Artists Curate

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This unit was something I have been wanting to have my art students do for some time, but it never seemed to be the right time.  Well, in January of 2018, I looked at my art 2 students and decided this was the group that could pull it off.  And, I was right.  While not every student hit it out of the park, most did…in one way or another.

This was my final unit for my art 2 students.  We spend over 6 weeks working.  It will also double as their final exam.  Here is the information students were given about the curation of a show.  They were given a few days to figure out what they wanted to do, then they jumped into the work.

This unit was amazing.  Most students decided to curate a show of their own new work.  I’ve never seen so many of my students jump in and work constantly–walking in the room and getting right to work.  They were passionate about what they were creating because it was all them…I had no say in what they could create.  They came up with their own themes for their shows, and figured out what type of create to meet that theme.  One group of 3 boys had originally decided to curate past work they had made, but out of no where began to collaborate on a large panel piece of a dragon in space.  I was thrilled by how well they worked together.

About a week prior to the hang, they made flyers to advertise their shows.  They hung copies in different areas of the school and we added information to the cafeteria announcement slides.

Finally the day came to hang their show.  I gave them some pointers on how to hang their art on the walls of the student centers, and then let them go.  In addition to hanging their pieces, they added labels and a show/artist statement.  They all look so fabulous.   I am so proud of my students.  And, the comments from others around the school have all been so positive.  I know my students are proud of their work.  I can tell, even if they won’t admit it to me.

The show will be up for a week, and on it’s final day we will have a closing reception with some small snacks, drinks, and a “guest book” for each student that people can sign.  Next week, I will meet with each student individually to talk about their curation experience and together we will decide on a grade for their exam.

I am really glad that I finally was able to do a unit like this.  I really like to show off what my students create, but usually it just gets hung in the fine arts hallway.  It really showcases the students and their talents.

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Exploring 21st century principles

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This was a very challenging unit for my art 2 students.  And, while it was a miss in some respects, there were others aspects that were major hits.  Not only did my students learn a lot about Olivia Gude’s Post-Modern Principles, I did as well.

My first experience with Olivia Gude was in New York City when she was part of a panel for a Super Session at NAEA 17.  There she spoke of what she had called the Post-Modern Principles.  I was intrigued about what she was talking about, and I began to wonder how I could bring them into my classroom.  Now, they aren’t the easiest concepts to grasp–especially for a bunch of 10th and 11th graders.  I was hesitant, but man did I underestimate them.

I set up the unit in a the different way than normal.  I didn’t want to lecture to the students.  I knew if I did, the information would go in one ear and out the other.  Also, I didn’t want to do all the work.  I checked with our instructional coach and together we decided that I wasn’t asking too much of the kids.  (What?!  Sometimes I wonder, but then I shake me head and say that maybe I am asking not enough.)

I briefly showed my students a slide show with Olivia’s definitions for each principle.  I didn’t go into detail.  At the end of slideshow was their assignment (to research each principle, understand what they means, be able to share out their findings, and find images that exhibit each principle.)  I wanted to show an example of what I was looking for, so I picked the easiest of the bunch.  I explained everything I did to research–the sites I went to, the articles I read, the videos I watched, things from previous knowledge I had.  Then I set them free.

After the research part, we came back together as a group and went over what they had learned.  We went through each principle, with each student sharing what they had learned.  Many things were repeated, but I think that helped validate each student’s research.

The final part of the research was the image find.  Students didn’t share these out to the class, which in hindsight I wish I had them do. They did share with me though, through google classroom.  This was the amazing part to me.  This solidified to me that they understood the concepts and could find artwork that appropriately showed the principle.  And, they knew some images utilized more than one principle, so the students chose to highlight the one that was most prominent.

After the research, students did create artwork.  I think this was the hardest part of the unit for them.  Great artworks, that were full of creativity and thought, with powerful messages, were made.  But the implementation of the newly discovered principles into their work was weak.  But I was, and still am, okay with that.  Not every unit we do in class has to be about artwork.  There is more to art.  Being able to know how to research art concepts is important.  Being able to read artwork is also an important skill.  I like to think that these students will look at contemporary art in a completely different way, not just walk by without a second glance, and really see what the artist is trying to convey.

Exploring a Medium and Multiple Pieces

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One aspect of a TAB classroom that gets criticized is when we allow our students to explore the same medium over and over and over.  Critics often think this is wrong that we TAB teachers don’t expose our students to a variety of media by making them do different projects based on different materials.  Unfortunately, this is not how artists work.  Yes, some artists work in several mediums…Picasso and Degas come to mind. Both painted and sculpted.  But, they came to other mediums because they wanted to explore, not because someone else told them to.  I am sure they were aware of other mediums, but they preferred what they preferred.  We do the same for our students.  They are aware of other mediums, but ultimately, they should work in the medium they prefer or what they feel is best to convey their idea.

On Mondays, I introduce my students to contemporary artists.  I want them to know what is being made in today’s art world.  While deciding on artists to have them meet, I found 2 artists that reinforce this idea exploring the same medium over and over.  First is El Anatsui.  Second is Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor.  I have included clips from both these artists.  If you click on their names, you can find the entire video.  Neither of these clips are about the art they make, but rather the message they are sending.

When we let our students continue to explore the same medium, they will begin to understand what it can offer.  They can push the boundaries of the medium.  They will understand what it means to research in an artistic sense.  They will behave like artists.

NAEA 2018: Seattle

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I have always wanted to go to Seattle, so when I saw that the National Art Ed conference was going to be held there, I was going no matter if my session proposals were accepted or not.  Luckily for me, I was selected to co-present twice for the Seattle conference.  That meant that I could get reimbursed by my district for the cost of admission to the conference.  (Every little bit given back is helpful.)

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I woke up at 3:30 am to start my journey to the West Coast.  It was a long day, but the beauty of the city made it worth it…not to mention that I was meeting up with 2 of my favorite fellow TAB teachers, Liz and Hillary.  We were able to get out of the city proper and experience Kirkland.  It was so beautiful, and if we could afford it, I would so pick up my family and move there.

But I digress.  Let’s talk about the conference.  I spent this conference a little bit differently than I had in the past.  I barely went to sessions, and instead channeled my friend and fellow Texas art teacher, Arlene Shelton. I wandered around the city for a large portion of the time.  I spent a morning walking in the rain (and snow) down to the MoPop museum.  I took my time and photographed parts of the city that often gets overlooked.  I spent one morning with Joy Schultz walking around Pike Place Market, getting lost in the colors of fresh fruit and flowers, and marveling over the artisans booths.  Hillary and I went on an adventure to dinner one evening and along the way found Jimmy Hendrix, Dick Blick, and rainbowed crosswalks.  I paused for over a half hour Saturday morning to stand in solidarity as my fellow Americans walked in the “March for our Lives” protest.  And, I drank more coffee than I would like to admit.

 

 

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I did go to a few sessions, and I did present twice (these 2 sessions will each have their own posts.)  But, to be honest, it was tough to find things that interested me.  I went to every ceramics session I could find, but there wasn’t much that was new to me. In fact, one session got me so fired up…  Let’s just say, as art teachers, we need to stop perpetuating techniques that are dangerous.  No matter how cute it is.

Out of the 6 or 7 sessions I attended over the 3 days, several did stand out.  I went to one that was about STEAM…well…it was really anti-STEM/STEAM.  One of the speakers was Cindy Foley.  She is amazing to listen to and I could have just sat and listened for hours.  She is so passionate.  (And, did you know that STEM really means “Strategies That Engage Minds”?  Yeah, neither did I until Cindy told me so.)  Another session that was wonderful was by Pam Ehrenreich.  She talked about how she TABs in her high school class.  Ask her about her “Random Objects of Treasure” collection, you won’t be disappointed.  Clara Lieu gave a session on art critique.  I found it super helpful as having student critique each other is one of my weak areas in my classes.  Every year I do improve though, so there’s that.  And, finally I went to a session by Candi Poll-Price on assessment.  It was fantastic.  I was sad I had to miss the end, but my session was next, so I had to take off early.  (Also, I needed some more coffee.)

20180321_1839052022233196.jpgI hadn’t planned on spending the conference going to so few sessions.  I had hoped there would be a ton for me to learn.  Unfortunately, when I looked through the program, not much stood out to me.  There were TAB sessions, but many were for elementary or they were sessions to get you excited about TAB.  I already am excited about TAB.  I don’t need to be convinced how amazing it is–for both my students and for me.  I know this is going to sound a bit egotistical, and that is not my intention.  I felt there wasn’t much for teachers, TAB teachers specifically, at my level in the ways of development.  Things I want to discuss and think about are above the beginning levels.  Don’t get me wrong, those types of beginning level sessions are of extreme importance.  And, I love presenting and giving.  I just need to be getting something too.

I am glad I went because I had numerous important conversations with my tribe at the TAB dinner and at other eating events.  Funny how food and drink do that.  Those conversations are what I really got the most from this year.

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I will not be attending NAEA19 in Boston next year.  I am opting for another Boston event–the TAB Institute in the summer of 2019.  I am looking forward to the amazing things I will get from it and from the teachers who will be attending with me. Until then, thanks Seahawk fans for accepting this Packer fan into your town for a few days.

Artists Abstract/Don’t Represent

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Normally I teach both abstract and non-objective art in a full-on unit.  This year I decided to revise that.  While I think the information included is important, it was information that could be learned in a shorter amount of time…with the right activities and check-ins.  I am lucky as our school is 1:1 and has a set of TVs at the front of the school that we can hook in to.

Day 1: Each class broke into 5 equal groups.  They brought one computer with them and we headed to the front of the school.  Each group hooked into a tv, and they were asked to first define both abstract and non-representational/non-objective.  After that, each group went thru a slideshow and determined if an image was abstract or non-objective, based on what they had discovered in their definition search. At the end of class, we went thru the slideshow as a whole class.

Day 2: We briefly went over the definitions of each style of art.  The students then were to watch 2 videos through playposit.  One video was on Joan Jonas and the other was Soo Sunny Park.  They students had to determine which artist would be considered abstract and which was non-objective.  They also had to say why.  This was really to stress the difference between the two genres and to let them see 2 artists at work.

Day 3:  At the start of class, we had a check for understanding where kids defined each term, said what they had in common and what made them different.  Then it was time for was our image find day.  Each student had to create a document that contained 10 images.  Five of the images had to be abstract.  Five had to be non-objective.  They also had to say why they chose those images–what drew them to those pieces.  I like having them do this because it causes them not to choose the first 5 they find and to really search through a ton of images.  Furthermore, it gives me some behind the scenes info into art they find intriguing.

Days 4-6: These were studio day.  Students chose which type of art they wanted to create, then had 3 days to create that art.  It was awesome.  The first day about 60% of students were working, but by the second day, 95% were working and not rushing thru.  I was very pleased with the conversations and the engagement by my students.

Day 7:  Our final day of the bootcamp was reflection day.  I asked students to fill out a google form.  I asked them again to tell me the differences and similarities between abstract and non-objective.  I asked them what genre their artwork fell into.  Then I asked some opinion questions about the bootcamp and abstract/non-objective work.  With the extra time left that period, kids could finish up anything they hadn’t gotten to over the past 3 studio days.

This was a huge success.  It wasn’t so long that they eventually lost interest. And, it was focused and narrow enough for 95% to understand the two concepts.

A New Approach to the Bootcamp

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Well, it’s a new bootcamp approach for me and my students. Normally when we do bootcamps, there are many demos by me. And, since I don’t want to spend the whole class period doing demos, it ends up being one per day and then work time. So, each approach is learned separately. Granted, this has been okay for our drawing bootcamps and painting bootcamps. Last year I followed this approach for printmaking as well. It was kind of a disaster. Most kids didn’t really learn much, they whipped through each technique, and they wasted a lot of materials. So, this year, I decided we needed to do something different.

My school is 1:1 MacBooks, and it is an expectation that we include a technology component. I thought this would be a great way to meet that expectation and change up the bootcamp. This year, I would expect the onus of learning the techniques on the students. We talked about how this bootcamp would be different and that they were the ones to watch the demo videos for the technique they needed to learn. I would only be doing one demo–inking and pulling prints.

I create a Google Slides with my expectations for the bootcamp and shared it with my students in Google Classroom. At the start of the bootcamp, we went over it. I expected that each student would learn a minimum of one printmaking technique. They students could decide to either work alone or in groups of up to 4 people. Each group had to make 3 copies of an artwork that utilized different printmaking techniques. AND, they couldn’t repeat techniques in their piece. So, for example, a group of 4 had to create an artwork that had 4 different printmaking techniques. If you worked alone, you had to learn 2 techniques.

While I have 2 things I need to revise for next year, and I will get to those in a minute, I think overall this was a success. The majority of the kids watched multiple video demos before making decisions on what they wanted to learn. They communicated with others on the artwork creation and learned from each other when they had questions about techniques. Of course I had those that needed more attention than others, and I had some that needed modified requirements, but that is normal in a TAB classroom where differentiation is a common occurrence.

The biggest thing I have to revise is HOW I deliver the information and expectations to the students. The multiple copies aspect of printmaking was a difficult concept for many. I also want to look at the time line for next year. The students had 8 studio days (48 minute periods) to create and do a google slides for a presentation. I think I need to make it a full 2 weeks (10 days), not including a day for presentations.

I am proud of my students. They worked hard and learned way more than they realize. I plan on trying to incorporate this type of bootcamp into our future bootcamps. I am glad that I put the learning was put on their shoulders because it allowed me more time to observe and interact with my students.

Compliance and TAB

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Compliance and TAB are two things that seem not to go together.  As a TAB teacher I want my kids to think beyond the rules and explore and make art because they want to…not because they are trying to be compliant with “school rules”.  My friend Ian Sands says that making art for a grade is not a reason to make art.  I 100% agree with him.

Unfortunately, there is an expected amount of compliancy that goes along with our traditional school experience.  And, it bucks at what I believe in my heart is what is best for my students.  In this case of compliancy, I am talking about my compliancy…the compliancy of the teacher to what the district expects.  Even when it goes against what you believe in, you have to be in compliance.  If you don’t and you try to fly under the radar, eventually you will get called on it and the end result is not fun. (Even if your principal understands completely what you were doing.  His hands are tied because even he has a boss with expectations to answer to.)

The biggest issue dealing with non-compliance in my mind is grading.  As a TAB teacher, grading is the worst.  I don’t have little check boxes to fill in.  I don’t have an answer key.  I don’t want my students to work in my classroom because they have to.  I want them to work because they want to.  How do you grade that?  I don’t want to grade every warm-up, every bell ringer, ever activity….because for me, that takes away from the learning and makes it about a number.  But, if I don’t grade those things, how do I remain in compliance with the minimum amount of major, minor, and homework grades the district tells me I have to have?

I don’t have the answers.  I do on the surface.  I have reworked a bunch of assignments so I can meet the grading requirements I am expected to have.  What I can’t answer are the internal dilemmas that arise when it comes to what I believe to be in the students’ best interest and what I am expected to do.  That for me is the hardest part.

The DuckArt Tantamounter: A midterm exam.

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My school expects every class and every studeny to have a midterm exam.  I hate exams. And, without “testable content” in a TAB classroom, a written test was not really a good idea.  I’ve done portfolio reviews and semester learning questionaires before, but with art 1, they’re hit or miss.  I’ve done the “final artwork” thing before too, but I don’t grade artwork normally, so coming up with a rubric for one sucks.

Then it hit me. Why not do the Tantamounter.  I love doing it as an activity with my kids. We hadn’t done it yet.  It was a great way to show off the artistic behaviors and thinking I had hoped they had been learning…problem solving, communicating, collaborating, observation…and of course, it showed they could work in a shared studio as part of their task was to leave the studio as clean as they found it.

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It was such a huge success.  I painted our living painting, much to the dismay of many who thought it was going away for the rest of the year, and put it outside our classroom.

Upon entering the room, the class was told they were now the inner workings of the tantamount machine. After a brief slide show, a statement about materials, and time for questions, time began–they had 60 minutes.

Seriously, it was awesome.

I do want to thank my coworkers for bringing such interesting items to be Tantamounted.  I couldn’t have pulled it off without them. I have decided this is my go to midterm from now on.

Artists Tackle Social Issues

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I have been wanting to have my art 2 students take their work to a deeper level–to really bring in their voices.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of students that already do, but most still create artworks that haven’t quite broken the surface.  I’ve tried doing a unit on stereotypes before, but it seems that I get the usual suspects.  So, this year, I decided it was the year to “bring it on”, so to speak.  I decided to challenge my students with the tackling of social issues.

They first started by defining some “common” words… opinion, social issue, society, commentary, and parody.  I also asked them to consider why an artist would want to us social issues in their work.  That question seemed to be a hard one for them.  I asked them to watch either a video on Maxwell Rushton and his “Left Out” project or on Favianna Rodriguez, a Latina printmaker, and make connections between the what they watched and our unit idea of using social issues in art.  The final part of their research was to find artworks that used social issues.  And, they couldn’t show any that I showed them for our intro to the unit.

To help my students get warmed up for creating their own artwork, I gave them a challenge.  They had 2 choices.  Choice one: talk to 5 different people about some “hot topic issues” of today, and create a sketch of a possible artwork based on their “favorite” opinion.  Choice two: Pick a social issue that is hot today, create a slideshow of at least 5 different artworks around that issue (on either side), and present to the class.

These girls gave me permission to share the links to their slideshows.  I think they did some great work.

Gender Inequality

Islamophobia

The best part for me about this unit was how invested in their artwork the kids became.  I didn’t have to prod the kids to get going.  They quickly had a social issue they wanted to talk about and set off creating.  I am so impressed with their work, and their voices.

Turn Around, Bright Eyes…

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Ok, so bright eyes weren’t turning around, but my students, my attitude, and the class atmosphere is.

I have this one class.  We all have had it. Last period of the day. 80% boys. 80% freshman. Art 1.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had this class.  However, since my switch to TAB it is.  And quite frankly, it threw me through the biggest loop.

 I had this long-winded, drawn-out post about this, but I highlighted it and hit delete.  You don’t need to know all the gory details. I am sure you can imagine all the things.

What is important is that I tried to keep to my TAB philosophy and what I believe in.  AND, I asked for help from our Restorative Discipline team.  After 2 days of circles between the class and our RD coach, and the class, the coach and myself, we came to a new place.  A better place.  A good place.  A place I hope we stay at for a long time.  I know there will be bumps along the way, but I am optimistic that if we pause when that happens, we can redirect ourselves back here.

We were in the middle of “packets”… a new strategy that Ian Sands came up with and suggested I tried with this class…when we were interrupted.  On Wednesday we went back to the packets, but we started over as a class.  And, I let kids whom I told myself (and probably some of them) that they would never touch clay, get clay and begin to build.  And, those kids that were the biggest problem, stopped being the biggest problem.  And some forgot which packet they chose. And quite frankly, I didn’t care. They were engaged. They were learning. They were not on laptops. They weren’t on phones. They were asking questions, and being artists, and talking to each other, and helping each other.  It is like what a TAB studio full of Art 1 kids should be.

And, I was exhausted. But, I wasn’t angry.

On day two, I was relaxed, and they were still engaged.  And one student in particular who is often quite angry with me, decided not to work with clay anymore because he didn’t like it. I was worried he would go back to doing nothing. But as I peeked at his laptop on the sly throughout the class, he was looking up images, and doing small sketches, and had a real conversation with me about what to create.

And, the class hummed with energy…and I wasn’t angry.  I was happy.