Handsworth Secondary: An Intersection of Visual Art & Music

Arts Education

School: Handsworth Secondary School

Teacher: Teresa Anton, David Bradshaw, Sandy Robertson

Artist Collaborators: Handsworth Secondary: An Intersection of Visual Art & Music

Class: Grade 11/12



Through this collaborative project, the concert band and visual art students shared their emotional responses and co-performed “Symphony #1, In Memoriam – Dresden 1945”.  The audience experienced the musical performance together with visual representation of the music in light projection medium.  Inspired by the Biennale public art installation, Walking Figures, the fine art students used ink, brushes and sponges to express their artistic responses to the music and project these images onto larger than life-size Walking Figures cardboard cutouts.


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale 

Connecting with the Artist: Magdalana Abakanowiz’s work Walking Figures was used as the project inspiration. Magdelana Abakanowisz infuses much of her work with the history of her past. Her work speaks to the struggle to create with minimal resources and space, as well as her history of living through a war. As the students worked to connect the Walking Figures and music piece (“Symphony No.1’In Memorium-Dresden 1945’) with their own works they drew on these connections of war, struggle, loss, community, and hope that spoke through these works to feed the creative process.

Visuals of Abakanowisz’s past and present works and the music of Dresden 1945 were utilized to ground the students’ inquiry for this project.

Art Induces Curiosity: Producing questions leads to dynamic conversations and the act of sharing ideas, opinions, and perspectives. They are the keystones to innovative thinking and further creative development. Students studied the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz, focusing on the theme of collaboration through art. Focusing on the impact the work (Walking Figures) and asking critical questions to develop new perspectives of how the work is perceived. From Abakanowics’s work, the students produced the themes of community, as well as a sense of loss and hope. Merging these ideas together, the students bridged the ideas of community through the spontaneous responses of the artists, and the emotional impact of loss and hope represented through the musicians playing ‘Symphony #1-In Memorium- Dresden 1945’.



By creating a dynamic collaborative environment, the experience induced active participation, and innovative thinking when faced with the challenge of communicating ideas, emotions, and new perspectives through visual language and music. In response to auditory and environmental stimulants the students produced an experience unique to its time and place for both the participating artists and audience.


Guiding Questions

  1.  How does our environment (time & place) influence our art making process?
  2.  How does our creative process change through the process of collaboration?
  3.  Are our perspectives changed and/or problem-solving skills influenced at all?
  4.  How does improvisation change our art making experience?

Cross Curricular Access

Film – students filmed and documented the process and final performance.

Music – the students experienced how to response to the music through visual art medium and collaborated with the fine arr students throughout the project and during final performance.


Learning Process/Inquiry Challenges

Students from several disciplines were involved in the project including the senior film class, senior band, as well as the art classes. And while each class was responsible for specific roles, each group got to experience the different mediums that their peers were exploring.

During the first few days of exploration the students were introduced to the artwork of the Biennale artist Magdalana Abakanowiz and BIG IDEAS artist Amy-Claire Huestis. The students looked at visuals of their past and present work and looked for reoccurring themes and similarities. Small groups of students then worked together to create Ven-diagrams as visual aids to better understand the interconnectedness of the artists and their work.

The students then explored the music of ‘Symphony No. 1 Dresden-1945’ and produced drawings to express their emotions to the music. The students from film, music, and art classes all explored the artistic expression through the ink and paper medium.

The students then learned the progression and story behind the music, further dividing the piece into its thematic segments and created story boards where students could record the types of emotions and their visceral responses to the music. This helped to gain a greater understanding of the music and how they could interact with it.

Finally, the students explored with the mediums chosen for our final project. Students worked on overhead projectors. Using black ink, sponges, and glass to manipulate the ink on the surface of the projector to project moving paintings.

Finally, after some time spent choreographing the movements of the Walking Figures, and rehearsing with our senior band, we held a final performance.

The schools senior artists collaborated with the schools senior musicians, and they worked together simultaneously during a performance of “Symphony #1, In Memoriam – Dresden 1945” to create a connection between their environment, their creative process, and one another to create a spontaneous collaborative performance.

Students chose to cut out silhouettes of  Magdalana Abakanowiz’s Walking Figures on which to project their work. Time was spent exploring these mediums and their possibilities prior to the final performance.

A final performance was held after the students spent time choreographing the movements of the walking figures, and rehearsing with our senior band.

The schools senior artists collaborated with the schools senior musicians, and they worked together simultaneously during a performance of “Symphony #1, In Memoriam – Dresden 1945” to create a connection between their environment, their creative process, and one .another to create a spontaneous collaborative performance


Student Creation

Students chose from a variety of response techniques and materials including but not limited to, using projectors to display their response through spontaneous painting during the live performance.

This unit aimed to produce a collaborative approach to the process of art making (along with other disciplines). The process of creating has historically been linked to  community, environment, time, place, and social interactions. This unity aims to support these communal connections and foster further collaborative efforts within the school and community. Working together and exploring each others mediums gave the students the opportunity to experience this project from every angle. The musicians got to paint, the film students got to work with new mediums, and the artists gained experience in performance and dance. Together they created something completely unique to it’s time, place, and space.



Artist – Amy-Claire Huestis

At Handsworth Secondary, Grade 11 and 12  art, film, and band students are working together on a performance combining light, sound, and movement.   This performance was dreamed into being by Teresa Anton, the school’s art teacher, and David Bradshaw, the band teacher.   They wanted the performance to have many layers and elements — set to Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam Dresden, 1945), by American composer Daniel Bukvich, the performance combines elements of Magdalene Abakanowitz’s Walking Figures as well as the student’s own work with live video and analogue projection and choreographed movement. My role as the artist collaborator has been to work with everyone to bring multiple  elements of live light projection together, to mentor the students on how to break out of their traditional screen space.  The project allowed them to move into a creative and challenging space of play with the very unique and flexible medium of light.