'You don't have to be from a big city to experience the arts'

ALISON JENKINS Telegraph-Journal
September 30, 2018
ROTHESAY • Rain fell on the private school campus, leaves dripped onto empty pathways. Inside, the students were slapping each other.
Stage combat class was underway in the theatre. It looked alarming to anyone watching but the instructor, Jean-Michel Cliché, emphasized safety and theatricality. He had the students making contact with each other's hands.
Cliché's workshop was one of 37 choices students had during the second annual Festival of the Arts at Rothesay Netherwood School Friday and Saturday.
Instructors and students from around the province descended on the school's picturesque campus for two days of fun and learning.
"It's a way for kids to relax and enjoy themselves and learn from different instructors – experts in all their fields," said Chrissy Chetly, art department head at the school.
The idea came from drama-fest.
"We decided it would be great to have an event in New Brunswick that is more broadly aimed at all of the arts," said Dayna Ellis. She's a teacher at the school and works on all the musicals.
"Very few kids are aimed at one art," she said. "So a kid that was interested in more than one thing would be able to pick and choose and make their own menu from the workshops that are offered, so they could kind of hit on all their interests."
Around 80 students from six schools were in the mix on the weekend and Ellis hopes to continue to grow the event's diversity with students from all over New Brunswick.
They've brought in artists from around the province to lead the workshops and Ellis is keen to share the experience with all students.
"It's like a tasting menu of the arts," said Ellis. "Some kids come and they're a dancer and they're signing up for all dance workshops, but a lot of other kids are trying things for the first time at this workshop that they've never done before."
Ellis was sporting a bandage on her arm from a workshop with tattoo artist Jesse-Lynn Jenkins who talked about tattoo design and demonstrated on Ellis.
"For a lot of those kids, that was a totally new experience and a different way to look at art that they never necessarily would have thought of," said Ellis.
"You don't have to be from a big city to experience the arts, or to continue on with it after school."
The art room in the loft of a school building hosted a large group of students. They were seated in a circle of desks, their heads bent over traditional wampum bracelets – an aboriginal craft indigenous to the east coast of Canada, explained Trudy Gallagher from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design.
"We're always into art," said Rohma Khanes. She was sitting with her twin sister, Mawadda. They are usually home-schooled in Rothesay.
"We like trying new things," said Mawadda.
Art is important for students, said Ellis. The program has grown each year.
"It's a way for them to explore themselves and express their creativity in a way that seems a little less regimented," she said.
"It's therapeutic for a lot of our kids," said Chetley. "You can kind of let go and enjoy yourself in a different way and a lot of people use that as a way to decompress from classes."