Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Spring Art for kids

 

Spring has sprung with lots of kid centered crafts that have to do with blossoms, eggs, caterpillars and butterflies.

I have a student who is OBSESSED with caterpillars and butterflies. when I saw this crawling caterpillar Tick Tock video, I knew I had to have his class make this paper toy. Instead of toilet paper, we wrapped crepe paper around a pencil and glued the edges together before scrunching it off  to make the  wrinkled caterpillars. Contruction paper. cut and folded, with a little loop glued to he end, was made before adding a rolled up piece of green paper (glued to keep it place) slid into the loop for a stem. One end of the caterpillar is glued to the loop and another to the end of the stem that is towards the middle of the leaf. By pulling the stem back and forward, it looks like the caterpillar is inching itself forward.

The following class period, we made more paper leaves with butterflies of tissue paper wings and pipe cleaner bodies. This is a science lesson, in talking about how caterpillars build a cacoon and turn into butterflies, but it was also a literacy lesson since we read, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" during class.

We also made 3D cherry blossom art, tissue paper flowers and died Easter Eggs, but anything painted in spring-time colors can be a spring project, including a relief sculpture, clay rattles, or playful prints with foam stamps or rollers.

It's fun to have bright and cheerful things to look at inside, after coming in from seeing bright and cheerful things happening in the natural world, during spring.










Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Spring Student Art Show: Edifice Sweet Edifice

 

Our architecture unit included a trip to an architecture firm, videos, audio described slide lectures and writing assignments on types of architecture and the great buildings throughout art history. Students made elevation drawings, blue print inspired cyanotypes, cardboard and clay sculptures of houses, shops, castles, and churches. And a totem pole of some of the most famous buildings in the world. It's been a productive couple of months culminating in our student art show: Edifice, Sweet Edifice!

Normally, student shows are just a couple pieces by each of my high school pieces, but this show had everything made by all 15 of my daily high school and middle school students. The 80 pieces total, also included the simple cardboard houses made by my multiple complex needs students.

Our multi-purpose room at the school is newly renovated, and with the freshly painted walls and new floors, it felt like a pristine gallery space. The large cyanotype were the most difficult thing to hang messing up the new walls, but enough painters tape was fine on a smooth wall. The cinderblock walls required taping the fabric to dowels and hanging it from the ceiling.

Having students problem solve with where and how to position each item was a real-life lesson in how to curate an exhibit. One student said that installing a show was like making an whole new piece of art: you need to arrange colors and shapes in a way that creates a unified and coherent body of work.


Our totem pole buildings were fresh out of the kiln after their bisque firing, so we put those in the show, and they ended up being the best conversation starter, as all of the faculty who came to the show opening were quizzed by art students on the name of each famous building.



The students came in waves with middle school students comeing first and then high school, and the parents coming the next day right after the spring concert.


 
Art shows are usually 2D work, but this one had so many sculptures that it was more interactive and meaningful for blind students who were able to touch all of the clay and cardboard houses. I heard "This is so beautiful!" from people with no vision.





Monday, March 18, 2024

History of Architecture Ceramic Totem Pole


I'm always trying to balance my art assignments between personal and collaborative projects. There's such a wide range of abilities within a group of students: a range of vision, a range of cognitive levels. It's nice, in group projects, for everyone to have a chance to do as much as they can, to contribute to something better than any one of them could do by themselves. 

This is the third totem pole that we've made for the sensory garden on our school campus, and we may continue to make one every other year as long as interest prevails. I don't know. For the history of architecture totem pole, we started by brainstorming to come up with a list of famous buildings, most of which were chosen from student writing assignments. We talked a lot about which ideas made the most sense in terms of representing a range history? Which contemporary buildings are represent modernity and are recognizable symbols? Do we need to use both the Parthenon and the Pantheon? If we're going to do one, which should it be?


There were many problems to be solved. How do you stack pointy buildings? What should go on top? The pyramid of Giza? The Eiffel Tower? The Empire State Building? How do you use the ones that are not on top to help build a solid structure?  How do you create a long skinny Great Wall of China in a way that will wrap around a pole? How do you create a straight tower that incorporates the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Art isn't just about going from point A to point B. Want a picture of a dog? Just draw a dog! It's not usually that simple. We seek to find the best possible solutions in a world of infinite possibilities.
And then there was the engineering? We didn't want all the skinny buildings on top on the bottom, but how do we arrange varied sizes and shapes in a way that is structurally sound? It turned out that the Taj Mahal sat more solidly on top of a thin pole with a bas relief of both Notre Dam cathedral and the Empire State Building than it did on top of the larger Parthenon sculpture. I hope my students could see the importance of playing around with, not only ideas, but of physical forms. Everyone pray that all of our buildings survive the kiln.




 

Clay House Assignments


I love that architecture can be an umbrella to teach 3D techniques and 2D techniques, such as drawing. For the clay house assignment, students were focused on learning to rolling slabs and using scoring and slipping techniques, but they had a lot of leeway for their own concept development: craftsmanship and originality.



Each student took their freedom seriously and came up with an idea they could get excited about. 

We talked about the concept of a house: a tree house, a light house, a gingerbread house, a fairy house, etc. Students paid attention to form an color to communicate their idea, while adding doors and windows to something like a mushroom or beehive to make it a house where a human could live. For students who were totally blind, I used painters tape to stop out all of the parts of their sculpture they didn't want to be a specific color, so they could work as independently as possible.

Personal Cyanotype Assignment

 In education, we learn about scaffolding and the gradual release of responsibility from teacher to student: I do, we do, you do. So our large cyanotype murals that we did together came the personal cyanotype project. Each student had a 8 1/2 X 11 piece of treated fabric and was able to use negatives, blue prints, plants, stencils, doilies, and their own drawings on clear plastic. 







Once students arranged their composition on board in a dark (mostly dark) classroom, they moved everything to another board with treated fabric on it. Plexiglass was placed on top to hold everything together on a breezy spring afternoon. After sitting in the sun for 15 minutes the fabric was quickly brought back in and rinsed in a bath of cool water.

We used the shape of a house to frame most of the images in order to keep with the theme of buildings/ homes.






Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Cyanotype Murals Art Lesson

Since we're focused on the history of architecture, why not talk about the history of blue prints? Did you know that the reason blue prints were originally blue is because architects used the cyanotype process, which was a photography process used in the 19th century. 
When chemically treated paper or fabric are exposed to light and and then rinsed in cold water, they turn Prussian blue. Any parts that block the light remain white. Our Art Class community partner, Georgia College and State University Professor, Matt Forrest, explained the process and provided the supplies. We came up with the images, last week.
When we made our large 5 foot by 7 foot fabric murals, the water turned a light green as we moved the fabric around for a minute or so. The fabric turned blue almost immediately. Parts of my hands turned blue as well, and stayed that way for about a week, so I wore gloves the next time.

Flat paper cut-outs, black sharpie drawings on clear plastic, blue prints and words printed onto old over-head projector sheets, photo negatives, rulers, metal hoops from old bar stools, and even a student provided the shapes and lines that became the finished art piece. It's really a chance to be creative and come up with an idea or theme to present with various objects and images. Because we've been focused on architecture, we used blue-prints from famous buildings around the world, with a silhouette of a couple of students, sitting on an I-beam, as though they were constructing the buildings. 
Another mural had a student in a prom gown surrounded by drawings of plant leaves from stencils, and real plant leaves, with the photo-image of a house cradled in her hand, as if she were making a home from the resources around her. A mix of Mother Earth and a domestic goddess. Holding up the wet 5 foot X 7 foot images and draping them over a brick wall to dry was such a rewarding moment.




Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Making Art History Accessible for the Blind (Architecture Unit)

 
My Monday art class slide presentations are shown on a large screen within arms length of each of my visually impaired student. Each image is described in detail for those with no vision. But a picture is worth a thousand words, which can take a long time to get through, and sometimes the words don't make sense without a reference point. What is a capitol on a column? What is a frieze in relationship to the pediment on an ancient Greek temple?


Even with lengthy descriptions, some students will be lost. To teach my architecture unit, I printed out examples of various columns and worksheets that showed the difference between the round, romanesque arches and the pointed, gothic arches.  Then I traced the illustrations with puffy paint for students to feel what I was talking about. I used empty paper-towel rolls to help students have a model of the three types of columns: doric, ionic, corinthian. Triglyphs are made tactile and large posters (like the one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Waters) are traced with hot glue. Making tactile worksheets and models is part of the job of helping visually impaired students grasp visual concepts. Even if it is just for a single week's project, or a 10 question quiz, it's worth the effort.



Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Architecture Firm field trip



Education is more meaningful when there is a clear connection between what is being taught and real-life application. Do you think architects need to know about important buildings in Art History? Do you think they understand how to use color, form, texture, pattern etc? Absolutely! The principles we study in Art are used in the buildings that surround us. And our architecture unit called for a peek into the projects and the in-and-outs of a favorite architecture firm (BTBB) just a few miles from our school. Architect, Bob Brown, is married to my friend and coworker, Linda, who has been at the Academy for the Blind  for over 30 years. BTBB has been working on so many projects from  rock climbing gym to an ice cream parlor, from classrooms and shops, to loft apartments and even the historic Capricorn Records building. It's hard to drive through downtown Macon without seeing many of the buildings they drew up the plans to build or renovate. 

Students got to hold the massive spec books and blue prints and listen to what a day in the life of an architect is like. Then we were off to pizza for lunch! Hooray for community partners in eduation!

Cardboard House DYI Project




  

 Differentiation is the name of the game when working with special needs students in an art class. My high school and middle school students who are not in self contained classrooms can sometimes do the same projects that students in mainstream schools can do. Vision is not required for building a tactile, cardboard house. The only thing that stands in the way of someone who is blind, is that they may have never seen a chimney, dormer, or eave of a roof.


 

Each student came up with an idea: a beach house, a tower, a flower shop, an old church. They decided the dimentions, the placement of the door and the number of windows. Would it have shutters? a balcony? a chimney? stairs?


Cardboard was cut into the sides and front of buildings, cans were wrapped with cardboard from cereal boxes. Shingles were glued on one at a time. Beads were glued on for doorknobs.

The surface treatment was determined. Students chose bricks, wood slats, vinyl siding, stone. And then individual pieces of thin cardboard, or torn egg cartons were glued. And then each building was painted. Neat and tidy painting is hard enough for people with vision, but since all of my students are legally or completely blind, it. poses an even bigger problem. It made more sense for them to paint the doors and shutters separately before gluing them into place. Painted doors were glued onto pre-existing doors for example. And I made a bunch of long strips of mat board for students cut down into smaller segments and glue them on the insides of windows to create panes, and around doors and windows as wooden trim. This made a huge difference when it came craft because a lot of craft. The trim covered up sloppy edges and gaps.





The genius is in the details. A basic house shape can take a lot of different twists and turns depending on the colors, textures, and shapes of the details. I was so relieved that everyone had their own vision and the will to execute it.


This assignment took two weeks as opposed to my normal one week project, but the students stayed engaged for an hour a day, and almost all were able to work independently on arranging stones, bricks, shingles, and woodwork.