Neighbourhood Stops and Shops: Jr Art Lab inspires all ages to develop digital arts skills

Bryan Chen, left, and Shane Bailey of Jr Art Lab on Kingston Road. The lab offers a variety of workshops for people of all ages to develop their skills in the digital arts. Photo by Surina Nath.

By SURINA NATH

Young creatives/entrepreneurs Shane Bailey and Bryan Chen have opened Jr Art Lab located at 926 Kingston Rd., offering affordable classes focused on inspiring those of all ages to develop their skills in digital arts.

“The community has been really responsive, we’re in a great location with schools all around us. We charge $29 per 90-minute workshop across the board” says Bailey.

“We specialize in six streams: #JrDigitalArtist, #JrDesigner, #Jr3DArtist, #JrFilmmaker, #JrDocumentarian and #JrPhotograper” Chen adds.

Jr Art Lab has a whole kit of gadgets and devices like cameras, drawing tablets, drones and a 3D printer to use during classes, providing an array of digital creative devices for students to familiarize themselves with.

“We teach skills like creative idea development, using apps like Mural, as we’re trying to introduce the younger generation to industry standard software. We use Affinity Photo/Designer, Davinci Resolve and Dragonframe,” Chen says.

“The idea is to bring these advanced gadgets and programs to kids so they can get experience and familiarity with them. This equipment is complex for young minds and can be hard for parents to teach children how to use technology in a creative way” Bailey explains.

With a background in Psychology and Digital Arts, Bailey has worked for several film and design companies in Australia and Hong Kong.

Coming to Toronto in 2017, he worked at a local art studio in the Beach teaching.

“We opened the lab because we wanted to provide a safe space for children that gives them a toolbox of skills to utilize in life,” Bailey says. “We hope that our studio gives students a set of skills to deal with life’s difficulties.”

Having lost a close friend to suicide in the early 2000s “it was my art practice that played a important part in my own healing and finding a place to explore complex emotions. We know this stuff works when life gets tough,” Bailey says.

“We want to focus on the fact that the art process isn’t defined by the outcome; there’s a social phenomenon that glamorizes perfection and we rush the final product; we’re trying to undo that frustration and encourage the experiential process in the making of the artwork and the process itself” Chen explains.

Chen studied film for 10 years with a BA and MFA in Film, TV and Digital Arts.

He has lived in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Hong Kong where he worked with many film, TV and documentary companies.

When he came to Toronto in 2017 as well, Chen worked with Rogers TV but left in August 2018, deciding to switch paths and open up Jr Art Lab with Bailey.

“We want to challenge the stigma that technology is inherently bad, we believe a tool’s use defines it’s nature, not the tool itself” Chen says. “We want to help channel the energy behind wanting to get kids off screens; it’s not the technologies’ fault, its how we use the technology that will evolve into positive or negative outcomes.”

Drawing from real-life / industry experience, Bailey and Chen “train kids to have an entrepreneurial mindset, as a big part of becoming a digital artist is being business and tech savvy.”

“Every six months we turn the space into a gallery for students to display and sell their work, we’ve had people from Ryerson buy student works for decoration; last time we sold more than 60 per cent of the work displayed,” Bailey says.

Students earn all the money and this is inspiring for them.

On Saturdays, the educators also hold Community Days at 7:30 p.m. with movies and snacks offered to everyone who attends. This alternates weeks with their Art Collective where anyone can come in for $15, and existing students are free of charge to work on their own projects in a creative space.

Classes are offered per term, Sunday to Thursday from 2 – 9 p.m. for children and adults.

Jr Art Lab is also available to host birthday parties, design logos and to produce promotional videos for local businesses.

For help with your ideas, contact info@jrartlab.com

Jr Art Lab will also be offering summer camps this year. For more information, please visit https://www.jrartlab.com

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