Banff School of Fine Arts on adult learning

Pavan Patel (100486452)
Abdul Samad Balaj (100492559)

Origins of the School

View of the Art Institute

The Banff School of Drama was founded in 1933 by the University of Alberta, made possible by a $30,000 grant from the esteemed Carnegie Foundation. The drama program began with a single two week drama program, with 190 participants, the different subjects that were additionally added to the syllabus were creative writing, play-writing and painting. The school was called Banff School of drama and was transformed into the Banff School of Fine Arts after acquiring more branches of arts and music.

Courses such as creative writing, painting, and even a masters in piano were later added! All of this was spear headed by senator Donald Cameron who was hoping to turn this continuing education school into the Salzburg (birth place of Mozart) of North America.

Sociological Implications of the school

After the second world war, the school capitalized on the opportunity to promote Canadian culture. It was the hope of senator Donald Cameron to create an iconic institution to show off Canada as a "progressive and sovereign body". The government also shared this vision, and as such created the film "Holiday at School" to promote the school on a more international scale!

The focus of the school was to train adults and bring arts to the community. This lead for a very interesting time in Alberta's history. The school opened in the pre-WW2 era, and that played a big role in the schools early years. The school had a “unique and distinctive ‘popular’ character” (1994) that was brought by the conditions of the depression that Canada was currently in. This produced art from the school that reflected the problems that the Albertans faced, in fact the school produced 41 such films (ie ones with a populist pre-WW2 background) in the school's first two decades.

Philosophical implications of the school

The literary stream of the school began in 1935 with scriptwriting, which was originally taught by Elsie Park Gowan. The program continued until 1944, when the “alberta folklore project was introduced, Moira day explained the orientation of the pre world war two. This era was a significant feature for the school in the early days of development.

Soldiers during the war

The school considered all the soldiers from the war and great depression who were in great need of improving their current career as well as their overall quality of living. Banff school of fine arts were the first few universities to actually have arts and drama in their programs. This allowed all the adults who always wanted to pursue their passion for arts or their love for music.

Behaviorism theory states that human behaviour can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings. When it comes to adult learning with university, they condition them with prizes which allowed them to be in a positive mood which motivates an individual to learn more and achieve more. Banff school of fine art also adapted to their emotions and their old school system behaviours that might have been stuck with them.

Perennialism in education is the belief that schools should teach ideas that are everlasting. Which have lasted through many generations. Connecting this philosophy to Banff school of fine arts is very straightforward. All the programs or courses provided in this school were passed on for generations which change the way people think about arts and drama. The programs allowed people to gain knowledge and information about different aspects of arts to achieve goals in their lives which they never considered or expected. Variety of different of programs were added to the university because of the different experience and creative imagination from students and teachers.

Theoretical Foundations

The original school was really politically influenced, because, as mentioned before it opened during the pre-World War 2 era. Politically speaking, the pre-WW2 era was very populist; as in there was big political push to represent the “common man”. This coupled with the depression hitting Canada made the unique character of the school. Elizabeth S. Haynes, who was a theatre activist, declared, “the people’s theatre is an ageless idea springing everfresh from the hearts of humanity”. This populist orientation was a clear view of the 1930s preceding World War 2.

Post WW2, the programs populist social activism declined, and the school started focused on Canadian nation-building and national culture. Donald Cameron wanted to create an iconic cultural education institution that represented Canadian progression and sovereignty, and this was made possible by producing art within the boundaries of this sovereign land. With this, Donald decided to invite instructors, regardless of where they lived. Bringing in this foreign expertise proved to be very successful.

The critical reflection theory is one that we think the school mostly adopted. Brookfield defines critical reflection as "reflecting on the assumptions underlying ours and other's ideas and actions, and contemplating alternative ways of thinking and living (1987, p. 87).” We think that this theory of learning is particularly applicable in the cultural arts because as a creative art student one must be able to reflect on those raw ideas and emotions and express it in alternative ways. For example, the play “Relief” was produced that reflected the problems that were faced by the Albertans.


Brookfield, S. (1987).Developing critical thinkers: Challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Melnyk, G. (1994).Literary History of Alberta Volume One: From Writing-on-Stone to World War Two. University of Alberta Press


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