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.