Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute’s Art Council, led by President Hateem Fatima, is a group of MGCI students who gather weekly to enjoy the process of creating art, as well as raise awareness for change needed in the community. Regardless of their skill level, these art lovers meet to appreciate art with one another for fun. The club aims to provide a friendly and open environment where people can enjoy themselves, learn, and forge meaningful connections.

The council meets virtually every Monday at 3:30 pm through Google Meet meetings. Composed of staff advisors Ms. Masemann and Ms. Satary, and a cohort of around twenty members, Art Council presents a welcoming environment where students can come together, make lasting friendships, and de-stress by creating art.

“To me, Art Council has always been a place students can gather away from our hectic school lives and just enjoy ourselves,” said Hateem. “It isn’t a stressful club, and no one is expected to be the world’s best artist. You can just come, talk with Garneau students, and keep your mind busy with art. When school drains the energy out of you, Art Council is like a safe haven where you can actually relax, and I think that’s the charm of the entire club.”

Having adapted effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club has pivoted from contact activities such as painting large-scale murals and handing out cards to the community,  to smaller-scale projects. “We continued with the Art Council’s tradition of creating holiday cards for staff at Garneau,” Hateem Fatima said. “Every card was in fact made and coloured by the Art Council, and we made a lot of fun memories while working on them!” During the winter break, they also held a daily drawing challenge, where Art Council members were free to let out their creativity and draw according to a prompt. The first prompt was “something I love,” so the council members created art based on their pets, friends, and more. It was a small and enjoyable ongoing activity, where members expressed themselves through their artwork. Another activity they initiated was a small project where members created personalized wooden boxes. In the first week of March, students received their boxes, paints, and paintbrushes to start. They have been customizing them as a group. 

“While working on our wooden boxes, we had a fun and easy-going time making them. It was an activity that wasn’t meant to be rushed or stressed about,” said executive member Qodsia Hamid. “Although it was all online, we still had the opportunity to talk, laugh, and share stories while making these boxes. It was an awesome experience, and an activity I would definitely recommend.”

In addition, the council has introduced and explored various initiatives. These include sending out virtual cards to the community, as well as the Cards for Caring project they recently commenced.

The Cards for Caring project, guided by club member Zahra Ahmed, focuses on helping seniors under the care of SPRINT Senior Care, a local residence home in Thorncliffe Park. The goal is to help support seniors, especially amidst the pandemic. The initiative began with a Google Form being sent out to the activationists in the home inquiring about their clients. The activationists are the frontline workers who interact with seniors on a daily basis: they create interactive activities to keep seniors engaged and active, work on socialization exercises, and offer music therapy. Currently, Art Council is in the process of reaching out to enthusiastic student members who are interested in customizing cards. Once responses from the activationists are received, students will be provided personalized information about selected clients that would be helpful to include on a card, to deepen the connection between students and seniors.

“Being able to lead the Cards For Caring initiative is so heartwarming. SPRINT Senior Care has always been a close connection,” said Zahra Ahmed, the leader of the project. “All the seniors have so many stories to share about their careers and life experience. This initiative is a nice way for students to engage a bit more with our community.”

The challenging times brought forth by the pandemic saw only more innovation from Art Council; the potential issues with this project had long been foreseen and resolved. Given the current situation, Art Council was uncertain of when schools would reopen. Therefore, to ensure seniors would receive the cards, the club proposed that once finished, they would deliver images of the cards created by students to the activationists through email. Subsequently, if schools reopen, the physical cards can be delivered to the seniors so that they have something tangible to cherish. Moreover, to ensure the safety of the seniors, upon receival, the cards would be quarantined for two weeks to eliminate the potential of the virus spreading in their homes. The Council is hopeful about the impact of this initiative, and what it could become once the virus dies down. “I hope this initiative can be done on a larger scale once schools reopen,” said Zahra Ahmed.

Overall, Art Council’s persistent efforts have proven to become quite successful, allowing them to come together, enjoy art, and create change for the betterment of the community. Together, they’re painting a better tomorrow for our world.