Arts Umbrella

Summary of organization/program

Arts Umbrella is a not-for-profit arts education centre for children and youth ages 2 to 19. Arts Umbrella is committed to delivering the highest quality visual and performing arts education to young people, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances.

Contact information


 1286 Cartwright Street, Granville Island Vancouver, BC V6H 3R8, Canada




Geographic region

  • Local



  • Vancouver children and youth ages 2-19 regardless of their financial circumstances.
  • A proficiency in written and spoken English is required for all classes.

History/Background Information

  • Since: 1979
  • Umbrella Organization: No
  • In 1979, United Nations’ International Year of the Child, Arts Umbrella opened its doors to 45 children. It was an endeavour buoyed by the dream of five enthusiastic artists and parents concerned about the lack of arts education available to children. Initially, the founders did everything it took to get their idea off the ground and they served as instructors and as the organization’s first Board of Directors.
  • The need for children’s arts education in the community was clearly evident, and Arts Umbrella took off instantly. Soon, Arts Umbrella boasted its own building, an increasing group of volunteers and donors, and a prestigious Board of Directors.
  • From those early days, Arts Umbrella has flourished with a strong vision and an unwavering focus on inspiring kids for life through the arts by providing the highest quality visual and performing arts education to children regardless of their financial circumstances. Demand for Arts Umbrella’s programs continues to increase and as funding permits, programming grows and evolves to meet this need.
  • At Arts Umbrella, children learn to dance, to paint, to sculpt, to create computer games and cartoons, and to perform. They experience the joy of creation and discover their own creative potential. They learn to appreciate the arts. Most important, through arts education, children gain self confidence, independent thinking, technical skills, discipline, and even improved academic results and specific career direction. Numerous studies indicate that people who receive arts education early in life reap many tangible, long-term, life-changing benefits and gain skills that can help them well into adulthood.
  • Arts Umbrella’s strong legacy and culture are the result of the vision and “magic” established by the founders, and upheld through the work of the inspiring instructors and the community that supports the organization. Everyone that has been touched by Arts Umbrella — from students past and present, to parents, staff, instructors, volunteers, donors and the Board of Directors — thrives and is fed by the energy of the thousands of young people who engage in the magic of the Arts Umbrella experience, year after year.
  • This magic is a key attribute of Arts Umbrella and something the organization continues to take very seriously. By fostering and nurturing the magic, Arts Umbrella has become a truly world-class children’s arts centre serving the community around it, and a model for children’s arts institutions around the world.

Dominant Media Forms

video production

music production


live performance

multi media presentations


Arts Umbrella is committed to delivering the highest quality visual and performing arts education to young people, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances.

Statement of Principles

not provided


Parents can enrol their children in Arts Umbrella classes held at the Granville Island facility throughout the year. They can also apply for bursary funding to offset the cost of participation. Children may also be able to take advantage of Arts Umbrella’s free-of-charge outreach programs, organized through specific schools in Metro Vancouver and elsewhere in the province.
Arts Umbrella’s classes are created for a wide range of ages and for every level, from “no skill required” to pre-professional. The mix of topics in visual, performing and applied arts education is also exceptionally diverse and includes, architecture, cartooning, computer and classical animation, dance, film making, media arts, painting and drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, theatre and video game design. Children who start in one discipline at Arts Umbrella often are inspired to move on to others in subsequent semesters, because they have been exposed to the variety of possibilities.Arts Umbrella programs have a powerful impact on children. They help children learn to appreciate the arts and to develop their own creativity but even more valuable is the impact on the rest of their lives.

Scientific research confirms that early exposure to arts and early access to arts education have a dramatic, positive, lasting impact on children in many areas of their lives. In addition, children and youth involved in arts programs use up to 50% fewer social, justice and health services through the course of their lives.

Children who develop arts literacy (knowledge, skills and ability), will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn to appreciate the arts
  • Learn technical skills
  • Gain a wider view of themselves and their opportunities in the world
  • Develop self-confidence and self-worth
  • Explore and develop creativity and innovation
  • Develop an ability to make decisions independently
  • Learn how to work with others
  • Develop discipline
  • Learn to set and achieve goals
  • Improve their odds of success in all areas of their lives
 Arts Umbrella is Canada’s pre-eminent arts institute for young people. Our classes are taught by professional artists and highly-trained arts educators. Students have an opportunity to use high quality art materials. Class sizes are small to ensure the maximum contact between instructor and students. With a focus on arts education, we strive to provide students with continuity and progression of skill development. aches/ etc…


Samples of work

Photography: Foundation*

Develop your technical skills with a manual 35mm camera. Discover exciting historical processes including pinhole cameras, photograms, cyanotypes and hand-colouring to broaden your understanding of the evolution of creating still images.
* See also Digital Photography in Digital Arts

Photography: Image Making*
Start with the basics of black-and-white photography, shooting with a 35mm manual camera to understand the art behind photographic images. Learn to develop film and create prints in the darkroom. Study lens choice, exposure, depth of field, composition, and presentation.
* See also Digital Photography in Digital Arts

Photography: Projects & Portfolio*
Immerse yourself in the art of photography using black-and-white darkroom techniques, and digital and 35mm manual technologies. Study portraiture, landscape and still life. Expand on creative visual expression, and experiment with new ideas by using exposure, shutter and aperture.
* See also Digital Photography in Digital Arts

Architecture: Digital Spaces & Places*
Imagine, design and create spaces and places for the future using digital technology. Explore landscape, scale and proportion and use Sketch Up, Photoshop and Illustrator software to build your ideas into reality.
*See also Architecture in Visual Arts

Classical Animation
Bring characters and drawings to life using flip-books, drawing on film, puppets, clay, cut-outs, and multi-plane animation. Learn about plot development, storyboarding, character design and sound development.

Take your animation skills to a new level with clay animation, one of the many forms of stop-motion animation. Use the malleable substance, Plasticine, to bring your characters and backgrounds to life.

Computer Animation
Expand your knowledge of contemporary computer animation and enhance your skills using Flash. Learn the principles of character design, storyboarding and animation within a digital environment. Dynamic montages of character design, movement, graphics, effects and lighting are incorporated.

Digital Arts & Design
Learn about video, photography, animation, web-based and interactive art works. Use Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, iMovie and open-source software to create digital art.

Digital Discovery*
Children are provided access to software and media arts tools, including computers, printers, scanners, cameras and projectors. Engaged in imaginative projects and themes, children are encouraged to discover their own artistic voice and explore the creative possibilities within media arts.
*See also Early Learning

Kid Tech
Develop confidence with the creation of digital imagery and time-based works, such as animation or video. Experiment with KidPix and Photobooth in preparation for further training in Photoshop and Flash. Recommended for those interested in Computer Arts classes at Arts Umbrella.

Digital Photography
Capture, create, and manipulate digital images as you learn about contemporary digital photography practices. Expand your creative expression abilities by exploring the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator and other digital image software.
*See also Photography in Visual Arts

Film Making & Video Art
Work as part of a production team to plan, write, produce and edit an original short film. Study storyboarding, lighting, in-camera editing and other techniques. Use storytelling, screen tests and inspiration from films to create dynamic cinematography.

Media Arts
Create dynamic digital art works as you develop your technical and creative skills and study contemporary artists working with digital media. Explore digital image manipulation, digital animation and video-making using a variety of software.

An animated music video created by kids aged 9-12 at Arts Umbrella:

Funding Sources

Arts Umbrella has been a registered charity (No. 11885 RR0001) since 1979. In 2006/07, tuition fees accounted for only 44% of our operating budget. Government funding covered less than 5% of the annual budget. The remainder was raised through special events and donations from foundations, community organizations, corporations and individuals. 

Founding Sponsors:  Holt Renfrew, HSBC Bank, Rio Tinto Alcan, Telus Mobility