value). An engaged pedagogy is more demanding than traditional styles of learning, but I think ultimately more rewarding for everyone involved and more invested in true meaning of exchange.