May 18, 2010

Alliance for Arts Education Conference-"How to grow an Artist"

I attended the Alliance for Arts Education in Manitoba conference today, and it was really great to get out of the school(s), and see some really great presenters, and just be re inspired about why arts education is important. I had this fear when signing up to go that there would be more of a focus on Drama or Music, and that actual art-making would be a minor part of the conference(I'm not quite sure why I thought that might happen, maybe because that was my experience in university when they talked about "arts" education). I was pleasantly surprised by a good assortment of disciplines being offered with sessions and thought actually that maybe art education options were a little more widespread at this conference than the other disciplines.
Keynote speakers included:
Tracy Bone-Aboriginal singer/songwriter with a country flavour. Credits include being a 2009 Juno Award Nominee, and recipient of the Aboriginal people's Choice Music Awards 2010.
Kal Barteski-Artist and Blogger with a new art book, "Love Life."(She though perhaps being the most disjointed from arts education was my favourite speaker because of the passion she has for being an artist, and she had a lot of spunk on stage for someone who maybe in the real world would just be classified as "normal". She spoke with what appeared to be no notes, and just used her simple PowerPoint slides to guide her as she spoke. Also I found it inspiring that she was so humble about belonging or not belonging on stage alongside the other speakers.)
Rhian Brynjolson-Art educator, illustrator, author of Teaching Art:A Complete Guide for the Classroom.
Al Simmons-Children's performer extraordinaire, recording artist, and Juno award-winning entertainer.

I attended two workshop sessions. One was lead by artist K.C. Adams whose work has recently been acquired by the National Gallery in Ottawa, The Winnipeg Art Gallery, and also an Aboriginal Gallery in the U.S. She taught us about making wintercounts. Wintercounts are traditionally a history of the people of the plains that show significant events that took place each year. They would have whole lifetimes recorded on one hide using one symbol that represents one year from first snowfall to first snowfall. With that in mind, we made our own versions of wintercounts on brown paper, but instead of recording our whole lifetimes, we focused on just the past year. The image that is included is my work from that workshop. This was an activity that could be adapted to almost any age, depending on how much time you would want to devote to it. I believe K.C. typically would use this project with students in grades 2-4, but it could work with any age; all adults in the room were completely engaged. It reminded me of a life map, or almost a visual journal, where we each put our own faces in the middle and then included at least 4 major events that had occurred in the last year. We had first cut the brown paper into the shape of a hide(I decided to give mine a bird head). I realized that I have had a lot of things happen in just the last 6 months, I didn't even need to go as far back as a full year. I have started two different jobs, worked in 4 different schools, taught a total of 130 high school students and about 70 elementary students, rented and moved from a house in the middle of the Interlake, hired for another job, ventured to Cuba, and just dealt with life.

The afternoon session was spent listening to a few principals and artists from the Artists in the Schools program talk about what they are doing to include arts education in their school in a major way. It was really nice to see and hear about initiatives within schools, and with administration that was completely on board, enthusiastic, and committed to making sure the arts is a part of their students education.

The day ended with students groups sharing about their appreciation for arts programming-there were some high school students attending the conference who had their own sessions separate from the educators.
All in all, I was inspired, I do feel a little recharged as an art teacher, and also even feel more validated as an artist.

May 6, 2010

Trials and Tribulations

Yesterday had me setting up a display of student work in a cabinet in the school hallway. I was nearly finished setting it up, and was thinking to myself about how great all the art looked. There were sculptures, self portraits, human rights paintings, and a self portrait symbolism project. It probably took me about an hour to label everything, put the shelf up to hold the work and get everything just so. Then suddenly as I was about to slide the glass doors shut and lock it up in satisfaction, there was a huge CRASH as the glass shelf collapsed off of the hooks, SMASHED into pieces and landed on my student's sculptures. Now not only was my display ruined, but the sculptures were broken and there was broken glass everywhere. Administration as well as a few other people came out from wherever they were to see what the crash was all about, to find me staring devastatingly at the destruction that had just occurred.
We got it all cleaned up, and the sculptures weren't as injured as I thought they were, but I had to spend a little time to mend them, and you can barely tell they were damaged(thankfully!). All paintings looked like they survived ok as well. Now on Tuesday I have to start again with the display and this time try again to properly put the glass shelf up on the rungs.

May 5, 2010

Rationale for this Blog

I decided to start this blog because I commonly do Internet searches for ideas for teaching art classes, and decided that I should be sharing my projects and ideas too. As well, I have moments from time to time where a student makes something great, or comments, or discovers something, and only other art teachers out there would be able to relate to.
An example of this was yesterday when giving a student an online research handout. He was to choose a self portrait artist and answer questions about the artist. Choosing from a list of thumbnail images, the student chose Chuck Close because as he said, "He looks like a Hobo." He was referring to the large black and white Chuck Close portrait. I told him very briefly about Close's portraits, and the student went on the computer, and then exclaimed from the wikipedia site, "Whoa his paintings really are Huge!!" Somehow this was a satisfying moment for me to have a student make discoveries about a recognized artist. Then as he took closer looks at the varieties of Close portraits, it was a nice moment to have students learning about art.
I teach a new art program to somewhat remote schools that either do not offer art normally, or if it is offered, someone without a background in art is teaching it. I teach high school art at three different schools, meaning that my students only have art classes either once a week or once every two weeks. Given the limitations of the frequency of art education within this division, I am excited that with the limited time I have with them I can promote and help to create enthusiasm for art.