Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

The Magazine Of Queen's University

Search form

Artist in the Community program

Artist in the Community program

Jo-Anne Lachapelle-Beyak, MEd’06, Ed’08
Director of Programming, Seniors Association Kingston Region (SAKR)

Sitting in her art-laden office at the Kingston Seniors Centre, Jo-Anne Lachapelle-Beyak, MEd’06, Ed’08, lets out a wide smile.

“I’ve had an interesting career,” she says.

Now the director of programming at the SAKR where she oversees the development and implementation of more than 150 different arts, culture and fitness programs, Jo-Anne has taken anything but a straight path to get there. An artist, a trained opera singer and an actress, she’s worked at museums and art galleries across Ontario and in Quebec.

After earning a BA in fine arts/anthropology from Concordia University, Jo-Anne, who has always had a keen interest in museums and exhibitions, pursued a diploma in museum technology from Algonquin College. From there, she moved to north-western Ontario to Atikokan, a town of about 3,000 people buoyed by mining, forestry and the operation of a hydro generating plant.

Working at the Centennial Museum, Jo-Anne learnt that a number of the town’s residents were interested in theatre. Wasting no time, she helped with the establishing of a theatre company to put on plays. “We were a small operation, but we had a lot of interest,” she says. “We did a rendition of Sleeping Beauty where I played the evil witch. I had this long grey hair with purple streaks and a great big bat-like cape. For months afterwards kids would see me on the street and shout, ‘Mommy! It’s the witch!’ It was great.”

Later moving back down south, Jo-Anne spent time at the Art Gallery of Northumberland and Kingston’s Marine Museum before deciding to come to Queen’s for her Master’s degree. Working with an eighth grade class at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, she taught the students to put on a personalized exhibit that combined the curriculum of their geography and history classes. Each student was responsible for detailing their family’s immigration history to Canada and turning an antique suitcase into a display that told their story.

Years of museum programming and curating made the project a natural fit and allowed her to explore the possibilities of unconventional teaching practices. “I wanted to find out if students would learn better by utilizing these more creative processes. It was important to me that though I taught them the concepts of curatorship, they were the ones making final decisions about staging and organizing the exhibit,” she says. “Not long ago I saw one of those students, now studying at university, and he told me it was the best thing he’d ever done in school.”

With degree in hand, Jo-Anne kept herself busy working at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum and the Kingston Arts Council, to name just a few, all while raising her two children. When her Master’s supervisor, Stephen Elliott, Dean of the Faculty of Education, told her about the Artist as Community Educator (ACE) program, it sounded worth pursuing.

Once enrolled, Jo-Anne felt right at home.

It was absolutely the right fit for me and I don’t think I would have succeeded elsewhere. ACE gave me a lot of leeway and a lot of space for creativity. I don’t do well with strict rules and I don’t like to do things the same as everyone else, so I was able to use all my talents and interests.

The perspective ACE provided in joining teaching and art meshed well with Jo-Anne’s educational style. “When teaching people, you need to capture their attention. Everything happens at a fast pace today and if you can’t keep up with it, then you can’t keep the students engaged,” she says. “Getting them involved, varying the activities, utilizing theatre techniques, these are all things a teacher can do to keep their classes interesting. Taking part in ACE impressed upon me the rewards that pushing educational boundaries can have. It’s helped me to do my job better wherever I am.”

***

Dean Armstrong, Artsci’96, Ed’97
Actor and Teacher, Armstrong Acting Studios

Plans for a career in environmental law led Dean Armstrong, to Queen’s but when he left, he was headed to Broadway, television and film.

Always a charismatic and engaging person, Dean, who hails from Owen Sound, wasn’t exposed to the arts. Despite a burgeoning interest in acting that began in late high school, he enrolled at Queen’s hoping to champion the causes of soil quality, water purity and air pollution.

Living in residence in Victoria Hall, Dean was surrounded by people from all walks of life and found himself trending more and more towards those studying drama. “I kept finding myself in theatres, really excited, championing the work of my friends. I came to realize that if I didn’t pursue this passion it would be a huge mistake,” he says.

His talent was evident and Dean quickly moved from writing, to acting, to producing. In the final year of his drama degree, he found himself sitting in the director’s chair for a Queen’s drama production of West Side Story put on at the Grand Theatre.

“Having the opportunity to put on that play was immense for me,” Dean says. “It was through directing that I learnt I could teach, and so when I heard about the Artist as Community Educator (ACE) program, I was definitely interested. Being a part of it fundamentally reinvented the idea of being an artist and a teacher for me. It united the two in a way I hadn’t considered.”

As part of his placement at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in Kingston, Dean aided in the directing of the school musical, My Favorite Year.

Being able to work with students on that level was fantastic for me; it was great to be able to contribute in that way. People often claim that ‘those who can’t do, teach’ and I think that’s a false and harmful belief. It’s totally possible to take part in art while educating as well

After graduation, Dean moved to Toronto and continued his career in theatre, despite the warnings of his peers. “Everyone said it was impossible to start a successful acting career, but I believe any industry can accommodate you if you’re willing to work hard and if you’re talented.”

Landing roles in cities across Canada, Dean was constantly on the move, eventually performing in Rent on Broadway in New York. When he had the time, he taught acting courses and workshops at Toronto schools and soon developed an interested group of people who wanted acting tips and coaching. After a critically-lauded role on the Showtime drama Queer as Folk, Armstrong decided to devote more time to coaching.

The result, Armstrong Acting Studios, has since grown into an enterprise with more than 80 staff (including Jennifer MacLennan, Ed’08, herself a graduate of the ACE program) and has taught 14,000 students. Among Dean’s alumni are Miley Cyrus, Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Devon Bostick (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and many others.

With the opening of a second studio in New York and the upcoming expansion of a web-based acting program, Dean is appreciative of the experience he had at Queen’s.

“It was a total privilege to go to Queen’s — it was the place I wanted to go and I knew it would be best for me. The confidence I have today as an actor and a teacher came from my time there and the amazing faculty I got to work with. Aynne Johnston (associate professor in the drama department, and now ACE program coordinator) in particular was enormously inspirational. Taking part in ACE made me believe I could do both things, act and teach, and that I didn’t have to differentiate,” he says. “Every day I have an amazing chance to do both the things I love.”

***

Ju-Hye Ahn, BFA’07, Ed’08
Gallery administrator, OCAD U

Before teaching in Mongolia and studying at Harvard, Ju-Hye Ahn was in the Artist in Community Education (ACE) program at Queen’s. ACE, which brings together artists who work in disparate media such as poetry, theatre and music, changed the way Ju-Hye regarded the function of art.

“I came to realize that art wasn’t just about making something beautiful to look at,” she says. “To be effective and truly worthwhile it has to be socially engaging and provide a means of looking critically at the world.”

A lifetime creator of visual art, Ju-Hye auditioned and was accepted into an arts-specific program at Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto before coming to Queen’s in 2003 to do her BFA. While specializing in printmaking, she learnt about the ACE program from Stephen Elliott, Dean of Education, himself a graduate of ACE.

“It was fantastic getting to work with other artists, especially in such a non-traditional way. Rather than treating us as students or teachers, the program allowed us to take on both roles,” says Ju-Hye.

After graduation, Ju-Hye taught for two years in Toronto before deciding to teach abroad. Ending up at the American School of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, she remained interested in community work and so volunteered at a local community centre as well. Working with low income students in Mongolia strengthened Ju-Hye’s interest in social justice and returned her to her studies.

Enrolled in a Master’s of Education program at Harvard, Ju-Hye wanted to learn more about how government policy can lead to changes in teaching practice. “Many of my courses focused on the ethical aspects of education and defining what good work in education looks like. Along with being ethical, it is essential that education be engaging to students — something I want to develop.”

With audience engagement in mind, Ju-Hye began an internship at the Sackler Museum at Harvard. Here she worked on projects that made the museum more accessible and sought to bring in more people who wouldn’t typically visit.

“Art galleries and museums usually have a single voice telling you what to think and what’s important but I think they’re most effective as learning spaces when they’re more participatory and that means allowing visitors to pose their own questions,” she says.

When people are able to ask good questions they’re more interested, engaged and the museum is more successful.

Back in Toronto, Ju-Hye has moved to the Ontario College of Art and Design University where she works at the professional gallery. With the program Onsite at OCAD U, she assists the gallery’s curator with community outreach, planning, programming workshops and attracting diverse groups of people.

A perpetual learner, Ju-Hye is heading back to school this September to pursue her PhD in Curriculum Studies at the University of Toronto. “I want to encourage a stronger artist presence in the classroom,” she says. “I think education is too focused on the past, with students learning about master painters and being encouraged to emulate that. It requires a tremendous amount of skill and talent that isn’t available to most students and so they become disenchanted with art. I want young people in school learning that they can create good art that generates discussion about identity, integration and other social issues. They need to learn more about the force that art can have.”