Processus – a nexus of student creativity and artist mentorship

Point Grey Secondary School senior art students, teachers, artist Diyan Achjadi, CAG and Cartems at the opening of Processus, Contemporary Art Gallery.| Photo courtesy the Contemporary Art Gallery.

Mythmaking and its role in making sense of the world is the focus of a new exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery this spring. Processus, a collaborative project between Point Grey Secondary students in mentorship with artist Diyan Achjadi, aims to expand the perspectives of students beyond simply looking at art as assignments.

“We wanted to expose them to curatorial practice and more contemporary art practice in process. Some of these things can be quite challenging for secondary school students who spend a lot of time making projects that teachers assign,” says art teacher Heather Dodge.

The exhibition runs from May 10–June 16,

Processus process

The nexus of the project began with art teachers Dean Long and Dodge reading and examining Diyan Achjadi’s approach to artmaking in order to find entry points for their students.

“We were interested in exploring mythology and how it extends to our current culture. Even though that is only a small part of what Achjadi works with, we needed some sort of kernel to start with our kids and expand on,” says Long.

Achjadi, a full time artist and educator at Emily Carr University, met with the students before the workshop to share her work and introduce the artistic process.

“Coming into the workshop, a lot of what I was thinking about is, what are the different processes I do to get through my own roadblocks in the studio. They are all very experimental and you just kind of play to see where the materials will take you,” she explains.

Using these perspectives as a starting point, students explored a variety of myths and bridged them to current culture to develop their imagery. With their images sketched out, the students then learned to transform them into finished works of art. Under Achjadi’s mentorship, they made decisions in all aspects of the process including artistic research, applied techniques and curation.

“In my last meeting with the students I talked to them individually and asked: this is what I am seeing in the work right now, is this what you want in the work? To not tell them what to do but see if this is the reaction they want, and if not, how can they strengthen that,” says Achjadi.

A student perspective

Nancy (Chengyi) Yin is a student exhibiting a digital stop-motion piece titled Altering Imperfections.

“I created this work as nowadays everybody is trying to pursue ideal beauty standards. The imagery of the animation is a (fat) woman melting, and as you can see, she is not the societal ideal. The process of melting is a form of altering yourself to what you want to be. Secondly, I also added (static) effects like on an old TV to represent how before it was not easy to change yourself but now you have access to apps, photoshop, and plastic surgery to become what you want to be,” explains Yin of her inspiration.

Yin found the experiences of workshopping with Achjadi and exhibiting at the Contemporary Art Gallery very positive. “It was great working with [Achjadi] as her perspective helped me better visualize the result of my work. The process of curation was also very new to me as it is my first show, so it was interesting to see how to arrange my work to the atmosphere of the environment.”

Teachers Long and Dodge agree that the program was successful in providing a more professional perspective towards working on art. As Dodge summarizes, “this experience challenged the students as they had to individually and independently overcome their fears to move through the process and decide how they wanted to show their work and ideas. But they really stepped up and were awesome!”

Processus runs from May 10-June 16 at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. For more information, please visit