DEHR to Care
“Elementary students have the desire to right all the injustices in the world, but they often don’t know how or even realize they have the means,” says elementary teacher Grant Bertamini (BEd’09). In 2014/15 Bertamini launched Kids’ Art for a Cause, a non-profit organization inviting teachers across Southern Alberta to post student artwork for sale online. Proceeds go to support causes of the students’ choosing. To date, Bertamini has worked with students to contribute to tsunami victims, the fight against Ebola, children’s sleeping kits, and the Humane Society, among other causes. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re just a kid who can’t effect change,” Bertamini stresses to his class.
In 2015/16 Kids’ Art for a Cause joined the ATA Local 41 DEHR (Diversity, Equity, and Human Rights) Committee to host a gala auction of student artwork at the Galt Museum in Lethbridge. Students studied the refugee experience from several curricular approaches and then rendered artistic representations of their understandings. “We wanted to do something to bring the community together and give incoming refugees the message they’re not just accepted and tolerated but embraced and welcomed, loved and appreciated,” says Bertamini. The Gala raised more than $5000 for Lethbridge Family Services in support of local refugee and immigrant youth.
The following year DEHR and Kids’ Art for a Cause chose Education is the Buffalo as their theme. Working with the district’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit consultant, as well as school liaisons, students explored our shared past, present, and future with Indigenous peoples and produced artwork based on their insights. The event was once again successful, with hundreds in attendance, live music, and a mocktail bar for the students. Proceeds will help fund Indigenous educational initiatives.
“It’s important to help people,” says grade four artist Mauli Thakor. “If you were that person, you would need help.” Classmates Dreya Perkins and Bella Kemp agree. “We love art and our community,” says Dreya. “It made me feel happy to help kids,” adds Bella.
For his part, Bertamini has developed a deeper appreciation for the connection between art and social justice; and he notes the fresh sense of empowerment and respect for others his students have gained. Immensely important to him is recognition of his colleagues. “All of the DEHR Committee members responsible for the DEHR to Care Art Gala are University of Lethbridge Education grads,” he says. “A lot of people work hard to see this happen.”