This year my art 2 class is small...6 students to be exact. But, that doesn't mean there is a lack of talent. Our first major unit this year was Artists Observe. We spent a week drawing from life. We drew still life drawings. We learned about urban sketching and drew from areas around the school. (That was about urban as we could get.), Then it was time for the students to pick their medium and create an artwork from life.
One day this summer as I was perusing Facebook, I came across a post about a community artwork a woman named Nancy Belmont started. It was a large installation comprised of pvc poles, identifying signs, and miles and miles of yarn. After watching a video about her project, the Unity Project, I knew it was something I needed to bring into my classroom…into my school.
If you think about the divisiveness happening in the world this summer, #BLM, the Dallas protest, the shooting at the Orlando nightclub Pulse, and the horrible rhetoric spewed by one of the Presidential candidates, you can begin to understand why I would want to bring something like the Unity Project to my diverse school. I wanted the community at my high school, both students and staff, to see that we have more in common than they know…and that underneath it all, we are the same.
I talked with my principal to see if we could create a public installation like this. Right away, he gave me the green light. I gathered the information about what was needed, and I created a GoFundMe to help raise funds. (I desperately wished to fund it myself, but I knew I couldn’t.) The donations started to come in…from personal friends, from colleagues, and from former students. Those that didn’t want to donate money, bought yarn by the skein for my students. I was touched by the kindness of the people in my community.
School started August 22, 2016, and on August 23, my students jumped right in. They sanded the poles and sprayed them black. Our welding teacher had his students cut down steel tubes to put inside the poles to help strengthen and reinforce from the pull the yarn would have on the poles. Students balled up skein after skein of yarn, until finally it was time to go outside and bring out installation to life.
We spent a day setting up the structure. Students hammered 33 steel tubes into the ground and then place the 7′-5″ long PVC pipes over them.
The next day, students were asked to fill out a worksheet where they marked off the identifiers that described them. Identifiers included things like their political affiliation, their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their housing situation, and more. Nothing was asked about their gender or the color of their skin. It was completely anonymous. Next they went outside and grabbed a ball of yarn that began at the center pole and created a path that wove around and through the outer poles. Each outer pole represented one of the identifiers on the list. It became like big blue-green web of yarn criss-crossing back and forth. It was beautiful.
Once all of my students–about 130 in all, each added themselves to the project, other teachers brought their classes out to do the same. My student aides added the yarn of our faculty to the project. I couldn’t believe how much of our school community became part of this artwork. It was amazing. In the end, I estimate that over 350 people are represented by our Unity Project. I also estimate that we used over 6 miles of yarn.
One of my favorite things about this project is the sense of pride the students had. I loved standing outside at the end of the day and seeing the students explain to their friends what it was. I love watching them stand and stare at it, contemplating its meaning. It gave me such a great feeling to know it was successful.
After the Unity Project was complete, I was up at school on a Saturday and a storm rolled in. I walked out of my classroom to see the wind rip through the project. The wind was intense. I thought the project was going to go down, or blow away. But, it withstood the weather, and on the next sunny day, it bounced right back.
What makes this more incredible is that our theme for the school year is “We grow stronger together.” How beautiful is that? How much does it speak the truth when everyone’s yarn held strong, and it wasn’t brought down? Because we are Stronger Together.
Art 1 students are exploring the artistic behavior of "Artists Observe". The week was full of them looking carefully at objects, while learning different ways to sketch and how to shade an object. They ended the unit on a fun, 3-dimensional note by becoming the inner workings of the Tantamounter.
What is a Tantamounter you ask? Well, It's basically a large Xerox machine. Except, instead of making paper copies, the tantamounter creates 3-Dimensional, artful replicas of objects.
Faculty and staff were asked to loan objects to the art 1 classes to be replicated. And, they did not disappoint. A variety of interesting objects came in.
Students were given an array of materials to work with: paper, cardboard, fabric, transparency film, yarn, wood pieces, and many other things. They then were given only a half hour to tantamount the object they chose.
The students got to work immediately. Conversations were thoughtful and on-task. Students not only were looking closely at their objects (Artists Observe), but were also making informed choices about how to replicate and what materials to use (Artists Problem Solve).
I am so proud of my art 1 artists. They knocked this activity out of the park. They got in, got messy, worked together, and created some wonderful tantamounts. I look forward to seeing what else they create this year.
As the school year gets closer to being done, the themes in art 1 get "harder". Students were asked to look at identity and what identity means? They looked at themselves. They looked at other cultures. They looked at digital identity. They wrote and talked about how to show what identity means. They went deep into their thinking and came out with some fabulous responses to the theme.
Art Club is hosting a Paint Party!!!
Friday, April 22 at 7pm. THS. Only 40 spots available! Sign up today in room 1100.
Cost is only $15, which includes the canvas, paint, snacks and drinks.
As the year progresses on, so does the creativity and exploration of my art 1 students. We are currently in a full open studio--meaning students can pretty much use any medium they want to create their artwork. And finally, they are pushing themselves to do new and exciting things. (I'm gonna be honest here, I was a little worried that so many were stuck on drawing, but this unit has proven me wrong.)
Our latest theme is "Fragments". For our brainstorm session, we went in a different direction. Normally I have the students use Padlet and we brainstorm using our computers. This time, the students got into groups of 3-4 and answered some questions on fragments. After time to discuss as groups, we came back together as a class and shared our findings. You can see the results here (just scroll down to the current unit section.)
I wanted to share some of the wonderful things happening in the art room right now evolving from our "fragments" theme. Hover over the image for a caption.
OMG y'all!! I had to share. I have this student who is a senior in my beginning ceramics class. This is a picture of something he is in the middle of creating.
Let me break this down for you: First, he dug his own clay from his backyard and "processed" it. He took the clay and mixed it with porcelain to create a gradient that had 7 values. (I wish we took pictures of it.) He then took the 7 value rolls and rolled them together. He flattened it and cut off the top to make it level. This is what it looked like when he cut the top off. He plans on forming this into a bowl. We have tested the clay he dug and when bisqued, it turns red. He is making a rose bowl.
Best part, he did all this on his own! He researched every.single.step. He is the epitome of what a TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) student should be. He spends every minute he is not in another class in my room working on clay things and just experimenting and learning new techniques. Yesterday he taught some of my art 1 kids on the wheel. (In return, I mixed some of his gradients for him so I could be present for the rest of the class.)
Art 1 is just rolling along, making art like there is no tomorrow. Their most recent works are centered around the theme of "Power". Let me tell you how proud I am of my artists. They are really starting to blossom. Their ideas are so flushed out. Their composition skills and technical skills are really coming together. I can look at their work and see how much they have grown as artists. And, it gives me so much to look forward to because they can only get better from here. These guys are why I keep say that Duck Art Rulz!!!!!
Mrs. Barnett, Art Teacher Extraordinaire. But really, the students create the awesomeness on this page.
The Living Painting Experiment
The living painting is a 36"X40" canvas that the students are free to work on and add to as they have extra paint or are finished with their work. The work will continue to evolve as students add and cover.