Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Communities, Arts and Schools

We met today with two of the Province’s Regional Arts Council’s. Despite the provinces small size, there are several regional arts council’s in addition to the PEICA. While I found this a little odd upon my arrival here, I have come to understand their great value in a province that is very regional in its psyche.

Take, for example, the Le Comité culturel de la Région Évangéline, based out of Abrams Village. Within that community, they are clearly a driving force. Not only do they conduct a small granting program through a provincial allocation, they also support a great deal of community activity with workshops, showcases, and other events. Through these activities, the community retains its identity and important interpersonal bonds. Our trip there also served to illustrate what may be a cultural difference in the inclusion of the cultural community into the school system. Indeed, there is a great deal of integration and the school acts somewhat as a community or cultural centre.

Not so in the English school system where the schools, while not closed to extracurricular activities, do not seem to be as integrated as in the previous example (there are, of course, any number of examples to refute this claim but there is a noticable difference). Other, non school activities become an “add-on” more than a “part-of”. I believe that’s an important distinction. As we have identified that “Arts in Education” is a likely priority coming out of the public consultations it seems that a first step might be looking at increasing the level of integration modeling the relationship after that in the French school board and most notable at l'École Évangéline and the Carrefour de l'Isle-Saint-Jean which regularly hosts cultural events in both English and French.

It should also be noted that it is the French school board (La Commission scolaire de langue française de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard) that plays the role of organizational host to the provinces ArtsSmarts/GenieArts program. All in all, there is much room to grow in the realm of arts integration and education and in community integration and participation, and the French school board looks like its already providing some excellent examples.