Artists use collaborative candy to inspire kids

A pair of Vancouver based artists are using creative projects, like making candy, to get kids more involved in art.

QA CHEW’S BUBBLE TROUBLE, 2018. Chiclé and synthetic gum in foil-stamped package, 2.5 x 3.5 x 0.5”. Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed as Big Rock Candy Mountain, researched and developed with Aiden, Alex, Andrew, Angelo, Anna, Anthony, Celest, Edwin, Ellaine, Ellie, Farhin, Hannah, Jackie, Jayden, Jaymes, Jaykwon, Kaleb, Levi, Lily, Saiyaka, Susan, Tatiana, Tessa and Yoni. Photo by Terry-Dayne Beasley.
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Reported by Gina Rogers

After wowing a local elementary school with their interactive, multi-phased candy project, ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain,’ a pair of artists explained the kind of impact participatory art can have on getting students more involved in public art.

Helen Reed and Hannah Jickling, who came to Langara College’s Visiting Artists series to discuss public artwork, started the participatory project with Queen Alexandra Elementary School in East Vancouver, after the students were seeking more skills-based learning.

Reed and Jickling’s latest collaboration produced chewing gums with different flavors and names. Hello Kitty Bubble Bath is among the different kinds. Sales profits from the candies made by the students are going toward more arts supplies, workshops and visits from artists for their school.

“‘Thunder with green apple’ blows my mind, every time,” said Jickling.

Out of the gallery

Reed, who shares a background in punk and music scenes with Jickling, said they both have a very strong interest in how to showcase art outside of regular galleries.

“We are always interested in the way art can sneak into places where it may not seem to be,” Reed said.

Or “where it may not be welcome,” Jickling said.

Artist Elizabeth Milton helped host the event, making it the latest in a Visiting Artists series by Langara’s Fine Arts department.

Milton, a fine arts instructor at Langara, believes that exposing students to elaborate, interactive art that manifests in unusual ways is beneficial.

“It’s really exciting for students to be exposed to practices that are participatory, are performative,” Milton said. “And that also show that idea of the radicalism of play and that interrogate various institutional structures but in a way that is accessible and playful.”

Something unique

Now that Vancouver has gotten a taste for participatory art in schools, the reproducibility of the project, and not just its products, could essentially be replicated, but Jickling is confident they’ve created something quite unique.

“The message we’ve developed is kind of idiosyncratic and particular… I don’t think it’s replicable” Jickling said.

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