Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Chris Jackson

Daniel Richer

Alvaro De Manaya

Marc Walter

LiterARTcy was a full day of teacher workshops for teachers from both the Ottawa Public and the Ottawa Catholic School Board, held on Tuesday November 18th. There were approximately 80 teachers attending and the four artists participating were: Chris Jackson, Marc Walter, Daniel Richer and Alvaro De Minaya, representing music, visual arts and literary arts.  

    Each artist offered a morning and afternoon workshop of 2 hours each, and there was a maximum of 20 teachers in each group. The focus was to highlight the connection between Literacy and the Arts. It was held at the beautiful site of Strathmere House in North Gower.  


Colores Andinos

Diane Bouchard

Alan Shain

Mehdi Hamdad

Ian Tamblyn

Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa  Nov. 5th

MASC, celebrating 20 years of artistic excellence for schools and communities, was very proud to stage its new fundraiser, MASCparade, a festive evening featuring performances by MASC artists and an art draw facilitated by members of the energetic theatre group Company of Fools.  Hosted by town crier and storyteller Daniel Richer, MASCparade was full of magical moments, good food and entertainment. 

Mercredi 5 nov. Bibliotèque et Archives Canada, 395 rue Wellington, Ottawa

Soulignant ses 20 années d'excellence artistique dans les écoles et la communauté, MASC fût très fière de présenter une soirée mettant en vedette les artistes de MASC ainsi qu'un tirage d'œuvres d'art. Le tirage fût dirigé par le dynamique Scott Florence de la troupe théâtrale Company of Fools et la soirée présidée par le conteur et crieur public Daniel Richer.

Participating Artists / en vedette :

Daniel Richer ; Company of Fools; Diane Bouchard; Maureen Shea; Yvon Soglo; Alan Shain; Denise Chong; Ian Tamblyn; Mehdi Hamdad; Colores Andinos

Students enjoy a week full of drama, courstesy of Jacqui Russell

The students at Clifford Bowey Public School received a unique experience this past week when Chicago theatre artist, Jacqui Russell, taught drama classes from Nov. 10 until Nov. 13.

Each day she had four drama classes where all of the school’s 104 students attended. Clifford Bowey students all have developmental disabilities and many of them are non-verbal or have very limited communications skills.

For the last 12 years Ms. Russell has been working with autistic children in Chicago at the Agassiz Elementary School in Chicago and her work with those children is world-renowned.

“We jumped at the chance even though we weren’t sure what a drama workshop would look like for our students,” said Helen Jarvis, principal at Clifford Bowey. “It has been a wonderful week with lots of participation and enjoyment and imitation and lots of laughter.”

During the 40-minute class Ms. Russell, who is also the founder and artistic director of the Chicago Children’s Theatre, uses song, repetition and team work to build on communication skills.

“I’m an artist in residency, so I’m just here to use drama to enhance communication skills in the children with autism,” said Ms. Russell. “I think drama is very important for children with autism. I’ve been doing this for 12 years in Chicago and I’ve seen great results with enhancing the kids ability to express and read emotions as well as their general sociability.”

Currently drama classes are not a very common practice in schools to aid autistic students, but Ms. Russell hopes that will change over the coming years.

Over the course of the week, both Ms. Russell and Ms. Jarvis noticed that children who didn’t participate during day one became involved later on because the concept was becoming more familiar to them and less intimidating.

“I enjoy working with children with disabilities; I think it’s a puzzle and we are working to unlock them and figure out and it’s very rewarding and very fun to be with these kids,” said Ms. Russell. “I’m just really happy to of have this opportunity to share with them.”

This is the first workshop Ms. Russell has held outside of the Chicago school. This program was funded by the United States Embassy and put on through Chicago Arts Partners in Education (CAPE), an American organization that places teaching artists in schools in connection with its Canadian equivalent, Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities (MASC).

“I jumped at the chance to come to Ottawa,” she said. “I used to work for the Ontario government Ministry of Culture in New York and I travelled to Toronto a number of times but I had never been to Ottawa. I love the people here, the dedication to the arts is really very special here.”

MASC selected Clifford Bowey as the school to receive these classes as a way to provide an experience the students may otherwise not benefit from.

“It would be very difficult for our students to go to a theatre or concert because they would be moving or making spontaneous noises that would distract others so most of our students would never have a change to go to the NAC or a movie theatre unless we take them and have a special showing,” said Ms. Jarvis. “We really feel like we would like to enrich those experiences at school. MASC has come to see what our school is all about and they are attuned to the need of our students.”

Drama is a new venue at Clifford Bowey and Ms. Jarvis was pleased with how well Ms. Russell worked and communicated with non-verbal children.

“We have done many things with physical activity, we do lots of field trips, the children swim they have a lot of gym activities but we have done little in the field of drama and so I think it’s a whole new avenue for us to explore what our children are able to show us through the dramatic arts,” Ms. Jarvis said.

Ms. Russell was in Ottawa for a week and along with doing the classes at Clifford Bowey she also put on workshops for teachers and artists.

“I’m taking some of the techniques I use in Chicago and sharing them,” said Mr. Russell.

“The long-term goal is to teach [students] a huge vocabulary of emotions. We’ve been doing it over the years in Chicago using photographs, bulletin boards, games and ultimately our kids can identify emotions and that allows them to have more complex communication.”

Chicago theatre artist, Jacqui Russell, assists a Clifford Bowey Public School student during a drama workshop. Ms. Russell spent a week at the school to conduct workshops for the students.

EMC Ottawa South - Friday, November 21, 2008   By Sheena Bolton  sbolton@thenewsemc.ca