The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery concluded the 47th edition of its Expressions exhibition on May 22. The annual exhibition features art submitted by Waterloo Region students to highlight their different perspectives and experiences. Expressions is open to students from all local school boards, private schools and homeschooled students.
Stephen Lavigne, director of public programs at the gallery, said that the gallery created the exhibition to recognize artistic talent in the student community. In addition to the student artwork, the exhibition features curated pieces from the gallery’s permanent collection of contemporary Canadian art and works from international artists.
“The greatest part about it is that the students are able to see their work right alongside the work of professional artists,” Lavigne said. Each year, gallery staff choose the theme for Expressions from works submitted the previous year—this year’s theme was Look Up. Lavigne said that the artworks made the gallery staff think of moving forward after two years of managing life during the pandemic.
“We had two artworks that were very similar, one watercolor and one acrylic, both night scenes. We thought it was this great way of seeing celestial bodies, stars, moons and planets as symbols for movement and transition,” Lavigne said.
One of the pieces that inspired this year’s theme was The Moon Never Stays in One Place, submitted by grade three student Emily Kreuzer. She said she enjoys painting scenes from nature.
“The moon is a pretty thing to paint in a picture,” Emily said.
Emily is not the only artist in the Kreuzer family—her two siblings also had pieces in Expressions 47. The Kreuzer family is part of the Kitchener Waterloo Christian Home Educators Association, and they learned about Expressions through another parent. Ashley Kreuzer, Emily’s mother, said her children loved seeing their artwork in the gallery.
“It was so beautiful to watch their expressions. I think what overwhelmed them was seeing all the children’s artwork from different schools and different grades,” Ashley said.
The Kreuzers have made art a core component of their homeschooling plan. Ashley said their lessons include studying great artists throughout history and making time for their children to explore their creative sides.
“It’s important for children to express themselves in very different ways. Two of our children have special needs and yet they’re able to express themselves so profoundly with art because there’s no limitation there,” Ashley said.
In addition to the curated artwork, Expressions includes an artist-in-residence project called Insight. This year’s artist was Brenda Reid, who facilitated a bookmaking project with students from St. Teresa of Avila in Elmira and Eastwood Collegiate in Kitchener. The students worked with Reid to create books that gallery audiences could come and interact with physically.
Over four months, Reid led the students through exercises to start them thinking about what books could be and how many ways they could put them together. Reid said the students found the project exciting because they could see the physical progress through their different experiments with bookmaking.
“While I think finished artwork is amazing, I love to see the sketchbooks. I love to see the process work. I think that brings such a human element to the work that we can see,” Reid said.
With the closing of this year’s exhibition, Lavigne and the gallery staff are starting to think about next year’s theme. The gallery will choose the theme this summer and send out information to teachers across the region in September. Lavigne said he is proud of Expressions’ continuing impact on the community.
“Whenever I tour Expressions, there is somebody who has a story saying, my son or my daughter was in Expressions 20 years ago and they’re now a graphic designer. Or I was in Expressions 15 years ago and now I’m a member of the art gallery. Expressions is this great way to connect with an audience at a young age to support them and promote the benefits of art making,” Lavigne said.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.