Dr. April Mandrona is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the new Masters of Art in Art Education program at NSCAD University. She received her doctorate in Art Education from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, and was a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at McGill University in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. While at NSCAD, she has established a strong and vibrant program of research with young people and communities on the role of creative production in social engagement, learning and connection across difference. At the heart of her interest in critical art education discourses is youth and communities as cultural producers, as well as issues of well-being, belonging and solidarity. In places where there is systematic marginalization, multimodal art-making can be a means for ordinary people to engage agenticaly with the complexity of issues that affect their lives. Dr. Mandrona has built diverse local and international research networks that seek to offer new insights on the role of the visual across disciplines and subject areas. Her research agenda reflects integrated approaches to research and social change and has three main branches of inquiry: 1) rurality and spatial justice through a visual lens; 2) community art education with underserved populations; 3) creative, ethical practice in research, policy and service provision.
Dr. Mandrona’s current program of funded research explores processes of participation and representation of marginalized young people and under-served groups. Research partnerships take up participatory research with newcomer youth through photography, creative and alternative policy engagement, arts entrepreneurship with minoritized young people and participatory outreach and artistic knowledge dissemination with LGBTQ+ youth. She is the PI of ‘“For Us by Us:” Children’s picture books to promote solidarity and acceptance in the age of refugees, and an SSHRC Insight Development Grant that supports children with refugee experiences (aged 7 to 18 years) in the production and dissemination of their own picture books. This research project is a partnership between NSCAD, Coventry University, and McGill University that shares the unique artistic and narrative insights of refugee young people with local and international communities, particularly libraries, settlement organizations and government ministries. The project will culminate with the production and circulation of over 35 unique picture books and a toolkit for researchers, practitioners, community workers and service providers.
Dr. Mandrona’s scholarly contributions span art and visual studies, community development, education, ethics, gendered relations, geopolitics and participatory practices. She is the current editor-in-chief of Canadian Art Teacher journal. Recent co-edited volumes include Visual Encounters in the Study of Rural Childhoods (MQUP, 2018) and Our Rural Selves: Memory, Place, and the Visual in Canadian Rural Childhoods (Rutgers, 2019). The first collection looks at rural childhoods from around the world with an emphasis on creative and participatory research. The conceptualization of the book comes out of the recognition that despite the growing interest in childhoods and spatiality, there is a paucity of critical, practical research that maps out both conceptually and methodologically the shifting influences on the lives of rural children, and that foregrounds the perspectives of children (present and past) themselves. The companion book, Our Rural Selves, explores Canadian rural and small-town life through individual and collective experiences of childhood remembering. Using visuals like photographs, films and objects in autoethnography and memory-work, the book disrupts idyllic perspectives and stereotypes of the rural, and offers new ways of studying social connectedness and collective futures.