Penticton Secondary art students take on Cirque

When Shauna Reid was offered a project with her art students around Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, she jumped at the idea.

Mikayla Petersen

Mikayla Petersen

When Shauna Reid was offered the opportunity to do a project with her art students around Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, she jumped at the idea.

“I thought wow, the circus, all those bendy people and the acrobats and the costumes; award-winning costumes, colours and textures,” said Reid, who teaches studio arts at Penticton Secondary.

Her Grade 11 and 12 students, she said, were as excited as she was. She pitched it to them as the subject for their watercolour block. From there, Reid said, the idea just took off.

“I didn’t really have to say much to inspire them. When we look at video and still shots of these characters and their costumes, that is inspiration enough because they are so whimsical, so fantastical,”  said Reid.  “Would we have ever have been able to think of that and dress someone like that or do the makeup like that?”

Grade 12 student Mikayla Petersen said the Varekai project at first seemed like it might be hard, until she settled on doing an interpretation of one of the masks in the show. Working up the black and white watercolour of the mask in layers of gray seems to have changed her mind.

“I love watercolours,” she said. “This is one of my favourite projects we have done this year.”

Petersen’s work and the other resulting paintings, which took the students about two weeks to complete, will be on display at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre starting May 3. The exhibition will move to the South Okangan Events Centre on May 13, to coincide with the Varekai performances.

Reid said the students are excited about having their work in an exhibition, but adds that they are anxious as well.

“Having a piece of your heart out in the public eye is a bit nerve wracking. But they are really excited about it,” said Reid.

Putting together a show like this extended the learning potential beyond just learning watercolour techniques.

“They really learned a lot about marketing and what it takes to put on a big show,” said Reid. “All the things that go into having your work out in the public — framing and preparation — they have learned a lot about those things.”