It's Complicated 2018/19

Creative Writing, Spoken Word Performance, Visual Arts

-Laval Senior Academy-


High school students at Laval Senior Academy (LSA) embarked on a cross-curricular project entitled It’s Complicated in the 2018/19 school year exploring themes of mental health and well-being through the artistic modalities of creative writing (poetry), performance (spoken word) and visual arts (collage -mixed media).

With the support and partnership of the Arts-Community-Education Initiative (ACE) developed through the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) and LSA`s Community Learning Centre (CLC), a creative collaboration was initiated between community artists and teaching staff.

This collaboration resulted in a project directly involving more than 165 students. Over the course of eight months, two artists were engaged in residencies in secondary 3 English classes and secondary 4 and 5 Visual Arts classes. These residencies were supported by the ACE initiative and the Ministry of Educations’ Culture in the School program – Schools Host an Artist component.

Community Celebration

Complimenting and tying into an existing CLC initiative and community event, It`s Complicated became the main showcased project at LSA`s [WURD] Up Community Literacy Series final 2018/19 event. The event showcased special cross-curricular projects developed in collaboration with community organizations and artists. This evening provided a platform for students to share and celebrate their ideas and creative explorations with their peers, families, friends and greater Laval community. More than 250 people attended this event to celebrate the accomplishments of LSA students. Two publications were created for distribution at the event. A zine, comprised of the selected student poetry and an event program. The program provided an overview of the project and credited all the collaborators and contributors involved.

Resident Artists

Melanie Garcia

Visual Arts - Mixed Media, Collage

It was almost twenty years ago that an art class focused on collage affirmed Melanie’s love for the medium. During her BFA at Concordia University, she began creating large-format digital collages and received an arts grant for that body of work. After a dormant/art gestation period, new work had emerged as analog, smaller format, intimate, mixed media collages. She has since participated in her first art residency at Listhùs in Iceland and she has also had the privilege of facilitating art workshops in high schools in Montreal and several Northern First Nations communities.

When Melanie is not pushing around little pieces of paper, she freelances in wardrobe styling for film and photography in Montreal.

Jason Selman

Writer, Spoken Word Poet, Musician

Jason “Blackbird” Selman is a Montreal born poet and trumpet player. He is the author of

The Freedom I Stole (2007, Cumulus Press), Africa As A Dream That Travels Through My Heart (2016, Howl) and co-editor of the poetry anthology Talking Book (2006, Cumulus Press) which chronicles the writings of Kalm Unity Vibe Collective (of which he is a founding member). He has done extensive poetry workshops across the Montréal area in schools and community groups. His work is grounded in the themes of ethno-musicology, surrealist expression, love and the intersection of masculinity and emotional vulnerability.

This was an inclusive project that has helped motivate staff and artists to come together and collaborate providing a framework to create impactful, positive experiential learning opportunities for our school and greater community. The numerous benefits inherent in this project have helped build positive and supportive relationships. The project has also helped staff and artists realize the endless possibilities this kind of collaboration creates. It is our intention to pursue this collaboration again in the coming school year in the hopes to build on the connections and momentum this initial opportunity has afforded.


English Language Arts Network /ACE (Jennifer Cooke, Christie Huff), Artists (Melanie Garcia, Jason Selman), LSA Staff (Erin Burton, Leda Gurnagul, Valérie Néron, Aline Gosdanian, Demetra Lambropoulos) Funding: English Language Arts Network—ACE Initiative, Community Health & Social Services Network (CHSSN), Culture in Schools (MEES)