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Learning really can be beautiful

Educational program combines arts and literacy

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Dec 12/01) - Arts and literacy come together in an innovative program in Rankin Inlet.

The Traditional Arts and Literacy program is being delivered at the Matchbox Gallery through funding from Kivalliq Partners in Development.

Paul Sanertanut is one of 11 participants in a unique course being offered in Rankin Inlet which combines arts and literacy. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The program is being taught by the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Sue Shirley.

Jim says the program is one of the most innovative and potentially important in the gallery's history.

He says it's one of the first attempts in the North to combine skill development in the arts with academic upgrading.

"While you're learning arts, you're more open to other academic subjects because you're working creatively with all your channels open," says Jim.

"When you're doing artistic work, you have to be alert and conscious of what you're doing in handling information, manipulating ideas and working from abstractions in your mind to actual tangible realities," he says.

"This program allows us to put that theory into practice."

There are 11 students, ranging in age from 21 to 42, taking part in the program, which runs at the gallery from Monday to Friday.

The program helps students achieve a variety of goals, including developing the ability to earn a livelihood as a professional artist.

The students will showcase their work at a gallery sale this Saturday, Dec. 15, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Participants also get help upgrading their numeracy and literacy skills so they can pass GED (Grade 12 equivalency) and pre-trades apprenticeship exams.

Jim says he wants to let people in the region know this program is a way to work towards gainful employment.

He says it can be particularly helpful in the educational system, where the battle to keep Kivalliq kids in school still rages.

"Our educational system tends to smother the very abilities our students need to develop to become literate citizens who can participate in a modern society," says Jim.

"All aboriginal people have strong artistic capabilities. This should be part of their whole learning process and that's what the premise of this program is."