Darlene St. Georges invites educators to imagine walking into a classroom with bare walls and seeing students sitting in rows passively listening to the teacher. “Education has evolved,” she says. “Today we seek environments that entice creativity and let students know their expression through poetry, story, song, or dance is valuable.”
In 2017 St. Georges relocated from Montreal to take the position of Assistant Professor, Art Education, in the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Education. She was overjoyed when she woke the first morning in her new home to a chorus of birds in the spruce outside her window. For St. Georges sound is one of the portals to artistic expression. In her practice and teaching she combines image, word, and sound to create multi-textural dialogues. “Just to put up an image and expect people to ‘get it’ is not enough,” she says. “Some people are visual, some like to hear, some like to read.”
“My goal is to honour creative ways of being and to create openings for students to expand themselves in a creative realm,” says St. Georges. In her creation-based research St. Georges explores her Métis roots through artistic expression. “The topic of identity is important to an educator,” she says. “Students are forming their sense of identity and look to teachers as models.”Identity is not fixed. Teachers who demonstrate flexibility, listening, and constant reflection on who they are and who they want to be model a growth mindset.
In her basement studio St. Georges feels nested in the earth, cradled by the roots of the large trees around her home. Her creative act is solitary, yet always with the intention of engaging others. “Creating collaborative spaces where people can explore themselves in connection with others, and witness others doing the same, inspires courage to speak or express, and creates generative dialogue,” she says. Ambiance is also important. Furniture arrangement, comfortable seating, carpets, opportunities for movement, and lamps or natural light can all impact learning.