Head’s Blog: Healing Art

By LCC Student Sara Graveline '18

Cliff City in Italy, by Sara Graveline ’18

One of my favourite things to do when I have free time is visit museums or art galleries. When I travel, I visit them pretty much everywhere I go, and there’s often a crowd. So why are so many people drawn to art?

I’ve always been impressed by the creativity of gifted artists and the unique perspectives these talented people are able to represent through their work with different mediums – drawing, painting, sculpture and others.

Great artists are actually able to create a wow effect, which forces you to stop, think, and wonder how the artist developed such a different idea or perspective. In addition, artists find special ways to make a statement on social issues or controversial topics.

The fact that art frequently challenges us is very healthy. Think of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, as an example of art that challenges, provokes and engages. It was considered very controversial when it was installed in the early 1980s. Its creator was Maya Lin, a 21-year-old art student at Yale University, and her design was chosen in a national competition that included 1,400 entries. To symbolize the impact of war, she chose to literally cut into the earth. She created a long black granite wall and a journey for the viewer from one end of the wall to the other – an intimate place to see the engraved names of the 58,000 soldiers who lost their lives. Some traditionalists wanted a more “heroic sculpture,” and some initially referred to the wall as an insulting “scar in the earth.” Yet, nearly 40 years later, the abstraction and striking symbolism of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Wall has actually made it one of Washington’s most visited and memorable sites.

Art not only challenges, it also inspires, by evoking a sense of extraordinary beauty. A good example of this would be Monet’s famous Water Lilies or many of the other striking works by the renowned French Impressionist painters.

Here at LCC, I am particularly impressed with the talent of so many emerging artists. Our gifted art teachers consistently bring out the best in our students. I love looking at the art on our walls in the Junior School and up on the third floor of the Assaly Arts Centre. In fact, sometimes I’m left speechless by what our students produce. That has also been the case in recent years when senior art students have held a special vernissage and exhibition in a professional art gallery in downtown Montreal.

I don’t just appreciate art, it also makes me feel better. So I wasn’t surprised to read recently that viewing art is actually good for you. Studies show that slowing down and viewing art is good for both our physical and mental health. It increases two chemicals in our bodies – cortisol and serotonin – hormones that also have a positive effect on us when we exercise. Viewing art can be effective in elevating those hormone levels and diminishing several diseases.

A new pilot project has just begun at the Musée des Beaux Arts here in Montreal, where doctors are prescribing museum visits to help diminish a wide variety of health challenges. These are the first legitimate medical prescriptions of museum visits.

So if and when you’re feeling a little anxious or stressed, sweating it out is not the only way to calm down. Viewing art is also effective personal therapy and helps you to relax and feel more balanced. I hope to see you soon at a local gallery! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster




Where Art and the Environment Intersect

2015_16_JS_Butterfly_Garden_011With pollinators like bees and butterflies in dangerous decline and our reliance on them for almost 90 per cent of the world’s plants, a crisis is brewing and LCC students responded with fervor. Last spring, students from grades 3 to 11 literally rolled up their sleeves and got down in the dirt, creating a garden on the LCC grounds to bring back the butterflies.

The result was not only a garden with a variety of plants to attract pollinators. It was also a beautiful display of milkweed and towering sunflowers that were sure to draw the attention of the artist’s eye. And they did.

Sylvia Tracy’s grade 3 art class had already studied Van Gogh, so a newly planted garden with blooming sunflowers just steps away was serendipitous. “It was a great opportunity to observe the sunflowers and see how they look from up close,” says Ms. Tracy.

The students first did observation drawing, emphasizing the shapes that they saw in the leaves. They were asked to draw what they saw and not rely on any preconceived ideas of how they thought the flower appeared. They learned how to observe, focusing on the texture of the flower, its stem and petals.

In the following class, students turned the drawings into relief prints, recopied the flower onto Styrofoam printing plates and then printed them on different coloured paper. These vibrant creations now adorn the walls of the Junior School hallway. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to take advantage of nature right here at our school, in the middle of the city,” says Ms. Tracy.

As for the butterfly garden, Jean-François Maurice, Social Science Teacher, is working toward having it recognized with an official certification from monarchwatch.org. “This one project has brought together students from Junior, Middle and Senior School,” he says. “It has served an environmental purpose as well as inspiration for our budding artists. What a success.”

Arts Week in Middle School


The Middle School students have lots of talent, as demonstrated during Café Cabaret. On March 26 and 27, Middle School performers include Nora Althani, Iris Bi, Holly Faria, Dylan Theriault-Harris, Coral Rajchgot and Joseph Wiltzer. They showcased their talent on the piano, the flute, the violin and the voice. With their Senior School counterparts, fellow Middle Schoolers, accompaniments or solo, their musicality shined through on these fun nights. I’m looking forward to next year’s performance with plenty of excitement!

Au Middle School, il y avait plusieurs activités pour la semaine des arts. Le MS Pride a ainsi préparé un petit jeu de Devine la chanson, avec le grand gagnant : Charles Regimbal! Félicitations à tous les participants, et j’espère que vous avez aimé la semaine des arts 2012! — Holly Faria ’15