Wednesday, September 28, 2022

My Journey In Art Exhibition

My friend and colleague, James Caldwell, has his hands in just about every good cause there is in Macon, Georgia, so I'm not surprised that he donated an entire gallery of Art to the Harriet Tubman museum. I was there for the special luncheon where he received the Medal of Courage, and he was there to lead my students through his exhibition: My Journey in Art: Selections from the Collection of James Caldwell.

The Harriet Tubman Museum houses a wide range of art, from folk art to contemporary pieces. They allowed our visually impaired students to handle artifacts from Africa as well as inventions made by African Americans. We saw music memorabelia as well, such as Jimi Hendrix's guitar and Little Richard's boots.

The ten minute drive made for a quick field trip, but I think our students were happy to experience a wide range of displays and a personal tour by our very own French teacher.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Relief Sculpture with Found Objects

Playing with blocks is one of the first ways a child learns to play and create. Architects and artists never outgrow the activity.  For our study of Louise Nevelson, I had my students create assemblage sculptures using found objects. Each student went "shopping" at my table full of wooden blocks, stretcher bars, popsicle sticks, and etc. They arranged their items in three different ways, documenting each one with a photograph so that they can discuss the strongest parts of each one and be more intentional with their arrangement before gluing it together.
Then they painted their sculpture a solid color. Some students chose one of Nevelson's preferences of either white or black, but others choose orange, purple, or blue.

A handful of students donated their piece to be part of a large collaborative sculpture. Arranging each individual relief sculpture into a larger structure and filling in the gaps in a way that created a unified piece was a lot of fun. We used wood glue for the small pieces and screwed large boards together. The finished piece was spray painted black, with some turquoise highlights to accentuate the shadows. It's nice to have a 4 foot sculpture that my blind students can experience through touch, that teaches about form, the use of tools (as part of our larger unit on building) and iconic sculptor, Louise Nevelson.


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Caulk Painting

 Hammer and nails, drill and screws, and now caulk. We're exploring lots of media, tools, techniques, and procedures in Art this month.

Caulk is an especially effective thing to use to make drawings and paintings tactile for my visually impaired students.

I've noticed lots of problems in understanding how to make an effective composition, so I had to lay down some guidelines for this one. Each student had to fill the canvas by using large, medium and small shapes, coming in from the edges. Most students created eight to twelve shapes by overlapping some lines. 

Then they filled most of the shapes with a variety of textures by using the caulk to make dots, circles, spirals, dots and spirals. the next day we played around paints.

Some students used liquid watercolor to create a stained look.

Others used latex or acrylic to cover up any marker under drawing lines. Either way, students were happy with their two day tactile project.

Friday, September 9, 2022

String Art

My students love string art. Stitching yarn in a board is therapeutic and the end product is a tactile image, something that they appreciate, since they are visually impaired.

Students place shapes on the back of a piece of matboard, and then went around the shapes using a thumb tack. The wholes were too small for our big plastic needles, so they placed the mat on a wooden bored and punched each hole with a hammer and nail. This was a great chance to practice using the world's favorite building tool.

Even elementary school students, or students with cognitive disabilities, who were totally blind, enjoyed stitching yarn into cardboard. They each picked a stencil of a simple shape, and we poked holes within the stencil. Once the needle was threaded and the end of the yarn taped to the back, they were happy to find the holes and push or pull the needle through each one.  

Screw Art

To go with my theme of "building a great school year," I wanted to teach my students the kind of tools they can use for home improvement projects. Most schools have a core curriculum but students, who are blind, are required to learn an expanded core curriculum that may include Braille, orientation and mobility, cooking, or career exploration...every day living skills that most people learn through observation. I wanted to let my students use a drill to make holes or put screws into wood. Even if they never do it themselves, at least they all know what people are talking about when they reference drills and screws in the future.  For this project, they painted a piece of wood a solid color, painted a black shape on it (most students were thinking in terms of typography), fill the shape with holes, fill the holes with screws, and finally paint the screw heads. It's a simple concept: practice a skill and end up with a tactile piece of art that really pops.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Mixed Media Mania

 When you let students with little to no vision make art, there's no telling what you'll get. I found a bunch of old prints of masterpieces being thrown away and I quickly grabbed them, thinking that little help from a master can never hurt.

These prints were used as a starting point in our discussion about media. We made a huge list of types of media, both two and three dimensional and put it all into a mind-map poster.

I offered students a huge range of things for them to use to collage, draw, paint, and manipulate the image of their choice. It's a fun project to learn about the history appropriation as well, but mostly we wanted to play with materials. 
Mixed media assignments are crowd pleasers with build-in differentiation.

Hand Building a Bright School Year

 I ran into a ceramicist at a Bastille Day party this summer who told me about meeting a blind girl. "I just wanted to make her a trophy!" she said. Clay trophies. Sounded like a fun project to kick off the school year.

The assignment began by discussing the purpose of education with my high school students. If they leave at the end of the year, the same people they are at the beginning of the year, than what's the point? Education is about learning, growing and becoming better humans. This led to a discussion about what they felt it meant to be a good person and what kind of attributes they wished to achieve.

Each student made a trophy that to give themselves at the end of the year after working for the next 10 months improving in their area of weakness. Two students want to be more outgoing and another more care free. Some students want to be more organized, empathetic, helpful, generous, or kind. We talked about what kind of symbols would embody those abstract traits before they hand built their clay trophies.

Character education can be taught through art, and you can bet I'll do my best to follow up with students on how they're doing on their goal, so that we get closer to the best possible versions of ourselves.