Friday, June 23, 2023

Summer Camp for the Blind: Homegrown


This year's camp from school had an agricultural theme. Students were able to practice farm to table skills by picking basil and making pesto, picking blueberries for muffins and making butter to top it off. 

My friend Matt Forrest came for the first day of my Farmer's Market class to help me with a T-shirt screen printing project. These would be the camp shirts that students would wear on the field trip to go fishing. I started the design with a bunch of concept sketches before doing a larger drawing of a barn. My husband scanned it in and added the sunrise and text. We sent the file to Matt who used a photo process to create silkscreens, and that's where the students came in. A 45 minute class is just enough time to explain the process and have a handful of children print a shirt or two.
One of the highlights from the week was going to a farm and getting to pet animals. It's especially important for students without any vision to be able to hear the sounds feel the size, shape, and textures of animals so that have that background knowledge to reference when someone references the animal in a movie or book. Even I was surprised at how coarse the hairs on the pig were.

The corn bin was a huge hit for the kids with sensory issues. Getting buried under the dried corn felt like a weighted blanket.

Final Projects: From Pop Up Books to Puppets

For a final project, my art students had to write a proposal of something they wanted to make. They had to list the concept, size, number of pieces (if it was body of work), make a materials list, etc. One student said he wanted to make a pop-up book. I loved this idea, since we hadn't done anything like it in class. He's totally blind and pop-up books are a good way to make flat images tactile. When I pressed him for a theme, he suggested rooms of a house. 

Each page spread was made with a single piece of paper, creating wall paper from collage or rubber stamps, and tiny pieces of fabric served as a rug, bathmat, towel, and shower curtain. Furniture was made from card stock or construction paper. The back of each page spread was glued together and the front and back of the book was made from mat board to to look like the exterior of a home.No words were required-not even a title, for this concept book. 

Other students made mosaics, wooden sculptures, string art gems, fashion plates, anime, or hand puppets. It's so important to learn how to come up with your own ideas for projects and learn how to develop it and see it through to the end. I loved seeing how individual critiques were used by students to flesh out their concept and end up with some really fun products and pieces of art.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The Stars Come Out for our Hollywood Themed Prom

It is no small task trying to convert your school cafeteria into a prom venue. Students had just eaten lunch there hours earlier and wanted to go some place special. In shopping around for a local venue I was finding that $4,000 was the average price for a space that wasn't much better than the one we had for free on campus...other than the fact that I was left with the task of trying to essentially make a wall to hide the 40 foot lunch line...all for about $250.00.  Here's how I did it.
I started with a large roll of vinyl that I bought at the local Rebuilding Macon store. People donate old home building supplies for resale and the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity. I got a giant role of wall-paper like/ canvas like vinyl for $5.00 (normally it's $10.00). 

One roll was enough to paint a 12-foot long Hollywood sign, a 10-foot long Marquee, and 4 8-foot high paintings of stars. These were stapled to large boards. I taped dowels on the tops of the corners and hung black table cloths between two pairs to provide a background for the film decorations I made of laminated bulletin board paper and pictures of stars and students. 

I used about $22 worth of black and gold balloons to hang from the lights and make center pieces. These balloon towers were just wooden dowels wrapped in paper towels and black felt and to hold it vertically in some glass vases I had in my room. Two black balloons were tied together and the tie straddled the dowel, and then two more black balloons stacked perpendicularly on top. Then four gold, alternating black and gold until it reached the top with about 32 balloons per tower.

Gold fringe hung along the windows on either side of the room. Clapboards and gold stars were placed on tables and hung from the ceiling along with the 10 red and and 10 gold table runners which were $1.00 each. 
Of course food plays a starring role in keeping with the theme. Bags of popcorn,  chocolate covered strawberries that look like tuxedos, and "Hollywood" carved into a watermelon, all added to the festive feel. The marquee sign I painted, "Now Showing: Prom Starring: The Class of 2023" covered the try-drop window into the dish room

Buying photo props were worth the $12, because it served as an activity. Anything that helps people come together and be silly is going to make it feel more like a party. And of course our beloved AJ the DJ keeps everyone moving with his great play lists and personal touches. It really did feel like everyone was having fun!
Most of my $250 budget was taken up with our big Oscar cut-out, the red carpet, red curtain, gold fringe, balloons, and table runners.  Last year's Alice in Wonderland themed prom didn't cost nearly that much, because I had two years to do things like bring in broken umbrellas and newspaper to transform into mushrooms. Plus,This year I felt like I had a month to paint and glue. Thank goodness for online shopping, and a big shout out to the the maintenance guys who built the panels in two days!

As I was setting up I walked into the building, past this year's long wall mural, into the cafeteria lobby where my first mural remains, and peered into my latest "installation" a prom that would be dissembled that night, and realized that even though some of these visual moments are fleeting, I hope I helped make our school a more positive environment for years to come.


Popcorn Decorations for Movie Party

Popcorn is a must when it comes to the movies, so for our Hollywood themed prom, I wanted giant popcorn  photo op. You can buy a kit with yellow and white balloons for the popcorn, but we already had the insulation shaped popcorn from the Christmas string with cranberries. This was made in two pieces by piping the insulation on a flat surface and then flipping it to make the flat side pop. I had a giant shipping box, that I opened up, and then made a hammock/ shelf structure near the top of the box and a little back, so there was a place to put the popcorn without having to fill anything from the bottom. And then it was just a matter of painting large stripes on a large piece of vinyl canvas and hot gluing it to the front and sides.