Creating Artists in the Cradle of Confederation
One of the coolest things about Charlottetown PEI is the punch it packs, arts & culture-wise, for its size. It only has 35,000 people, give or take a few. But as a provincial capital, it’s a rich hub of music and theatre and art and learning at a level few small cities can match.
And in the literal midst of it all, on one of the key corners of historic downtown Charlottetown, is the Confederation Centre.
Built in 1964 to commemorate the meeting of the Fathers of Confederation next door at Province House, Confed Centre is a high modernist concrete ode to public space and Canadian culture. Outside, its unique architectural imprint dominates the downtown landscape and encourages on-foot discovery, as its concrete grounds host a multitude of creative and inviting spaces for humans. Inside, it houses the largest mainstage theatre in Canada east of Montreal, the city library, a chic restaurant, a variety of studios and a two-story art gallery.
Underneath it all, though, in the “art bunker” more formally known as The Schurman Family Studio, is the space that perhaps matters the most, in terms of fostering Charlottetown’s arts & culture identity.
That’s where the art camps take place.
Artisanal skills and spirit are the heart of any arts & culture community, and the Confed Centre’s art camps give children the opportunity to build those skills and spirit, hands-on, in the midst of Confed Centre’s thriving summer scene.
Run by art educator Gail Hodder, the summertime camps are a week long. The kids try different media, sketch Province House, do amazing chalk art on the concrete expanses outside, check out the art gallery AND spend lunch hours in the ampitheatre enjoying free musical theatre by Confederation Centre’s Young Company. It’s like a cultural bonus tacked onto the arts curriculum: by the end of the week, my kid knew all the words to Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy!
At the close of each weekly camp, the young artists proudly host an art show.
They showcase their comic strip creations, replete with real genuine Confederation Centre gallery namecards for mama to frame.
They showcase their tie-dyes.
They showcase their sculptures.
They showcase their collaborative enterprise: a tiny town, replete with foliage, built out of their own individual imaginative buildings. Oscar’s was a hotel-hospital, he told me.
It was totally steampunk.
All the parents ooh and aah and take lots of pictures…
And then we emerge from the art bunker, all loaded down with papier mache, to where the children’s hand-made fans blow in the wind with Province House as a backdrop.
What more could you want to foster artists of tomorrow?