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Artmaking in two Vancouver high schools 1920 to 1950 Stephenson, D. Wendy Louise

Abstract

This dissertation examines the art learning that students were exposed to within the diverse school cultures at Kitsilano Junior/Senior High School (Kits) and Vancouver Technical School (Van Tech) from 1920 to 1950 in Vancouver, Canada. These cultures shaped the opportunities for various forms of art learning. From 1920 to 1950 Kits was a coed, middle-class junior/senior high school aiming to produce well-rounded citizens prepared to take their place in society or to take further education before starting their career. From 1921 to 1940 Van Tech was an all-boys, primarily working-class high school with a vocational orientation that prepared students to enter a trade; girls taking practical training were included in the school i n September of 1940.1 suggest that issues of gender, class and, to a lesser extent, race shaped the diverse cultures in these two schools and the art learning opportunities the schools provided. Kits offered art courses with the expectation that art would give students a productive avocation, enrich their cultural life, and add to the general refinement of society. At Van Tech, aspects of art learning were embedded in most of their technical courses. Art-related skills were to be utilized in students' future employment in the trades. The different intentions of these two schools affected students' art learning as well as the kinds of art they produced. This study is based primarily on interviews with former students in the schools at the time. It also incorporates an analysis of the text and images in the yearbooks and extant artwork of former Kits and Van Tech students. It describes their art learning experiences alongside those prescribed in British Columbia's art-related textbooks and curriculum documents and in consideration of the pre-service training available to their art teachers through the city's art school. Art media and skills and subject matter in the students' artwork are considered in light of those set out in the official BC art textbooks. Subjects there were largely limited to simple objects from nature and around the home, historical subjects and idealized landscapes, as well as conventionalized, space-filling decorations. The study shows the extent to which concepts of class, gender, and race were embodied in the subject matter of Kits and Van Tech student artwork, especially that appearing i n the school yearbooks. Images show that Kits students looked to their environment primarily to document their adolescent life while Van Tech students depicted people and events from the larger world as well as revealing the increasing industrial concerns of Vancouver as an emerging city. In this way the study shows the extent to which subject matter as well as skills and media were at least in part determined by the diverse nature of the two schools.

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