December Canvas Café – Inspired by Maker Faire

Posted: December 14, 2017

Our school just hosted our second Canvas Café and it was a huge success! As I previously mentioned in a recent post I got this idea from my trip to New York at the Maker Faire. Many of the booths/projects I saw were about collaboration, community involvement and making learning tangible.


The idea behind these cafes is to teach students painting skills (for a variety of projects) and then have students teach the public these skills. I’ve had several students come on board as facilitators and I am seeing results in my classroom and the community. Students are starting to help each other more often and the community is gaining more respect for the arts program at our school – not to mention we are making money to fund some higher level projects, technology and resources.

The first café had just over 20 participants and 3 student facilitators. This time we had more than 30 participants and plans to try it again in the fall!

My Visual Arts 120 class has been the class I am working with on this venture. We select the painting together then I teach them the steps to create the work of art. We make a list of problems we encountered and ways to help others overcome those difficulties. Then we start to promote the event using social media and posters. Students and staff help by spreading the word!

The day of the event, student volunteers come to facilitate. This time we only had 2, but they are interested in going into education and this is a wonderful experience for them! We went through the steps of the painting with community members and I enjoyed watching my students teach techniques, problem solving and giving feedback.

We learned a lot from our October event and changed locations and altered the level of difficulty of the painting. The participants are already asking about a spring event. Students are excited by these events and I anticipate an even larger crowd next time.

Here are the key points for teachers hoping to recreate this project:



1.       Pick a class.

2.       Pick a painting.

3.       Teach how to paint the image step-by-step. Make notes of the process along the way.

4.       Have students identify problems they had while painting.

5.       Develop solutions to the difficulties they encountered.

6.       Set a time and date – promote your event!

7.       Identify student facilitators.

8.       The day of your event, have all the tables set and ready to go.

9.       Go through the steps with the participants. Circulate to help!

Outcomes Met (there is no stand-alone Visual Arts 120 curriculum document, these outcomes are from the Foundation document)

12.1.4 analyse and use complex visual relationships, processes, and content, making subtle discriminations
Students will have to learn proportion, detail, shading, value and other painting techniques.

12.2.4 demonstrate an open-minded approach to diversity of ideas and artistic style, and show empathy to other people’s point of view
Student facilitators have to give feedback with people’s skill level and style in mind. They are coached to be open-minded and flexible about participants’ ideas.

12.3.2 demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of art works & 12.8.3 discuss and describe artistic processes in the art work of others
Students have to be able to describe the artistic process and identify problems.

12.7.1 use common safety practices associated with the proper care of art materials and tools
Students have to model to participants how to use and care for the art materials.

12.7.2 solve design problems by making use of the elements and principles of design, using a variety of technologies
Students are asked to identify problems with the painting process and explore possible solutions for participants.