Through the generous funding of the Ontario Arts Council, Project Ze linked two print media artists, an improvisation facilitator, and an advocate with students from Glendale Secondary School (Hamilton Wentworth District School Board), and two youth advisor students from NuSteel (A Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Alternative Education Program) exploring the the action of allyship within the LGBTQ+ community. The project development began in March 2017 starting with the education team developing a strategy for collecting research data from students who identify as LGBTQ+ to hear their voices to find out what the most prevalent topic was to address in this teaching guide. An anonymous survey was created, delivered, and analyzed by our team. The workshops took place April/May 2017 and the exhibition took place in January 2018. Project Ze utilized visual and dramatic arts to create a teaching guide for teachers in the HWDSB. Using the arts as a vehicle to promote safer, more inclusive classrooms for LGBTQ+ youth and build strong alliances among teachers and students of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
The first workshop began as an information lesson for both visual and dramatic arts students to develop an understanding of the term Allyship and how to promote inclusivity within their school and classroom communities. Students developed an understanding of how to properly incorporate terminology used within the LGBTQ+ community, within their school and classrooms. Cole Gately, the advocate, spoke about his experience growing up as a trans person as well as created a classroom contract with the students to create a safe space. This was a living document that travelled to each additional workshop where students continuously added to the document.
The second and third workshops for Dramatic Arts included Jody Boston, the dramatist begin by having the students become familiar with Augusto Boal, a Brazilian Dramatist who created Theatre of the Oppressed as well as develop an understanding of the term Forum Theatre. Students were then able to create their own piece of Forum Theatre based on lived-experience that was anonymously received by the students, working and running a scene created.
The second and third workshops for Visual Arts included Margaret Flood and Leah Klein, the visual artists have students develop an understanding of the history and purpose behind a zine, generate ideas and explore ways to communicate allyship through a zine. Zines were chosen as the medium for the visual arts lessons because they convey a message that can be easily distributed and widely spread. At the following workshop, students examined the zines created by their peers, using proper terminology throughout their analysis, sharing and discussing their findings with their peers.
The fourth workshop was a reflection lesson for both dramatic and visual arts (although taught separately) where students reflected on Project Ze using terminology and examples from previous lessons. They demonstrated their understanding of allyship within the LGBTQ+ community and brainstormed ways to make their knowledge of allyship accessible and public to the rest of their school community, giving students a voice and ultimately through the action of allyship.
The final phases included connecting with a Hamilton Wentworth District School Board teacher (Carly Robinson, HWDSB teacher from our NuSteel Alternative Education Program) to structure the lessons appropriately for teachers. The teaching guide was created/designed and will be disseminated to all visual art and dramatic art teachers in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. Project Ze was exhibited in Centre’s gallery with an opening reception during the James North Art Crawl which encouraged dialogue around allyship within the LGBTQ+ community along with playing theatre of the oppressed games, making zines and displaying the work done by students at Glendale Secondary School.
Project Ze empowered students and youth by providing them with a platform to have a voice and promoted safe, inclusive classrooms for LGBTQ+ secondary school students.