I love being done with Bootcamps. My Art 1 students have spent the last four weeks learning about painting, drawing, printmaking and collage. More importantly, they've learned how to confidently make decisions and move from finding an idea to a finished work of art using my Artistic Thinking Process.
Now that the foundation is in place, the fun begins!
This week I challenged my kids to make artwork using original symbolism. As I told them about this, their eyes got big and they looked ready to run. It's a challenging thing, to be original.
To make sure they understood the difference between overused, conventional symbols and original or personal symbols, I lead an exploratory group challenge. I gave them a series of four words and asked the groups to list or draw as many symbols as they could that were related to the word. They shared after each round and we discussed how some common symbols were listed by everyone.
,The words I used - love, patriotism, freedom and mortality, in that order - worked well because they were organized from less challenging to more. Plus, the are all ideas that have many possibilities for complex interpretation. Additionally, they let me introduce my expectation that everyone's beliefs are respected. There were very different interpretations of patriotism listed in some groups, which addressed a range of opinions on gun ownership and standing or kneeling for the pledge, which lead to important conversations. By the time we got to listing symbols for "morality" students were thinking allegorically, identifying groups of symbols that worked together to communicate meaning.
On day two I shared four examples of artwork and asked students to write down any ideas or connections they had as we talked. I started with Running Horned Woman, then The Two Fridas, Remembering, by Ai Weiwei, and ending with Flint, By Ti-Rock Moore (pictured below).
"Flint" is a powerful work that's impossible to really understand without background knowledge. I gave each of my table group and aspect of the Flint water crisis to research and had them report what they'd found. Going through this process to identify how Ti-Rock Moore used imagery from segregation to call out modern-day racism was a powerful experience for my kids.
Still, on the next day as I asked them to use the Artistic Thinking Process to work through their ideas, I wondered if I was asking too much. Would these kids, many of them just 14, be able to do what I was asking?
I gave them the directions below, then began conferencing with each of my table groups.
Almost everyone had an idea.
Work is still in progress, but I want to share a few examples of what I'm seeing. Each of this students is a high school freshman.
I'm so proud of the work coming out of my Art 1 classes right now and excited about what's next.
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.