Life-long educator reached out to the Ottawa Community Foundation to establish fund to support the arts in the classroom
In February of 2019, Judy Kirsh reached out to the Ottawa Community Foundation to establish her fund to complement two related funds she knew well. The Canterbury Stars Return Fund benefits the Arts Canterbury program at Canterbury High School, and the Majorie Loughrey Fund–honouring the namesake’s dedication to the arts–supports elementary schools each year to give students an enriching arts experience.
“When I established my fund, it was pretty clear to me that the best game in town was the OCF,” says Judy. “The money is extremely well managed and the commitment to the community is great.”
Like the Marjorie Loughrey Fund, Judy’s fund will support the Artists in the Schools Program. The program brings an artist into the classroom to enhance the students’ learning experience with dance, drama, music, or visual arts. Judy knows that through her fund a few more students each year will find lasting joy in the arts.
Judy spent almost her entire career teaching in the arts. Retiring as Arts Coordinator at Arts Canterbury in 2002, she also taught visual arts, drama, and other disciplines over the years. She was a volunteer on city-wide committees devoted to making the arts accessible.
“My parents were creative in their thinking and approach to life,” recalls Judy. “My father loved poetry and they both went to lectures, galleries, and took art classes in the summer.”
Judy’s father was also active in the labour movement, something she credits for instilling a sense of social justice in her.
“Growing up with the arts at home and seeing how it could make a difference in people’s lives merged those two elements from my childhood.”
That environment inspired Judy to teach the arts; it also compelled her to be an advocate. She believes, now more than ever, in expanding arts education in public schools. The current landscape, Judy notes, is far from ideal.
“Most elementary teachers do not have the training. They’re asked to teach all the arts disciplines,” she explains. “They do an amazing job given the resources they have, but it’s difficult for everyone.”
Judy also believes the arts provide a learning experience not found in other subjects. They challenge students with problems that seldom have a “right answer”. There are technical skills in the arts, but the essential inspiration and interpretation come from the students’ own creativity.
“When I established my fund, it was pretty clear to me that the best game in town was the OCF. The money is extremely well managed and the commitment to the community is great.”
And, she has witnessed the benefits of that type of learning first-hand. She sees arts-focused schools like Arts Canterbury as special places where the classes create a space for students to grow.
“My most rewarding experiences have been watching students blossom and discover a new joy in life and in their work,” Judy says. “Kids who never fit the system before discover a world where they really do belong.”
A passion for arts education inspired Judy to establish a fund. Her experience working with the Ottawa Community Foundation made it an easy decision when the time came to make it happen. Judy advises anyone looking to give back to reach out to the OCF when the time is right.
If you are interested in establishing a fund with us, please visit our website at ocf-fco.ca.