Jill Tuttle

Jill Tuttle is currently showing a collection of her artwork at Banbury Lane Design Centre in downtown Calgary | Photo: Courtesy of Jill Tuttle

Jill Tuttle

From teaching to dancing, creativity infuses every part of her life

Not many aspiring filmmakers have a teacher with a side gig as a Bollywood dancer, but Jill Tuttle’s students at Henry Wise Wood Senior High School do.

That’s because the Nova Scotian transplant—who teaches film, animation, graphic design and photography— spends her weekends as part of a Calgary Bollywood dance team, Sparq Productions. The group regularly gets hired to dance at corporate events, festivals, weddings, as background dancers in concerts, or anywhere else in Calgary where you might need Bollywood dancers. Jill shares her love for Bollywood dance by teaching for Sparq Productions at two dance schools in Calgary, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and Free House Dance Plus.

“I just love everything about Bollywood dance,” she says. “The music is fun, it’s beautiful, and it’s energetic. The costumes I get to wear are incredible.

“It’s like being a kid,” she adds. “I get to wear full sparkle outfits, put on makeup, do my hair and dance my heart out!”

And while she may get thrills from her love of Bollywood dance, that’s hardly the only creative aspect of Tuttle’s life.

Tuttle performs for Sparq Productions at ONE – Power of World Dance | Photo: Courtesy of Sohail Kashif
Tuttle performs for Sparq Productions at ONE – Power of World Dance | Photo: Courtesy of Sohail Kashif

Trained in visual art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Tuttle moved west in 2006, where she was accepted into the University of Calgary’s education program.

Within a month of launching her career as a substitute teacher with the Calgary Board of Education, Tuttle landed a full-time job teaching French, but before long, she was gravitating towards her first love—visual art.

Not only did she teach art in class, but Tuttle was the organizer of a number of student art events such as art markets, art shows and the annual Throwdown, a student art battle. The Throwdown, which takes place every May, brings students from over a dozen different schools together in a single location, where they have a few hours, from concept to completion, to create an original piece of art.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Tuttle says, “schools choose artists in different ways. Some schools bring their top artists, and other schools bring kids who are a little bit shy, and would benefit from the opportunity to make art with other like-minded people—so it’s a pretty wide range of student that we get [participating].

“Part of the purpose,” she adds, “is to expose people to the artistic process. The event is open to the public to come and interact with the artists and see the work in progress… so it’s a fun one to organize.”

A closeup of Tuttle's Chandelier, created with Ink and acrylic paint on repurposed steel panel | Photo: Courtesy of Jill Tuttle
A closeup of Tuttle’s Chandelier, created with Ink and acrylic paint on repurposed steel panel | Photo: Courtesy of Jill Tuttle

After a few years teaching visual art, Tuttle found herself taking on digital art in 2015, about which she knew very little—turning the teacher into as much of a learner as her students.

“I had to learn so many new programs!” she says. “The Adobe programs, 3D and 2D animation—the amount I learned last year is mind-boggling to me. It’s been awesome to feel like I have the more traditional art side, the visual art side and now I feel like I have a really good base in the digital art world. It’s kind of cool.”

Tuttle teaches the introductory portion of the program, and says it has opened her eyes to how to engage young minds in the education system.

“I’m now beginning my second year,” she says, “but in talking to my digital media arts teaching partner, our numbers are up every year. She has a number of students going onto school, to pursue digital media arts as a career, so I think it’s becoming a lot more engaging for kids, because it’s such a huge industry and they’re seeing how it could be a good career choice.”

It’s also a prime example of a creative provincial education system, which is finding innovative ways to incorporate digital technology as a means of engaging students.

“It’s realistic,” she says, “to know that not every single kid is going to be passionate about every single subject, but finding ways to create a spark, even in small ways, should be the goal of every educator. I think teachers are really being pushed to get more creative with our classroom practices. Are we doing something that is different, challenging our students and asking them try new things and take risks?

“I think that’s a strength of the system right now,” she says, “they’re supporting and encouraging teachers to constantly be enhancing their teaching and learning, making it more interesting, exciting and authentic.”

Once she leaves the school, Tuttle finds her creative self is drawn back towards her visual art background as a mixed media artist.

She was a top 10 finisher in the Stampede Artist Ranch competition (only six get in) in 2015, and has had some of her work, which is mixed media, selected to appear in a variety of art exhibitions. These include an current exhibition of her work at Banbury Lane Design Centre, in downtown Calgary. It’s the first comprehensive exhibition of Tuttle’s work, but not, she hopes, the last. She is constantly searching for ways to get more art time in her life, from painting dates with her friends, to participating in Art Battles, to attending art gallery openings.

“I want to keep getting more involved with the arts community,” Tuttle says. “I’m really excited about the developments I’ve made with my artwork, so I’m hoping that can continue.

“I just really enjoy a variety of arts experiences,” she adds. “I want to keep all of that going, keep being active, and keep doing all these things that I’m passionate about.”


About The Storytelling Project

On November 16, 2015, Calgary Arts Development hosted a working session with approximately 30 creative Calgarians from various walks of life. Many of the small working groups voiced the need to gather and share more stories of people living creative lives.

That need has turned into The Storytelling Project.

The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Have a story to share? Email us at news@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.