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On March 2 our CIG met at the Uniontown High School to help out with a program taking place.  The Invisible Children program came to present their video Kony 2012. IC has been presenting an assembly at the Uniontown District for the last 5 years. Their non-profit organization raises awareness for the plight of children in Uganda affected by the 20 year war. These children are constantly threatened with kidnap, torture, sexual slavery and being forced into fighting. Each year as the students see the new informational video and hear from the young Ugandans who share their stories in person, they respond with compassion and generosity. This compassion seems to manifest itself through art. This year the young people have planned a 5K run followed by an art and music festival.  Many times students respond n a very emotional way through their art making. These pieces are then part of the festival and may be experienced and purchased by the attendees. I have seen first hand how art making answers the deep seated question “Ok, I see this terrible need on the other side of the world, but what can I do about it.

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I heard an interview on NPR’s Tell Me More,A Memoir Should Be More Than A History Lesson back on February 1, 2012, and one statement seemed to hit at the heart of inquiry.

“Lorene Cary, one of the reasons we’re so glad to talk with you is that you have penned one and you wrote one at a pretty young age. It was about your experience as a student at a New England boarding school, the first group of girls to attend this school and you and I share that experience, oddly enough. So I wanted to ask what made you want to write one?

I wanted to out that experience. You’re talking to me, by the way, just a few months after I’ve been appointed to the School Reform Commission here in Philadelphia and for me, going from public school to a boarding school in New England was an experience of going from an education where, basically, many of my teachers as I was growing up looked at us and tried to figure out what was wrong with us in order to try to fix us and get us better to an experience where all of these people looked at us as if to try very hard to figure out what was special and exquisite about us.”

As I have pondered and inquired on our group’s theme (How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world through the arts?). I feel more and more that the arts are invaluable to connect with a child’s heart. As I listened to this interview in  the car I immediately thought of our CIG.

I feel an evolution of our thinking taking place. I think many of us become teachers because we want to “help”. We want to make children’s lives better. There is nothing wrong with that. But, in the beginning, I did look at my students as “broken”. I see now how condescending this is. As I have grown as a teacher through Arts Educator, I naturally began to see how special the students are. Our inquiring hearts theme is a way of trying very hard to identify what is special and exquisite about each child and then reflecting it back to them.

I wanted to share with my fellow AE these 2 videos made by a group of students in Art 1. These are the responses of this particular group to the inquiry question; How can we re-tell the story of our school?

I would appreciate your feedback, especially any help with editing out the sound noise on the final rap video.

 

Preview of Sunshine video:

http://vimeo.com/33917005

 

THE Sunshine Video:

http://vimeo.com/33917437

 

 

 

Please check out my classroom blog, it contains photos and a short video.

http://uhsvisualarts.blogspot.com

On November 17, 2011 the Art 1 students of UHS held an exhibition of their current works. Teachers, parents and administrators were invited and light refreshments served.

I was delighted with the enthusiasm of these art students as they selected and displayed their work. This was an excellent formative assessment for me as we are 1/2 way through the course. I can see much more clearly how far we have come and in what direction I am interested in us going. What a great experience. Feeling grateful for the position I am currently placed.

Adolescent Themes and Contemporary Art Practice  Hafeli, Mary      Art Education; Mar 2008; 61, 2; ProQuest Education Journals
pg. 59

additionally:
Shifting the Curriculum: Decentralization in the Art Education Experience   May, Heidi
ART EDUCATION May 2011; 64, 3  pg.33

As I reflect on my classroom experiences since my first post, I am struck by the shift that has taken place. The statement that Heidi May makes in her article on page 39 might have been made by any observer in my classroom this week.

“There is potential for the art teacher to become a facilitator of critical inquiry among active participants, encouraging multiple viewpoints, within a curricular model that invites self-reflective practices.”

Since my last post was an actual practice about to take place in my classroom, it only seems righ to follow up with what has transpired since. A timeline might be the most expedient method to describe what has taken place.

October 20-23 I attended the Keynote address: “Dedicated to an Unfinished Artmaking Practice” by Sidney Walker at the PAEA in Gettysburg. In this presentation I saw student artists re-telling the story of the newly renovated Library on their campus. This gave me an idea for my Art 1 classes. It seemed most timely, since our school is under going renovations right now.

Week of October 24-28

  • Watched with students the “Identity” episode on Art 21 (PBS)
  • Facilitated brainstorming session on the “story of our school”
    • What stories we tell
    • What stories others tell
    • What is the “official story?
    • What story would you re-tell? would your imaginary/mythical self image be a part of it?
  • Full choice of media, collaborative partners, installation spaces (with administrative permission), etc…
  • Each group/individual shared their ideas with the whole group-other students asked questions and offered suggestions and ideas began taking more shape. Many students were encouraged by Kerry James Marshall (from Art 21) and his description of an artwork going through its ugly phase before it became the final product.
  • Studio Bulletin board Collaboration-this idea came from another keynote at PAEA “Classrooms Dedicated to Conveying Pedagogy” by James Rees where he showed us the classrooms of many highly effective art teachers.

Week of 1October 31-11/4 Media exploration

  • Facilitated an exploration of creative videos, PowerPoints, slideshows, stop motion, etc from the internet, including Boyerstown”s Art is My Life Advocacy video (also seen at the PAEA)
  • Use of technologies such as projectors’, cameras and various editing software made available thanks to ArtsEducator 2.0
  • Plaster craft for sculpting
  • Some projects beginning to take shape
  • Also, some students felt inspired by the plaster craft and began making sculptures of their choosing not related to the “re-telling” project.

Week of  November 7-11

  • Midterm essay (in PSSA format) each student given a passage about one of the 4 Art 21 artists with the following prompt: Read the passage provided. Explain ways in which an artist may attempt to re-tell the story of a place, an idea, an everyday object or interaction. Use at least two examples from the passage to support your explanation. overall, I was pleased with the paragraphs, they demonstrated an understanding of the concept.
  • I, as studio facilitator brought in an artwork I had done which was similar to the last work that they had created (A likeness of themselves as an imaginary mythical creature-see previous post). I then told the mythology behind my artwork (in a bit of a dramatic fashion). Art students then created a Spark page, which was the story of their mythological self. I explained their mythological self and its story needed to be in a form ready for exhibition by November 14, as artists always have deadlines and usually they are related to an exhibition.
  • Began creating invitations to the “The Untold Story of Us” Art 1 Art exhibit which will take place in our art space during parent/teacher conferences (November 14). At this exhibit all the re-telling projects will be presented in whatever state of readiness they may be. As well as other works that student artists have created during the 1st 9 weeks.

This week coming up we will be busy preparing for the show, which will include refreshments and musical entertainment. I hope a few parents come. We get notoriously few who attend at our school.

I have a sense of awe about the re-telling stories in general. I purposely did not steer them to take a positive spin on our situation at our school, which can be quite negative. But, all their projects do have a positive leaning. To say to a kid, “If you could have people start to think of your school in a new way, what would it be? If you could re-tell the story of this place in some small way, how would you?” and they take it seriously. I don’t think they even doubted that it would be possible. I am very inspired by them!

As I reflect on what has been happening I am struck by the way the art space has become exciting and  collaborative. The periods go by quickly with students questioning, trying, failing, trying again. Asking me questions, and I encouraging or asking questions right back. Any “downtime” also seems to be productive as it involves conversations with their groups, or sketching, or working on a side project completely student directed.

I so related to Hafeli’s statement  on page 11 of her article, that we need to “direct our gaze more locally to focus on our own art worlds going on in our art classrooms.” Sometimes I doubt myself, that maybe I am giving the student artist too much credit. After all, some of them are only 14 and this is the first high school art class they have ever had. Yet, they truly are sophisticated beyond what I was at 14, surely due to this visual culture all around us. Where every other TV commercial is a work of art. And Youtube videos are watched for hours and admired for their message, absurdity, or technical skill. Yet, I am  I feeling a sense of comfort in this role. After all, I have been teaching for 12 years under the philosophy borrowed from Picasso, that all children are artists, and my job is to help them not forget this when they grow up.

As soon as I read over Question #5 in our reading, I immediately began thinking about my 8th grade class.  Last year, they learned the art history timeline and how art evolved over time.  This year, I want to expose them to the many avenues of contemporary art and how art has been molded and formed in every way possible.  We have looked at the ephemeral natural sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy, silkscreened popular culture like Warhol, currently we are finishing a fashion project inspired by Alexander McQueen, and plans for installation and performance art are to come later on.  I want to expose my students to these things so that they understand that art is not just pencil and paper.  Artistic skill is more than how well you can use your hands.  There is a conceptual aspect to art, where ideas, emotions, and messages drive the production and creativity.

Installation, performance art, and any kind of conceptual art in general are intimidating to me because of the unpredictable that can and will occur in the classroom.  Conceptual art must include a deep interest and although I know my students to a certain extent, there is no way I can totally plan where their projects will end up.  Conceptual art in my mind is nothing but inquiry.  It leaves both the educator and student in vulnerable positions, working together to create one successful piece.  Collaboration, questions, research, multiple viewpoints, and knowledge on your topic are essential.  I want my students to dive into this.  They have been so excited to see what project is next because it’s stuff they’ve never seen before.  However, I am getting concerned that this is going to be way over their head.  I need to introduce these art forms without overwhelming them.  How can I get them to understand contemporary art without intimidating them first?  How can I get my students to appreciate the sophistication of these art forms and inspire them to really think about their artistic choices?  How can I manage a classroom where the possibilities could be endless, yet still feel structured?

This is my first attempt at this, and I am sure there will be a lot of trial and error.  I doubt I will be able to get everything I want to done within the semester, but with tweaks along the way I hope to have some smooth lessons by the end of the year.

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