urban arts


about the urban arts program

Montreal’s premiere Urban Arts High School, James Lyng, unites high school, university and community to support student learning, empowerment, and self-expression through the arts. It partners teachers with hip-hop, urban art, and street artists to develop collaborate with teachers across the curriculum, ranging from Math and Science to Physical Education and French.

The collaboration between teacher and artist is supported by subject-area specialists from McGill’s Faculty of Education. At the heart of the initiative is student success. This new student-centered curriculum makes learning experiential and takes into consideration all learning styles.

program information

What is Urban Arts?

The Urban Arts curriculum places a premium on the role of student self-expression and creativity in learning, and is culturally relevant, drawing upon student interests in forms of popular culture such as hip-hop.

Is urban arts for all learning styles?

The urban arts can engage non-traditional learners by including opportunities for visual, kinesthetic, and aural learning. They place emphasis on learning by doing. The urban arts focus integrates the curriculum, helping students make connections between subjects through cross-curricular collaborations based in the arts.

In addition, the WOTP and 15+ programs have worked directly with local artists to create the school’s first art gallery, to organize a student run Hip Hop fair and to design a t-shirt.

What course options are currently available?

We are currently in the first phase of integrating urban arts across the curriculum. The goal is that eventually every teacher will be working collaboratively with an artist and will incorporate some form of art directly into the curriculum.

The school now has an art specialist and a music specialist. Both teachers work with all of our students and draw upon the urban arts for inspiration.

Is Urban arts a mandatory or optional program?

The Urban Arts Program is integrated into the regular curriculum whenever possible through "units". Units are the product of collaborations between James Lyng teachers and local artists. These all work to meet the subject-specific competencies of the Quebec Education Program, but do so by integrating the arts.

For example, in Grade 8, Math the teacher will be working with a graffiti muralist to teach a unit on dilations through the creation of a mural for the back wall of the classroom.

James Lyng also offers a wide range of Urban Arts non-mandatory extra-curricular activities such as: Writing Our Rhymes Down (W.O.R.D.) hip-hop literacy, graffiti, street-art, urban gardening, DJing, Dance, barbershop and hairdressing.


our urban arts students - Up Next Festival

Contact Information

Derrek Cauchi
Principal - James Lyng HS
Mikaella Goldsmith
Community Development Agent

Our community Partners


Le Mouvement - Adoptez une École

Créé par les organismes Fusion Jeunesse et Réseau réussite Montréal, le mouvement Adoptez une école est un incubateur d’initiatives pédagogiques novatrices pour les écoles primaires et secondaires qui veulent fournir une occasion différente aux jeunes ayant davantage de difficultés de réussir à l’école.


High School for Recording Arts

The High School for Recording Arts is a public charter school in St. Paul, Minnesota, which operates within and around a professional music and video recording studio. HSRA (founded in 1994) serves very marginalized students (92% live below the poverty line, and 30% are homeless), but the school been able to graduate more than 70% of its students and 100% of those graduates go to college. The HSRA began offering the Urban Arts Project support in 2015 in the form of consultation on their in-school studio and record label, and we anticipate bringing James Lyng staff to visit the HSRA.


McGill Department of Integrated Studies (DISE)

McGill has been supporting the Urban Arts Project from its conception in 2012. It is helping to fund it through a Social Science and Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant. Researchers, including arts in education and content area specialists, from the Department of Integrated Studies in Education are documenting the project, and helping to scaffold the collaborations between teachers and artists.

under pressure

Under Pressure

Under Pressure is the longest running graffiti and hip hop festival which exists world-wide. This event is based on creating a dialogue between people who participate in the culture and people who are interested in it and has since developed into a community based organization which runs graffiti programs in many different schools, workshops, conferences, concerts, live art events and has started a scholarship to support students in the arts.


Writing our Rhymes Down (W.O.R.D.)

WORD has been offering extra-curricular hip-hop literacy programming at JLHS and other schools since 2007, developing models of teaching for at-risk youth. Beat making, songwriting, production, and performance are the skill sets they teach to encourage self esteem building and critical thinking.


Y.M.C.A. Pointe-Saint-Charles

The YMCA Pointe-St-Charles supports adolescents living in the neighborhoods served by JLHS through sports, arts, and life-skills programs. Recognizing the demand from youth, this YMCA began offering street art programs at JLHS in 2009, under the leadership of Melissa Proietti, coordinator of the Y’s adolescent programming. It also supports the creation of a student-run "street art" gallery in the school, which Proietti is overseeing.