I watched a bit of Mr. Holland's Opus the other day. This is my all time favorite teaching movie and I can't help myself but stop and watch some of it whenever it is on. The scene I caught was his first day ever of teaching where he asks a group of high school students "What is music?" This scene got me thinking... what is art?
I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking about this question. This is partially because of a cricket at my window and partially because I am a bit stressed about the start of the new school year. I want to change things up a bit and challenge the students to be more thoughtful in their work and in their perception of the world around them. But I worry that I may be aiming above the heads of my middle school children.
In "What is Art?", Leo Tolstoy says:
Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.
I believe this. So perhaps it is time to raise the bar and to engage my students in deeper thought. Perhaps it is time to ask the question, "what is art?"
3 hours and 50 minutes... In the grand scheme of life, this isn't much time. But for a teacher accustomed to 42 minutes chunks of time, 3 hours and 50 minutes is huge.
24 hours from now, I will be able to say I survived my first day as a college art education instructor. At this moment, I am both excited and anxious about what tomorrow will hold. Getting to know the course site 36 hours before the start of the course has really helped to fuel my anxiety. Falling out of a doorway onto the concrete on my way to the campus library didn't do much for my ego. However, reviewing the material we will cover on day one has been a nice reminder of why I want to help future art educators along their path.
Week one's readings include Daichendt's (2009) article on George Wallis where he discusses the idea of artist-teachers. I believe strongly in, not only the idea, but the reality of being an artist/educator. I believe it is important for students to see their teacher as a practicing artist. When students see their teacher as not only a source of information but also a producer of creativity, the dynamic in the classroom can change from one of resource to inspiration. As an artist/educator, I am constantly helping to renew my teaching practice by developing my artistic skills and knowledge. Art is a field where change is constant and remaining current is essential.
Tomorrow is the beginning of a new journey for me in art education and I can't wait to start down this path. Wish me luck!
Today was kinetic sculpture day with Meryl Tardash. Meryl is a college professor and sculptor working with kinetic, or moving, artwork. She has had the opportunity to produce a number of public art pieces, many of which make us of mobile structures. I found today to be a huge challenge because of the patience required to find balance points. Patience is not my forte but Meryl had patience to spare and helped me to grasp the idea of asymmetrical balance. We talked a great deal about the work of Alexander Calder and how he was the first artist to create suspended works. Meryl spent time explaining the science behind kinetic works of art and specifically the physics of asymmetrical balance (d(istance) X w(eight) = w X d). I have a friend who infuses his physics class with art by having the students build functional mobiles and I would like to pursues
I've never been drawn to sculpture in the same way I'm drawn to two dimensional artwork. This is partially the result of my own limited exposure to the media and partially because of how I think and see as an artist. Today's activity may have brought me around a bit.
Artist, Bruce Lindsay, worked with our group to create plaster casts of our hands. We used a kit manufactured by Casting Kits that allows you to create a mold and cast simply and easily. The results are pretty awesome and would work great with students.
In my opinion the benefits of professional development such as this are twofold... First, I'm exposed to new techniques and ideas that are revitalizing to my teaching practice. Second, I'm able to make personal and professional connections with other artists and educators. In talking with Bruce today I found a possible co-conspirator in my pursuit to give my school a sculptural mascot. I also found a valuable resource who may be able to help me pursue a sculptural project of my own that has been waking me up at night. Stay tuned, I see big, three dimensional things in the future.
Connections with Sculpture is a FREE, three day program for educators in Hamilton and Trenton, NJ. The program includes hands-on workshops, tours and practical information for educators who wish to bring their students to the sculpture gardens. The program is grant funded and provides for transportation and workshop expenses for the educators to bring their students to Grounds for Sculpture during the upcoming school year.
Today, it poured. When I say it poured, I mean BUCKETS. Our activities were slightly altered as a result of the rain but still very interesting and beneficial. One of the highlights was a visit to the Johnson Atelier. I love getting "behind the scenes" views of the art world. We saw sculpture being produced in various stages of completion - from plasticine modeling to plaster molds to final metal (bronze, aluminum, steel) pours. We were also able to witness some of the works being hand painted and pieced together by expert welders.
The Atelier also works with technologically advanced digital sculpture production using both additive and subtractive methods of 3D printing. This technique and its possible applications for copying work left me feeling extremely uneasy (could be because I recently read "The Art Forger"...). Regardless of the ethical issues digital production present, the technique is amazing, and started the wheels turning in my own head about a sculpture project I have been pondering but (until now) have not known how to pursue.
One of the nicest things about this program thus far has been the willingness and the interest that the presenter has in OUR needs. Grounds for Sculpture's Curator of Education is genuinely interested in what educators are looking for in a trip, what they need from the trip site to make things run smoothly and what materials would help educators to prepare for our visit. I am really looking forward to collaborating with this
Living in central New Jersey has it's perks. One of the greatest perks is my proximity to Grounds for Sculpture. If you're within two hours, this place is worth the drive. If you're farther away, it is still worth the visit!
GFS announced a FREE professional development program for educators in Hamilton and Trenton. I applied and was accepted to the 3-day program which will include tours, artmaking, applications for the classroom and a grant for transportation to bring my students to view the grounthe during the school year. I'm very excited about this opportunity but today's pouring rain has me a bit bummed. Here's hoping that the schedule is adjusted and we stay inside today! I'll post later with details of the day's activities.
Yeah... So, today the amazing people at PAFA gave our small group of art educators a tour of the storage area - aka the basement. There are 4 main "vaults" and a print room. As you may suspect, this behind the scenes glimpse into the life of art objects is thrilling and emotionally charged. PAFA has some awesome work stored in the basement!
Each vault has a series of racks made of chain link. These racks slide in and out to view and access the works hung on the links. In the last vault the registrar had 3 large Warhol prints leaning against the cage racks. I was carefully walking around the Warhol to peak into a stowed rack of early American paintings and accidentally nudged the Warhol's ground support with my foot. It tipped ever so slightly and I thought it was going to fall. Thankfully, it did not.
Needless to say, I kept my distance from that point on. I'll tie this post to my teaching practice by saying I will have a bit more understanding in the future when a student breaks something of little value in the art room.
All in all, the PAFA summer program was a refreshing and inspiring week of professional development. I can't stress enough how valuable time like this is to my teaching practice and to my sanity.
Despite being extremely tired and leaving the house late, I managed to get to PAFA early for Thursday’s session. I found myself alone, with my self. Well, self portrait that is…
I saw a resemblance of me in the image, but somehow older and more frail. Was this some sort of psychological message I was sending about my “self” or had I screwed up the image in some subtle, yet meaningful, way that produced the aged, fragile appearance? I got down to business measuring my face and comparing those measurements to the image using a pencil, a mirror, and my thumb. Turns out, though there may be some deep hidden psychological truth in my decrepit representation of self, I had actually drawn my nose way too long. This simple and relatively small mistake altered the entire image in a significant way.
This was not a difficult fix – technically speaking. However, taking an eraser to a basically complete drawing that didn’t look horrible was a bigger emotional challenge than I had expected. I felt a strong sense of empathy for my students as I began erasing my hard work to make corrections. This is one of the greatest challenges in the art room – realizing that fixing it is more important that being done with it… and also, realizing that it is worth the time to make those corrections – not only for that image, but for future images as well.
I am so thankful that I took these W.I.P. shots so I can see and remember the changes that were made to create the final image. Having this collection of progress shots will also be helpful to share the transformation of this drawing with my students. Realizing that my nose was too long was only the tip of the lesson I learned from today’s drawing,
Today began with more ecorche carving. As we finished our work, we discussed how knowledge and understanding of the musculature of the face improves portraiture. We were instructed to begin work on a self portrait from observation using our knowledge of facial muscles.
Now, let me say this: I do not enjoy drawing portraits, and more specifically, I loathe drawing SELF portraits. I'm not sure where my displeasure with this task started but my main complaint is the difficulty - portraits are not easy.
My experience today was very different. I felt like I was building my face in the drawing by focusing on the planes created by the muscles below the skin. This approach to portraiture has changed my thoughts on this genre of art and I feel strongly that there will be talk of facial musculature in my lessons this year.
Middle School Art Educator. Adjunct Art Education Professor. Non-Profit Arts Organization Board Member. Artist. Arts Advocate. Dog-Mom. CrossFit Enthusiast.
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