As the world undergoes incredible challenges in the midst of COVID-19, Sarah Matossian, art department head and instructor at Little Flower Academy in Vancouver, has risen to the occasion and found success encouraging her students to create physical art, as she continues to provide a project-based curriculum for her students.

Instead of digital art assignments, she had students create hands-on art projects in their own spaces at home and document them online.

Little Flower Academy was faced with the shutdown in late March, just as students were about to return after spring break. The school quickly transitioned to teaching on Zoom and through the school website.

“Overnight, our world has been forced to depend on screens even more than usual,” Matossian said in August. “This is the reality that’s out there, and I didn’t want to just be swept away in that thunderous current. My students were already overwhelmed by social media and screen time for so many hours of the day before the pandemic, and I was seeing the negative effects of this then. So I asked myself, how can I help my students look beyond the screen? How can I guide them to continue to interact with the physical world and to be creative without becoming even more dependent on screens?”

While planning her curriculum, Matossian’s goal was to engage her students without completely depending on a screen.

“This has been wonderful. It is so critical for our mental health, as well as our physical and emotional well being to keep being creative during challenging times. In addition to painting, sculpting and drawing, it’s quite remarkable how many of my students have been choosing to return to pastimes of old, such as embroidery and crochet. They have been re-purposing and redesigning clothing and sneakers, embroidering atop old photographs, and enjoying the slow and careful process of these ‘old-fashioned’ creative methods. They’ve been telling me how it’s been so enjoyable for them and how much better they feel when they engage in this process.”

“Since we can’t meet as a physical community, the presentation of art is where I decided to make our biggest pivot,” Matossian said. “We showcase projects through photography and video, and also share during our Zoom classes.”

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Matossian’s art students exhibited their projects during their annual art show for friends, family and community members.

Additionally, the halls of Little Flower Academy rival art galleries in Vancouver with more than 700 art pieces on display, which according to Matossian “help our student artists feel a sense of pride and bring colour and life to each hallway of our school.”

Matossian said she and her students often visit Ronald McDonald House to do face painting and lead crafts for children who are undergoing treatment at B.C. Children’s Hospital next door.

“It’s a special way to give back to our community and try to spread joy during difficult times. Art brings us together in such a meaningful way. Over the years, when a few of our students and staff faced life-threatening health concerns, such as cancer, having my students make artist trading cards for them was a way to share encouragement and messages of hope.”

Matossian began her relationship with the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising when she invited the institute to share classroom workshops at Little Flower Academy. Her classes enjoy watching the DEBUT Runway Show and learning about creative careers. 

Inspired by institute, Matossian led her students in classroom projects such as unconventional material dresses on mannequins, creating shoe sculptures, fashion drawings, and jewelry design, to name a few. Matossian also believes her students who attended the institute’s 3 Days of Fashion Summer Program had their eyes opened to the possibilities of a career in creative fields.

“They have returned excited and feeling more empowered about pursuing their creative passions,” said Matossian.

Article courtesy of FIDM. Reprinted with permission.