In Upper Level Visual Arts

One of my most significant accomplishments over the last four years has been the yearly iterations of the class “Artists in Society,” a robust, community-engaged experiential learning course that I developed. The course partners students with local artists, cultural and art institutions, and artistic programming events.  Students apply the content and theory they learn in our weekly classroom seminar discussions to their experiential learning projects. Drawing on the centuries-old VISA learning method of apprenticeship, but adapting it to combine partnership and class-based learning—bridging theory and praxis—I have developed a space for students to analyze, re-examine, or even discover their values in relation to critical texts, activities, discussion, and, of course, a project-based learning partnership.

Over the years, I’ve created community-based experiential learning opportunities for 109 students, who have completed 61 projects in the community with 36 diverse and influential partners. The following is a brief summary of the developments of the course’s evolution over the last 4 years.

Please feel free to visit the course blog
Please note: some students have taken down items for privacy

  • Pilot Year 1: VISA 481 “Advanced Seminar II” (Spring 2015)
    In its first year, the engaged learning component was activated alongside theoretic curriculum in a fourth-year class that is required for BFA students. The class enrolment was 30 students, and they were partnered in pairs with 15 different art institutions, performing an array of work: research for a publication, art education, installation, archival and information ordering, public relations, commercial gallery research, creating content for an art magazine, and fundraising development. However, the partnerships consisted of only 15 contact hours. Wanting to see a deeper connect, I decided to apply for an isolated course focused on experiential learning partnerships. I ran a formal assessment of the course, which I drew on for my next iteration in its development. After this course, I also decided to create a booklet for community partners, which I update annually to promote partner recruitment.
  • Year 2: VISA 481 “Advanced Seminar I” (Fall 2015)
    The second run of the class consisted of 35 students in a required fourth-year seminar. This time, I allowed students to choose between engaging with a community partner or completing a reflective assignment after visiting an off-campus cultural centre. Only one student opted, leaving 34 students partnerships with 16 different centres. Again, I ran a formal assessment, which inform my planned Year 3 iteration. I also ran a second assessment of the first year, for a longitudinal study, please see assessment.
  • Year 3: Isolated Experiential Learning Course VISA 375 “Artists in Society” (Fall 2016)
    I created and ran a new course focused on engaged learning pedagogies. This year, I paired 21 students with 13 different community organizations and projects. I expanded the number of contact hours students would have with their community partner, and dedicated the curriculum to the type of learning taking place, focusing on the specific projects in which my students engaged.
  • Year 4: Customized Partnerships VISA 375 “Artists in Society” (Fall 2017)
    This year, I set up and organized new strategies of partnership recruitment: I surveyed my students the summer before the course began, and tailored the partnerships to their learning needs and goals. When students identified wanting to develop particular skills or experiences, I sought to align their wishes with specific artists and institutions. In so doing, I was able to choose activities that were appropriate for the community partners and for my students.

Since the first iteration of this course four years ago, I’ve created community-based experiential learning opportunities for 109 students, who have completed 61 projects with 36 different partners:

Institutions & Events

  • 221A Gallery
  • Access Gallery
  • Anvil Centre
  • Art/Seen
  • Artspeak
  • black&yellow
  • Burrard Arts Foundation
  • Capture Festival
  • Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Equinox Gallery
  • Gallery 295
  • Gam Gallery
  • Grunt Gallery
  • Malaspina Gallery
  • New Media Gallery
  • Or Gallery
  • Other Sights for Artists Projects
  • Polygon Gallery
  • Presentation House Gallery
  • Project Space
  • Publication Studio
  • Richmond Art Gallery
  • Satellite Gallery
  • Unit/Pitt
  • Vancouver Art and Book Fair
  • Vancouver Mural Festival
  • VIVO Media Arts
  • Western Front Society
  • Wil Aballe Art Projects


  • Brendan Tang
  • Helen Reed & Hannah Jickling
  • Howie Tsui
  • Instant Coffee
  • James Nizam
  • Kelly Lycan
  • Natalie Purschwitz
  • Scott Massey

A selection of the variety of projects my students have completed can be seen in the following examples:

  • Installing professional art works, including physical computing components (New Media Gallery)
  • Developing and facilitating art education programming from children to adults (Contemporary Art Gallery; Burrard Art Foundation)
  • Working with digital, video, publication, material, and artists’ archives (VIVO Media Arts; Or Gallery)
  • Writing, conducting and transcribing interviews, and editing articles for online publication (Gallery 295; black&yellow; VIVO Media Arts)
  • Creating docent materials, research binders, and other material for exhibitions (Polygon Gallery)
  • Writing, designing, binding, and creating of publications (Unit/Pitt; Publication Studio; Capture)
  • Coordinating events, such as openings, programming, or fundraising initiatives (Access Gallery)
  • Performing research for grant applications and winning public funding (Burrard Arts Foundation)
  • Developing a gallery archive, including providing online access to archival materials (Gam Gallery)
  • Aiding in curatorial, shipping, press release writing, research, social media publicity, and the like, for shows and fairs (Wil Aballe Art Projects, Malaspina Gallery)
  • Coordinating conferences, including arranging guest speakers and working on-site (Vancouver Art Book Fair; Other Sights for Artists Projects)
  • Producing gallery programming acknowledging the community, for reasons of social justice (Grunt Gallery Blue Cabin) or providing access to underserved populations (Richmond Art Gallery)
  • Assisting artists to:
    • deliver workshops in schools (Helen Reed & Hannah Jickling)
    • photographic shoots and development (Scott Massey)
    • create textile sculptures and event-based works (Natalie Purschwitz)
    • create of sculptural works (Brendan Tang)
    • make digital animations and experiment with VR (Howie Tsui)