Bridging ~ Monika Kinner-Whalen

One way I bridge my art with the community is by offering to be ‘Guest Artist’ in school classrooms.  There, I introduce the notion of stitch as an art form, and fabric as a medium.  I bridge longstanding craft skills with contemporary fine art.  The joy and wonder that comes out when children create with such an unconventional and tactile medium is absolutely a delight for me to witness.

I begin by showing photographs of prairie landscapes that are near and dear to my heart.  I have the children recall and contemplate their own experiences of travel and road trips.  I have them tell me all the colours they have ever seen on the land, in the sky, and of the water.  I remind them about how those colours change with day and night, and throughout the seasons.  Suddenly everyone seems to have a story to tell and the room is buzzing with energy.

That’s when I bring out my ‘art supplies: piles of fabrics and yarn. Children of all ages and abilities dive in and deeply enjoy the act of visual story telling with vibrant colours, patterns and textures.  Because it’s an unexpected medium, there is no preconceived notion of right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure.  It’s incredibly fulfilling to witness the sense of accomplishment and pride in the students as they create and then tell me the stories behind their pieces.  I feel honoured to introduce young people to my world of textile art.  Who knows where it will lead?

In February, I will be one of several local artists running a workshop for the Children’s Discovery Museum on the Saskatchewan.  To learn more about this ‘Storyscapes’ series, head to the CDM website.


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