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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.

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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.

The natural arc of the high school semester long art class currently puts my Art 1 students ready for a new direction. This group is made up of 2 large (20-30) classes. They are 9-12 graders with varying abilities, maturity, and attitudes. In the last 4 weeks they have been indoctrinated in Betty Edwards and the very technical, albeit expressive aspects of representing an experience with the natural world in a “realistic manner” using pencil and paper. They have grown in confidence as they have learned how artists see, as well as their way around the studio and materials. They have also gravitated into cliquish groups and many would now much prefer to visit with one another rather than “pose, develop and explore”.

What can I do to motivate my students to begin to approach their art experience with wonderings?

I began to develop such an exploration today, but once I read over Reading # 1, I immediately went back and began re-framing. For example, I originally wrote, Drawing Yourself as a Mythical Imaginary Creature, and re-framed it to, How can I draw a likeness of myself, that others will recognize as me, as a mythical, imaginary creature? We have already done drawings of ourselves in 3 different ways; I am hoping that they will naturally gravitate to one of those techniques to capture their likeness; they may even take a previous drawing and build from it. This is not as open ended as I would want, but I hope the next phase will be.

The next question I will pose is, How can I give my figure a sense of place/environment? I intend to apply 2 parameters.

  1. You may choose to work in collaboration with another artist or not, but each of your imaginary creatures must be included.
  2. Be a cooperative, productive member of your shared studio space. Return all materials to their proper areas/ bins/ drawers/ shelves and clean up all messes.

I plan to list the following available media:

  • Fabric/notions
  • Found objects
  • Various paints
  •  Various drawing materials
  •  Cardboard boxes
  •  Plaster craft
  •  Ipad, netbook, camera, zoom
  •  Printer/projector

I plan to prepare a presentation of various artists and styles. Expressly not within the theme of this exploration, but to suggest the myriad of ways this problem could be approached creatively. The next step would be to brainstorm. I hope to hear things like:

  • Photograph a 2 or 3D representation of my imaginary creature in a staged place using a camera/stop motion/video
  • Collage (hand done or photoshop/gimp)
  • 3D shadow box-found objects
  • Mural-large paper format-use ladybug
  • Installation-my piece could take up a corner of a room-include sound/video

It will be exciting to witness this as it unfurls in the classroom and share it on the blog. I welcome any feedback from my fellow AE in suggestions to make this exploration richer. I don’t feel that this plan supports my students in posing, developing and exploring their own questions. Yet, considering this group, I don’t think the majority is quite ready for such a leap. I hope that this exploration will open an avenue that makes the next exploration even more open ended.

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