The work of Abbotsford Senior Art Activism students is on display at The Reach until June 11. (Submitted)

The work of Abbotsford Senior Art Activism students is on display at The Reach until June 11. (Submitted)

Abbotsford Senior Art Activism class examines racism

Paintings related to subject on display at The Reach until June 11

Just over a year ago, George Floyd was murdered and his brutal death led to reflection and self-examination for our southern neighbours.

Last week, the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops has created more dialogue and disgust on past practices towards local First Nations.

It’s in that spirit that the Abbotsford Senior Secondary School’s Art Activism program set to tackle the challenging topic of racism for this past quarter.

Led by art teacher Miss Nikita Griffioen, students from Grades 10 to 12 spent the first half of the course learning both the historical and current climates for racism. From there, students narrowed their focus to a more specific topic, researched that topic intently and make a presentation to the class.

The second half of the course was creating an art piece based on the topic they became so familiar with. Students created paintings to bring more awareness to their particular issue and those works of art are on display at The Reach in Abbotsford until June 11.

Some of the topics featured include: the racist history of the music industry, housing struggles due to race, the struggles faced by LGTBQ+ people of colour, the beauty industry’s impossible white standards and the relationship between police and people of colour.

“Every year I focus on a different social justice issue,” Griffioen said, of the Art Activism program. “And I try to focus on the the ones that are most prevalent in the moment. This year, given the George Floyd story, and the emphasis on racism and being anti-racist in the news I thought it would be appropriate to focus on the topic of racism.”

Griffioen said it’s a topic her students were very passionate about and they were on-board with the idea instantly.

“This was also about having students do a lot of reflection as well,” she said. “The journey to becoming anti-racist isn’t an overnight thing. It’s wonderful to say you don’t want to be racist or you want to advocate for BIPOC people but at the same time it does take some work and thought.”

RELATED: PHOTOS: Abbotsford reflects on horrific findings at former residential school in Kamloops

She said the learning environment at Abbotsford Senior created a lot of dialogue surrounding the issues.

“We have such a wonderful and diverse school and have students from all different backgrounds so oftentimes their art was influenced by their personal stories and experiences,” she said.

Griffioen, a well-established artist herself, said she was thrilled with some of the final products created by her students.

“I made my expectations very clear at the beginning of the course that this is a big project and it will be shown publicly,” she said. “So to do that the art has to be of a good caliber. I was extremely impressed by those who did a painting. They were asking for critiques and reworking their ideas – I was super impressed to see how they worked at such a mature level.”

Starting on June 15, Art Activism students from Robert Bateman Senior Secondary will display their works in the same space. Led by teacher Claire Apostolopoulos, Bateman students will also focus on racism and Black Lives Matter.

Griffioen said the project left her feeling positive about local youth.

“The willingness and passion of the students and young people to really advocate for a cause like this was truly inspiring to see as an educator,” she said. “It makes you hopeful to see that young people are taking on these topics and really embodying anti-racism because they are where the future lies.”

Griffioen also praised the help of student teacher Trish Roberts, who worked with students throughout the course. The class consists of Grade 12 students Simmi Boparai, Niki Kasper and Tiffany Reitsma; Grade 11 students Sarah Bourquin, Sean Briones, Jillian Downey, Oliver Jolliffe, Hanna Kim and Cynthia Pain; and Grade 10 students Tiffany Cruz, Faith Dueck, Jennifer Guthrie and C. Luu.

RELATED: MindFull exhibition focusing on Corey Hirsch’s mental health battles









Just Posted

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Agassiz toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Woody’s RV World hosts a grand opening for its brand-new Abbotsford location on Saturday. (YouTube)
Woody’s RV World hosts Abbotsford grand opening on Saturday

First-ever B.C. location for successful RV chain, located on Marshall Road

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read