MacLaren Matters, Art in the School: MacLaren VanGo

March 30, 2017 - 1:37 pm

“I loved how this programme engaged the kids (you could hear a pin drop when the instructor started to explain the procedure) and also how it linked to the curriculum in so many ways!”  ― Byng Public School

“The (art making) process was very rich in curriculum expectations. The product was brilliant, instructors were very effective/professional. Good blend of art theory and practice.” ― Clearview Meadows Elementary School

For two decades, the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie has delivered visual arts studio programmes in Simcoe County schools, reaching over 6,000 students each year.  First introduced in 1997, VanGo offers a unique opportunity for students to work with practising regional artists in the classroom. These artists bring expertise, teaching experience, high quality materials and a passion for art, delivering curriculum-based programmes to Grades K through 8. Students experience engaging, hands-on activities that introduce them to the fundamentals of art making in ways that foster creativity, cooperation, confidence and self-esteem.

Each year, we enhance what we have to offer by adding new programmes. For example, this year we are offering 28 programmes for primary, junior and intermediate levels. Students can experiment with various media while learning techniques in drawing, painting, print-making, paper-making, mixed media collage, moulding making, casting and clay sculpting. Some programmes reference different artforms, from book art to animation to mask making. Others are inspired by the work of leading Canadian and international artists, such as Claude Monet, Vincent VanGogh, Henri Matisse, Doris McCarthy, Norval Morrisseau, Emily Carr and Dave Craven. Some reference art historical styles of expression such as Pop Art and Abstraction, or draw from other cultural influences such as Innuit folklore or Tibetan Mandala art. Public, separate and private schools across the county also participate in our VanGo Gallery Programme, which brings students to the MacLaren for a tour of our current exhibitions and a related hands-on art activity in the Rotary Education Centre. Our annual VanGo brochure describes programmes and learning objectives in detail for educators and is distributed by the public and separate school boards. Using visual arts education as the foundation, VanGo builds connections across the curriculum to language, history, technology, science and the environment.

The demand for VanGo is high. While the fee paid by the participating school for each VanGo programme assists with the costs, it does not cover the fees for the artists, program development and coordination, and packages for teachers to help make curriculum connections. To include all of these in the price would make it financially impossible for students to participate. It is our mission to make our programmes available to all who wish to take part, regardless of financial means. Dedicated VanGo corporate sponsorship allows us to offer this subsidized programme to the schools at 50% of the actual cost of delivery, making it affordable and accessible to all. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our lead corporate sponsors, The Sarjeant Company and J. Stollar Construction Limited, as well as the many service clubs that make this invaluable community service possible.

One of the most delightful ways to get to see the students’ artwork and the wonderful impact of VanGo is through the many tweets we receive from participating students and teachers. Just visit us at or follow us on Twitter @MacLarenArt


Carolyn Bell Farrell
Executive Director
MacLaren Art Centre