Windermere Gr 8-10

Arts Education, Language Arts, Social Studies


Windermere Secondary, Vancouver



Shannon Leddy



Shannon Leddy

Donna Sheh



Athena Arts Program Grade 8-10 students


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition

Vancouver Biennale Legacy: A-Maze-ing Laughter (Yue Minjin, China) Students discussed censorship and personal voice within place, space and identity.

Vancouver Biennale Legacy: Engagement (Dennis Oppenheim, USA) Students reflected on how relationships connect to place, space and identity.

The curatorial theme of the 2014-2016 Exhibition is Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver. This project relates to the Exhibition Theme in many ways:

  • Opens borders as students welcome the community through a celebration of the diversity of their school
  • Breaks downs the borders of different school groups as they learn about the different cultures in their school through cultural mapping
  • Creates a crossroads of understanding through a celebration of the cultural of East Vancouver in a public art exhibit

Other Sources of Inspiration

  • Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016 Artist, Ai Wei Wei, a contemporary of Yue Minjin, China
  • Edward Burtinsky’s exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, A Terrible Beauty
  • The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography by Katharine Harmon
  • Movie Wasteland, Vik Muniz (Vancouver Biennale 2014- 2016 Artist) and Lucy Walker
  • Experimental Cartography: The Map as Art – article by Maria Popova at


Students from the Athena Arts program created art works, maps and mandalas exploring how a sense of place is significant to their identity and to celebrate the diversity of their school. Creating cultural maps of their school, students reflected on how cultural spaces change and are changed by those who inhabit them. Taking a field trip to various Biennale installations along English Bay, students investigated the Guiding Questions as they applied to the art and their own community, looking at both the artwork and the travel it took to get there. With the help from their artist, students created artworks that represented the diversity of their school, the culture of East Vancouver and their own role within the community. Mandalas of their personal identity made from bicycle wheels where placed on the fence around their school, welcoming the community and an exhibit of their final works was held at the Collingwood House.



Values shape social, cultural and personal identities. Values shape places and spaces.


Guiding Questions

How does art foster an awareness of place, space and identity? What values are represented and define the culture of our school? How are place, space and identity transformed over time?


Curriculum Access

Arts Education: Students learnt about how culture, identity and a sense of place can be expressed through different art forms. Students learnt skills in photography, illustration, installation and sculptural art.

Language Arts: Students expressed their understandings of the guiding questions through narrative pieces and poetry. Books were read in English class to further their inquiry into identity, place and space.

Social Studies: Students learnt about the relationship between human and physical landscapes through a visit to Edward Burtinsky’s exhibit at the VAG as well as through readings from First Nation’s authors. As students learnt about First Nations storytelling, they discussed colonization and immigration patterns in Canada.


Learning Process

Inspired by the book The Map as Art and workshops presented by their artist, students took photos of their school that represented distinct cultures or values. They then created a cultural map of the school using the photos, mapping different cultural spaces, popular hangouts of students and compared them to old photos found of their school in the 1980s. Students went a field trip to English Bay and the VAG to visit various Biennale installations and discuss how they engage with place, space and identity. Students then wrote narratives and poems to express how place and space within the school and community “draw you in” and what they “send you away with”. Reading books by Thomas King and Ernie Larocque, students learnt about First Nations storytelling to deepen their understanding of the connection between identity and place as well as how physical landscapes are transformed over time.


Aided by their artist, students created art pieces in groups to represent the cultures of their school, their individual identities and the East Vancouver community. Examples include an old television filled with cultural objects from several generations and traditions from family and neighbours; a video inspired by Kimsooja exploring human interaction; and large black and white photographs of symbolic body art paired with poetry about individual insecurities. Another work used the idea of clothing to highlight the origins of different students. The clothing was styled to look like the current trends worn in the school and created from maps of different countries of origin. Created on mannequins, the paper pieces were then modeled and photographed in various sites such as a motorcycle repair garage in the neighbourhood.


Furthering their inquiry, students were inspired by Vik Muniz’s use of recycled material and created mandalas of their own personal identity, using material significant to them on bicycle wheels. These wheels were attached to the school fence as symbols of the diversity of the school, a coming together of cultures and as a welcome symbol to their community. The final artworks were presented to their peers and community at the Collingwood House as part of Collingwood Days, a neighborhood wide cultural celebration. They were also set up and celebrated in a school wide exhibit later on in the year.


Student Creation

  • Cultural maps of the school
  • Bicycle mandalas
  • Group art projects on personal and community identity and diversity
  • Written narratives and poems defining place, space and identity

Taking Action

Students attached their mandalas to the fence around the school as an installation to both reflect the diverse culture of their school and to welcome the community around them. Their group projects on identity and place were shared with the school and community in an exhibit at the Collingwood House as part of the Collingwood Days celebration. Students gained experience in curating and installing works in an art exhibit.


Time Line


• Introduction to the Vancouver Biennale

• Inspiration from Map as Art for cultural identity/place maps within the school

• Workshops on photography

• Creation of cultural maps using present day and past photos of the students and cultural spaces


• Workshops on art methods and history with teacher and artist

• Viewings of Wasteland

• Identity group art projects begun


• Field trip to the VAG and Biennale artworks

• Mandala project with bike wheels

• Continuation of identity artworks


• Completion of mandalas and identity artworks

• Mandalas attached to fence and final exhibit of art works at Collingwood House


Public exhibition of the art works at their school



Artist: Donna Sheh

The success of this exhibit was dependent on the depth, commitment, talent, time, and vision that the students gave to being artists. Everyone contributed and was included in the process. They worked together and individually to think through their challenges and communicate complex ideas on relevant themes. Congratulations!