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Dan Siney

Discipline: Interdisciplinary
Homebase: Vancouver
Regions Available: Lower Mainland, Virtual
Languages: English, French
Themes: Mental Health
Grant Eligibility: Eligible to apply for AIC

In the classroom I combine a decade of professional experience supporting “youths-without-housing” and “historically-underserved-youth”, and 20 years’ experience exhibiting art internationally (BFA Emily Carr University, 2003). I developed my Trauma-Informed approach to art facilitation during my three years as an Urban Native Youth Association “Youth Care Counsellor” at Cedar Walk Alternative School (VSB/VASS). My practice centres on playfulness and attentiveness. I challenge the idea of being 'not good at art'. Meeting students where they're at, I ask questions, make suggestions, and encourage efforts. I guide them through their intuitions and interests, celebrating every stage of their development. I encourage disengaged students by assessing personal motivations, uncertainties and needs. I build on whatever a student has to bring. So far, I have been honoured to work with Cedar Walk, Nova and Genesis South Alt-Schools, both in-class and in “out-reach” settings (for harder to reach students). I look forward to bringing programming to more schools and classrooms in the future. I am of settler-descent. I personally identify as 'he' and 'they’ and prefer ‘he/him’ pronouns.

I am currently focussed on working with Alternative Schools (VASS), and have tailored my program descriptions accordingly. I am also interested in working with "mainstream" VSB classrooms. Programs are designed to work for anybody (teachers and staff included).

Classroom Residency(ies)

Contact Me: (604) 215-2272, Email, Web


School Year: 23-24

Alt-School students create a full-colour “Zine-inspired” school-magazine from multimedia artworks and written projects. We explore and discuss personal experiences and perspectives. Students and staff all receive copies, and a copy is also sent to each of the other VASS schools. I adapt my Facilitation-Style to meet each Alt-School’s unique dynamics and culture. I introduce group drawing-games, engage with students individually, encourage participation and dialogue, and set flexible goals. I create a safe, welcoming environment and propose that students can contribute meaningfully by just being themselves. I meet everyone where they’re at, and no one is forced to participate. Upon request, I give specialized instructions such as DSLR-photography lessons. We may invite guest speakers, and explore related “Western” subcultures such as DIY (“Do-It-Yourself”). Students decide whether to help layout the final publication. VSB/VASS staff print and distribute the magazine. The range in content between the first two magazines produced speaks to the program’s potential. Cedar-Walk’s magazine (Spring, ‘21) includes personally and culturally motivated artworks, an interview with an activist student, and written projects, including “Growing Up with a Matriarchal Culture”. At Tupper-Nova (Fall, ‘22), students and staff covered the walls in wide-ranging, colourful, collaborative & independent artworks, while at the same time producing a 4x5’ painting together.

2: Trauma-Informed Art Class

School Year: 23-24

A combination of play and creative problem solving allows participants to let go their "outside" lives. Students and staff alike discover abilities in unexpected places, bringing long-held self-beliefs into the open. I bring 10 years’ experience supporting underserved youth and work closely with staff to ensure a safe, positive student experience. Easing in gently allows students to engage freely, putting aside self-evaluations. Collaborative drawing games, such as "Exquisite Corpse" and "The Scribble Game" are my students' favourite way to relax with artmaking, while at the same time getting to know each other and themselves. The enchanting, unexpected results make everyone laugh and get excited together, as students open-up to their own contributions and those of their classmates. From there, students direct program evolution toward combinations of independent and collaborative activities, coached and self-directed. I make available a wide range of 2D and 3D mediums and encourage writing. We explore our unique creativity in whatever way motivates us: pure enjoyment nourishes and restores; personal challenge builds confidence, self-worth, and skill; exploring one's thoughts and emotions encourages self-discovery and growth; and discovering art as a self-regulating practice builds resilience. These engaging, fun, Life-Skill building sessions work as drop-in classes or as semester-long programming.

3: Street-Art Banner Project

School Year: 23-24

I provide this as an example, to demonstrate the many potential applications of my Trauma-Informed programming. “Street Art” builds on a graduated series of approachable, achievable challenges. First, each student creates a moniker by *drawing* a word of their choosing, with direction to "just play with the shapes of the letters". In phase 2 students select a word for the banner's centrepiece. Interested students each choose one of its letters to *design*. I help link their letters and trace the word onto a large canvas. In phase 3 everyone adds to the banner 'street-art' style. Through curiosity and persistence, students develop and discover their own visual creativity: students expressing being 'not good at art' find abilities in unexpected places; more confident students I assign to leadership roles so they can encourage others. Youth learn to verbalize their personal discoveries, expressing confidence in themselves. We study the forms, culture and history of street-art. This includes discussing a celebrated documentary on graffiti’s origins, and a slide show of artworks by male and female graffiti artists. In 2018/’19 Cedar Walk students produced a 48x72” banner. A four-colour sunset gradation backdrops a silhouetted raven perched atop a cedar treeline. The word 'CEDAR' fills the lower third of the canvas. A Nisga'a youth's, 'Eagle Head with Pearl', design integrates with the 'R', and everyone’s monikers and spontaneous contributions fill the remaining space.

Testimonials & Reviews

Dan finds a multitude of creative ways to connect with students. He finds many ways to empower students to complete projects, and to see themselves as artist with their own unique life perspectives. Perspectives which are meaningful and relevant. Dan is gifted in connecting with and helping students to be seen, validated and heard. Dan is authentic and truly cares about the youth of today. Students want to journey alongside Dan as they explore art as a means to express how they are in the world! Douglas Matear, Principal of Student Support Services—VSB Alternative and Alternate Programs (VASS)
Please accept my wholehearted endorsement of Dan Siney. In addition to being one of the most gifted and capable youth workers I have ever worked with, Dan is a skilled and trained artist. Each time Dan called students to the Cedar Walk art room there was a surge of excitement followed by a wave of creativity. Young people who were reluctant to express themselves created piles of finished work. Omar Kassis, Teacher at Cedar Walk Alternative School (VASS)
We’ve been so appreciative of Dan’s ability to engage students. His approach sets a tone of acceptance and inclusion, making it safe and fun for youth to participate. The energetic, relaxing drawing games invite youth in, and from there they explore individual and collaborative expressions. It was particularly rewarding to see youth who would not have considered themselves artists before, getting into the zone, creating, and being proud of what they’d made. We recommend Dan without reservation. Matt Friesen, Teacher at Nova Alternative Secondary School (VASS)

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