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Artful lesson planning

Art Educator Carol Matson is getting ready to present the first AGO Virtual School sessions of 2021.

Virtual Schools

Image by Julia M Cameron, courtesy of

When the AGO resumes its free, live Virtual School programming on January 11, Art Educator Carol Matson will be ready. She's an accomplished painting and drawing instructor in the AGO Gallery School; since the launch of Virtual School Programs last October, Carol has been sharing her deep knowledge of studio practice and art education with students in JK – Gr. 12. She is one of ten AGO art educators who bring to life Indigenous art, art of the African Diaspora and issues of art and the environment, every Monday to Friday. 

For classes on January 11, she's selected artworks from the AGO Collection that relate to the day’s theme of Art and Storytelling. Preparing for  each 30-minute session includes creating a unique mini-artmaking activity and a mindfulness prompt for class, as well as making relevant connections to the Ontario curriculum. 

“We mean storytelling in its broadest sense,” she says. “We want the students to learn about how artists express themselves with their unique languages.” For both the JK to Grade 3 and the Grades 4 to 8 sessions, she has selected dockyard paintings by French artists Camille Pissarro and Albert Gleizes. 

“These two landscapes nicely contrast two styles of art,” says Matson. “Pissarro, a member of the Impressionist movement, depicts a grey cityscape with buildings, a dock, ships, smoke and water. The painting by Gleizes  depicts a similar scene a decade later, but in a Cubist style, allowing us to tell the story of two distinct art movements.”

Camille Pissarro. Le pont Boieldieu à Rouen, temps mouillé

Camille Pissarro. Le pont Boieldieu à Rouen, temps mouillé, 1896. Oil on canvas, Unframed: 73.6 × 91.4 cm. Gift of Reuben Wells Leonard Estate, 1937 © Art Gallery of Ontario. 2415

Age appropriateness is a factor as well – for high school students from Grade 9 to Grade 12, Matson will opt for two different artworks by two different artists, Franz Kline and Ferdinade Leger, that offer a deeper dive into the cultural context behind their creation. 

“For the older students, highlighting why some artists choose to work in abstraction, and what society’s response to that radical action was, allows us to broaden the conversation.” 

Each session is conducted live via Zoom in order to encourage as much engagement as possible, so Matson knows she needs to be ready for questions and comments from students, teachers and caregivers – often numbering in the hundreds. “The questions range from very personal responses to broader questions and thoughts,” she says. “The younger students might wonder why Pissarro decided to paint on a grey rainy day or why he painted from inside a hotel room rather than outside as most Impressionist artists did.”

Following the discussion, Matson will present a mini-art activity. During the January 11 session, she will be asking students to create their own landscapes by folding paper to create geometric and organic shapes. “I hope the activity inspires the students to experiment with simple materials – like paper and pencils, and to think about how colours, textures and lines are used to tell a compelling story.” 

AGO Virtual Schools zooms into classrooms every Monday to Friday at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 am, beginning January 11. For a schedule of upcoming sessions, including details about sessions offered in French, please visit our website. 

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