Two weekends ago, when we had our first taste of Spring, I had the honor of attending our Junior Retreat. Even though I do not teach many juniors I knew a few through various school activities, and social action days. I can’t say much about the retreat, because it is meant to be a very sacred journey for the girls. However I did get to take an early morning walk before anyone else was up so that I could watch the sunrise on the Potomac. The Loyola Retreat Center in Faulkner Maryland was gorgeous. Here are the photos:
It has been a long time since I have been a high school student, and an even longer time since I have read a high schoolers personal essay. I have read plenty of artist statements, and reflections on growth as an artist, but none of these give me a real and tangible glimpse at the student perspective like a personal essay, or a creative writing piece. (Note to self: Talk to the creative writing teacher ASAP) Now I have to. I suppose I don’t HAVE to, but I am going to because another teacher (^Creative Writing Teacher) at Stone Ridge and I are now advising the “Calithump.” It’s our schools magazine, and it is full of student submissions. We have poems and photographs and essays and paintings.
An interesting fact about this publication was that it was once an award winning one, a few years back. What award I’m not sure but there is definitely a plaque next to the entrance to our auditorium. Unfortunately, in its recent years it was acquired by other teachers, who then left our school for other opportunities and in that transition it was left abandoned and almost forgotten. (*By abandonded I mean by faculty, and for only a few months) It wasn’t until about two weeks ago that my colleague in the English Department suggested we both take it on. So we took a look into what was left of this publication and we found something amazing. In the absence of teachers, two seniors had taken on the role of editors and had been quietly organizing a team of student staff members in collecting and organizing this publication. So really we were just joining them to offer our support. I contacted the printer to get specific details and suggested a few organizational strategies for the content, while our fearless English teacher offered to look over, edit and advise them on all of the thirty-something written entires they had received. It was kind of like we had stumbled upon a hidden factory. I was, once again, impressed with the self-motivated students we cultivate at Stone Ridge.
So the voice of the student, or the student perspective is what I will focus on in the coming weeks. I read this amazing article about a school in South Carolina that is a public boarding school for the arts and humanities. It looks like a wonderful place to be a creative high school student. From this article I discovered three essays from three different students who attend this school. Each essay was “whatever perspective the students wanted to offer about their experience at the school.” They were all different, but equally inspiring, and they reminded me that I should take into account not only what it is I’m teaching my students, but what it is like to be a student in my class, at this school, and in this area. (I highly recommend the essays which can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/what-my-school-means-to-me-essays-from-3-high-schoolers/284317/)
In this same line of thinking, I have taken an interest in what is going on in some of my students other classrooms. I want to share some artwork that is not a product of my classroom, but a response to an English assignment that required artwork. I was told by a student that I should, “go check out the stuff [they] made in English,” and that it was “pretty cool.” So I did. And is was “pretty cool.”
If you’ve known me for a while then you know I’ve worked at Glen Echo Park in Maryland for eight of the past nine summers now, and about nine weeks each summer. I took off one summer to travel to Salamanca Spain, where my father re-married and I studied Spanish at the Universidad de Salamanca. I also took many many painting and sculpture classes at Glen Echo Park as a high school student, which is how I got my summer job many years ago. It is also where I discovered my love of painting and clay sculpture. Two forms of art I still practice today. I took painting with the famous Bartman’s and sculpture classes with Sinclair Hamilton, who owned a summer camp as well and hired me when he heard I was off to Pratt to study art education.
So if you can’t already tell, I am very fond of this place, Glen Echo. So you won’t be surprised to find out that I have taken up a second/third/fourth job here as a part time administrator for a drop-in family art studio run by PGiP, an occasional sales-person/gift shop duties for the Popcorn Gallery, and an Art Party facilitator, where a birthday party of six year olds and I made mosaics, and learned about Antoni Gaudi. It’s not that I desperately need the money, I don’t, but it helps. I am planning to get married this October and if I am going to have all the little extras I want, I need a bit more wiggle room. Also, I believe that before I have kids, and need to dedicate entire weekends to them, and before I get too bogged down with all of the extra work of keeping a house, I see no good reason not to work an occasional weekend. I have always thrived on a full schedule anyways. It’s the same reasn I find work each summer.
Unfortunately, I wont be returning to the Decorative Fine Arts Camp this summer. I will instead be teaching a summer art program called Multi-Dimensional Studio at my current and fantastic school: Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. Below is the description I wrote for this course:
An exploration in the decorative and fine arts, Multi-Dimensional Studio will challenge students to find new meaning in art through studio work and museum visits. Materials explored will include acrylic paint on canvas, soft sculptures, mixed media collage, recycled/upcycled art, charcoal drawing, digital photography and film. Multi-Dimensional Studio is designed to introduce various art mediums, techniques and styles. Students will study the basic elements and principles of art and design, and use these elements and principles to guide and assess their work. There will also be multiple field trips to mart museums like the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, as well as the National Gallery of art and the Hirshorn. Students will develop their critical thinking skills while they assess their own artwork as well as famous works of art.
It is open to all area high school students and I am really excited about being able to offer a summer course. I will, of course, miss Glen Echo and the Decorative Fine Arts Camp terribly. What summer is complete without the sound of the carousel pumping out its barrel organ tunes, filling up the park with an air of excitement. I will miss counting down from three to a room full of twenty-five campers wiggling in their seats, excited for the next demonstration. Most of all I will miss the raw, fearless art of young children, lacking all that self-doubt and un-necessary modesty that teenage girls impose on theirs. However, I am also thrilled at the prospect of teaching a museum, and self-discovery based summer program for teens that will have ideal hours for both travel and studio time that a regular school year schedule just cannot provide.
Moving backwards a bit…
Below are some photographs I took of the Candy Corner building at glen echo where these drop-in family art studio run by PGiP are happening. My colleague Meredith, an inspired PGiP educator, has been constructing amazing and lovely art activities for families that surprisingly accessible to all ages and vary each week. The space is amazing and Meredith does a fantastic job setting up a welcoming environment for the families each Saturday. I love getting to see what’s new and happening each time I go!
So here are some action shots of my students working on their gesture drawings. These drawings were done using two of the elements of art, line and shape, to build a figure that was proportionate and captured the figure’s pose. Students started (last week) with pencil drawings of small mannequins in their sketchbooks. Next, each student moved on to drawing figures with charcoal on large sheets of paper. These larger drawings were done while we stood and worked on boards set on easels. Each student did many gesture drawings of each member of their class in turn. Each of these drawings took a very short amount of time ranging from thirty seconds to two minutes. The final drawing was an observational drawing of a figure that took ten to fifteen minutes total, and I will follow up with a post showcasing those later.
We have been working on studies of the human figure. Something most of my students are familiar with, but not comfortable. I wanted to encourage and create confidence in my young artists who have expressed interest in drawing people. I even have a few students who are interested in fashion design and have expressed a need to learn more about drawing figures for the sake of adding clothes to them. During our first day with figure drawing (before I broke out the charcoal) we eased into this project with simple pencil drawings of our class set of mannequins. I introducing the classic drawing technique of using 7 heads to keep the average proportions of a human figure.
**More pictures to come next week when we move into charcoal gesture drawings!**