The first performance of the long indoors will take place this Friday! On Monday I was at the Dance Centre to see my large-scale paper sculpture, also titled the long indoors, hung and lit for the first time! It was very exciting to finally see the piece come to life in the performance space.

As promised in my last post, I’ve included some photos of my process of creating the sculpture. This project pushed me to worked much larger than I usually do, which was an exciting challenge. I completely took over our garage and worked many a day and night with the garage door open - drawing attention from curious neighbours.

Check out this article, published in the Georgia Straight this week, to learn more about the new works of choreography that are featured, along with the long indoors, in the mixed program We all know Jane.

I have been excited to take part in a collaboration over the last months with the contemporary dance collective, the Contingency Plan. The resulting work, the long indoors, will be performed June 21-22 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver, as part of an evening of new dance, entitled we all know Jane. The long indoors, choreographed by Vanessa Goodman and danced by Jane Osborne and Ziyian Kwan, features sculptural work by myself and lighting design by James Proudfoot. For more info, look here. Also, stay tuned for photos documenting my process in creating the sculpture for this collaboration!

I have been excited to take part in a collaboration over the last months with the contemporary dance collective, the Contingency Plan. The resulting work, the long indoors, will be performed June 21-22 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver, as part of an evening of new dance, entitled we all know Jane. The long indoors, choreographed by Vanessa Goodman and danced by Jane Osborne and Ziyian Kwan, features sculptural work by myself and lighting design by James Proudfoot. For more info, look here. Also, stay tuned for photos documenting my process in creating the sculpture for this collaboration!

This is a video about the Vancouver Biennale art education project that I was a part of, which just wrapped up on May 30th. It was such a wonderful process to be a part of - I learned so much from the students and the other teachers involved. As I’ve promised in previous posts, I will eventually write more, here, about some of the specific activities that I helped to develop and carry out for the project. But I’ll jump ahead, now, and share this video which provides a really great summary of the entire process.

Paper Sculpture Lesson Idea #2

As I mentioned a while back, I have been collecting paper sculpture lesson ideas for my work with the Vancouver Biennale. I posted a collaborative paper sculpture lesson described on the color, collage, and much more blog, back in February. I came across a similar lesson idea on the Organized Chaos art education blog. The photos, above, are from this blog.

To create the sculptures pictured above, the students created patterns using hot colours on one side of a sheet of paper, and cool colours on the other side. The teacher then created a continuous line drawing over top of these colours (like the black and white drawing pictured above), and the student then cut along these lines. The students then twisted and folded their long strip of irregularly-shaped paper into a sculpture, which was glued into place. It appears as if these sculptures were then mounted on a cardboard base.

I like the simplicity of this lesson. It could potentially start off a longer sculpture unit. The author of the color, collage, and much more blog provides some examples of artists that would tie in nicely to this lesson in another post on paper sculptures. These artists include David Black, Dale Chihuly, Liz Miller, and Ryan McGinness

I wish that I had come across these paper sculpture lesson ideas while teaching a mobile and sculpture class at a local elementary school, back in November and December. The activities that I led got way too complicated, and these simple sculpture lesson ideas would have worked perfectly for mobiles, and would have enabled students to complete a simple, but interesting, sculpture in just one class session. Oh well, I’ll know for next time!

An inspiring art education advocacy video!

Vancouver Biennale Transitions Project: Field Trip to 217.5 Arc x 3

Well, I’m back again after another long blogging hiatus. The last couple months have been a bit of a blur, but things are calming down a bit now. Last week I finally finished an online course in educational psychology that I’ve been working on since January. It feels like a weight has been lifted - and hopefully some time and mental space will be freed up for blogging and other fun activities!

The project with the Vancouver Biennale has been moving along, all the while, and I’m excited about how it has been progressing. Even though this seems like ages ago now, I thought that I would share some images from the field trip that all three classes went on to see Venet’s 217.5 Arc x 3 back in February.

As I mentioned in my post back in February, I am working with a grade 10/11/12 sculpture and ceramics class, a grade 5/6 class, and a grade 3 class - each from different schools in West Vancouver that feed into one another. At the field trip, students from the three classes were broken into smaller groups. We played ice breaker games, to help them get to know each other. Each group was then given the task of taking photographs of the sculpture and making sketches of it, capturing at least three different angles. In doing this, they were meant to consider how the sculpture can appear completely different when viewed from various vantage points, and how these perspectives could represent changes and transitions in life.

The students then used ipads to film interviews, in which they asked each other about their experiences with changes and transitioning between schools. It was really wonderful to see the different age groups interacting and engaging in such a meaningful way. The students also made some fantastic and insightful observations about 217.5 Arc x 3 and how it represents change and transition to them.

The field trip was a great way to launch the art making projects that I have helped to facilitate with each class. Since then, we’ve frequently referred back to the students’ experiences with the sculpture, and with the other classes. I’ll write again, to explain how the art making processes have evolved!

Collaborative Paper Sculpture Lesson Idea #1

For my work with the Vancouver Biennale, I’ve been collecting lesson ideas for creating collaborative paper sculptures. I’ve come across a couple interesting possibilities, one of which is pictured above. I found this lesson idea on a blog called color, collage, and much more. The teacher who developed this lesson was inspired by a mural and installation by street artist, Swoon, that she went to see with her students at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. Swoon’s work was created using intricately cut paper. It covered a wall and incorporated 3D sculptural elements (look here for images).

For the lesson, fifth grade students cut out paper shapes using stencils that they had created. They were grouped at tables with either warm or cool coloured materials. The only criteria that they had was that the pieces that they individually created had to be joined together, in the end, to create one collaborative sculpture. I think that the results were quite interesting! Look here for a full description of the lesson, and for more images. 

I’m back again, after another rather long pause! One of the activities that has been distracting me from this blog these days, is a part-time teaching job that I started in January. I’m working with the Vancouver Biennale, a biennial public art exhibition that brings sculptures, new media and performance works by celebrated and emerging international artists to Vancouver. The entire Biennale takes place outdoors and lasts for 18 months at a time.

I’m excited to be working with the Vancouver Biennale as a teaching artist, as part of their extensive education program. As a teaching artist, I’ve been paired with 3 different schools in West Vancouver. I’m working with one class at each school to address the “big idea” of transitions. I’m working with a grade 3 class, a grades 5/6 class, and a grades 10/11/12 sculpture and ceramics class. The three schools feed into each other, and the participating teachers wanted to guide the students through a creative process of addressing the hopes and worries that they have about transitioning between schools, and then out of high school when they graduate. Each class will work on a section of a sculpture addressing the theme of transitions, and at the conclusion of the project all three sections will be linked together and publicly displayed.

The artwork that will inspire our creative process is the sculpture pictured above, entitled 217.5 Arc x 3, by French artist Bernar Venet. Next week students from all three classes will be meeting each other for the first time on a field trip to visit the sculpture. 

I’m excited to be taking part in this very unique and collaborative learning and teaching process. I’ll be sure to write more posts, as the project progresses!

An Enthusiastic Introduction to the Work of Ida Kohlmeyer

Wow, I’ve abandoned this poor blog for quite a few weeks now. My time has been eaten up by increased subbing days, a new part-time job, and an online Educational Psychology course. But I’m inspired to write once again, after having a fantastic experience yesterday talking to a 2nd grade class about the artwork of Ida Kohlmeyer (pictured above).

The class was really great to work with, and I had a fun day with them, overall. When I arrived in the morning, I was happy to read in the teacher’s day plan that I was to teach an art lesson in the afternoon, and that I had freedom to plan it as I wished! She just specified that it be based on a specific work by Ida Kohlmeyer - which she had provided in poster format. As Kohlmeyer’s work was new to me, I’ve since researched it further, and have become quite enamoured with it.

When it was finally time for art yesterday afternoon, we weren’t left with time to carry out a full hands-on activity. But I decided to introduce the students to the artwork and facilitate a discussion about it. They were getting a bit squirmy, as it was the end of the day, but I decided to forge ahead and had them gather in a circle on the carpet in their classroom. When I held up the poster it was met with gasps of delight and awe. It’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to discuss a work of art with students this age, and it was so refreshing to observe their genuine enthusiasm. We had a wonderful discussion about the the shapes and colours that Kohlmeyer used in the painting. We also talked about how each section of the painting made them feel, and what some of the shapes and colours reminded them of. I wish I was going to be with them to carry out an artmaking activity inspired by the painting! But I will have to try this out with another group of children in the future!

"To motivate adolescents, teachers must develop lessons acknowledging the interests of students, present lessons offering opportunities for choice, honor the knowledge and experience students have to offer, build on students’ prior knowledge, treat students as competent and capable of learning material, respond appropriately to students’ behaviors and frustrations, foster a sense of community in the classroom, demonstrate care and understanding in all interactions, and listen carefully to what the students say and do not say."

Karen L. Cummings (2012), Motivating Urban Youth: Honoring the Experiences of Adolescents

I’m currently reading through one of the recent NAEA Art Education publications (from November 2012), and came across the article quoted above. It describes the experiences and reflections of two art teachers from an urban secondary school. Their observations and struggles are specific to their school and location, but also can be applied to the experience of working with adolescents, in general. The quote, above, really resonates with me, as does the general teaching approach advocated for in the article. As a substitute teacher in a rural school district, I’ve had the opportunity to observe many different classrooms environments and to (attempt to) teach many different high school subjects. I feel that the approaches described above could be applied across the board, not just in urban art classrooms. The author emphasizes the importance of developing rapport with students and exhibiting a positive attitude, as a teacher - not always easy tasks! I highly recommend this article to all you high school teachers out there!

"When young people learn about art, they learn about DaVinci or Botticelli. These artists are important but they do not suffice for representing life in the present. Not many high school students know about contemporary art. It should be known by every student that there are thousands of people out there trying to better our society - now and for future generations- through their artwork."

R. Francis (1996)

Yes! This is a great quote, and something that I feel very strongly about. I only learned about a few contemporary artists as a high school student - but their artwork is forever etched in my memory, and it had such a huge impact on my life.

(Source: arts.unco.edu, via msoartclass)

On Space Time Foam: Tomas Saraceno

I recently came across the fascinating work of artist and architect, Tomas Saraceno. I stumbled across his large scale work On Space Time Foam, and was completely transfixed by images and videos of people engaging with it (see images above). It represents such an interesting intersection of art and science. I’d love to share this work with students as part of a discussion about the connections between art and architecture as well as art and science.

Saraceno’s work is inspired by 20th-century utopian architecture and "stems from the desire to create aerial structures that can be inhabited by people, are self-sufficient and have a low environmental impact." On Space Time Foam is described as follows:

At HangarBicocca Saraceno creates On Space Time Foam, a floating structure composed of three levels of clear film that can be accessed by the public, inspired by the cubical configuration of the exhibition space. The work, whose development took months of planning and experimentation with a multidisciplinary team or architects and engineers, will then continue as an important project during a residency of the artist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT in Cambridge (MA).

I wish I could take a trip to Milan to visit this exhibition!

Mobiles and Moving Sculptures After School Art Class: Reflections

This past week I wrapped up a 4-week long after school art class at a local elementary school. In this class we explored mobiles and sculpture-making techniques. Some parts of the class worked really well, and other parts were far from smooth. I’ve been reflecting on the class since it concluded, and have been trying to pinpoint the lessons that can learn from the process.

The photos, above, were taken during and after the first class - which was the most focused of the four. In this class we talked about the meaning of the words “mobile” and “sculpture”, and explored methods for joining cardboard without using tape or glue. Students created at least 4 cardboard objects and balanced them from a thick cardboard strip, to create simple mobiles. The students were engaged, for the most part, and the activity was focused and relatively simple. Pretty much everyone was able to complete a simple mobile by the end of the class.

After this class, I showed the students a video of Alexander Calder’s circus and his untitled mobile at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. They enjoyed these videos and we had an interesting discussion about the works of art. The following activities that I led the group through engaged some of the students, but left others somewhat scattered and at loose ends. Because it was a high energy group to begin with, this lack of focus led to a somewhat chaotic atmosphere, at times.

After mulling over the experience, I’ve concluded that I should have continued to plan more specific and focused activities for the group (like I did for the first class), that would have enabled the students to finish a relatively small project at the end of each class. My plans were a bit too grand and open-ended, and some of the students seemed to find the lack of structure and direction frustrating. At the same time, though, some of the students enjoyed the freedom and forged ahead excitedly to realize their ideas. Overall, I think I could have struck a better balance of structure and ‘freedom’ for the group. 

This series of classes brought up many questions for me about how to carry out effective classroom management in after-school school classes. I find that maintaining a relatively calm and focused work environment can prove challenging in the after-school context. Behaviour management strategies that work in the classroom, don’t always translate to this context. While I’ve reached some new conclusions after this series of classes, any thoughts and suggestions from other teachers out there would be most welcome!

Seattle Mini Vacation: My Favourite Things tour of Elles: SAM
I returned last night from a fabulous 3-day trip that my husband and I made to Seattle. We planned this little get away to explore the city, and to visit the current exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou. We went to the museum on Friday evening. I’d expected the galleries to be jam-packed, as it was cheap night, but it turned out that visiting the art gallery isn’t a particularly popular Friday night activity. The galleries were remarkably empty, which was quite a treat.
One of the highlights of the visit was a tour that we attended of the Elles: SAM exhibition, which is an extension of the travelling Pompidou exhibition, featuring over 30 modern and contemporary women artists. The tour was part of SAM’s My Favourite Things series, which are tours led by visual artists, dancers, curators, critics and others, that offer "fresh interesting and highly opinionated" takes on SAM exhibitions. Our tour was led by a Seattle-based poet. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but she led the most compelling and quirky art museum tour that I’ve ever taken part in. She read us poetry that she had written in response to specific artworks in the exhibition, and she also shared poems by other writers that she felt related to works in the galleries. It was wonderful to hear her personal and creative responses to works of art.
Our tour guide led the group in a writing activity in response to Lee Krasner’s painting Night Watch (pictured above), which I thought was very effective. It was a nice take on the standard writing response activity, often used by museum educators (in which participants each write a word in response to a given artwork, and then form a poem using all of the words). Our guide had prepared little slips of paper with the words “This eye” typed on them. She asked us to count the number of eyes we saw in the painting, and to take the corresponding number of papers. We then filled in each slip of paper, writing what we thought each eye was expressing or doing. She then collected the slips of paper, and redistributed them. Each person read aloud about 6 responses written by someone else. The exercise really helped me to enter the painting, and to spend time looking closely at it. I’d love to lead a similar activity with a group of students.

Seattle Mini Vacation: My Favourite Things tour of Elles: SAM

I returned last night from a fabulous 3-day trip that my husband and I made to Seattle. We planned this little get away to explore the city, and to visit the current exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou. We went to the museum on Friday evening. I’d expected the galleries to be jam-packed, as it was cheap night, but it turned out that visiting the art gallery isn’t a particularly popular Friday night activity. The galleries were remarkably empty, which was quite a treat.

One of the highlights of the visit was a tour that we attended of the Elles: SAM exhibition, which is an extension of the travelling Pompidou exhibition, featuring over 30 modern and contemporary women artists. The tour was part of SAM’s My Favourite Things series, which are tours led by visual artists, dancers, curators, critics and others, that offer "fresh interesting and highly opinionated" takes on SAM exhibitions. Our tour was led by a Seattle-based poet. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but she led the most compelling and quirky art museum tour that I’ve ever taken part in. She read us poetry that she had written in response to specific artworks in the exhibition, and she also shared poems by other writers that she felt related to works in the galleries. It was wonderful to hear her personal and creative responses to works of art.

Our tour guide led the group in a writing activity in response to Lee Krasner’s painting Night Watch (pictured above), which I thought was very effective. It was a nice take on the standard writing response activity, often used by museum educators (in which participants each write a word in response to a given artwork, and then form a poem using all of the words). Our guide had prepared little slips of paper with the words “This eye” typed on them. She asked us to count the number of eyes we saw in the painting, and to take the corresponding number of papers. We then filled in each slip of paper, writing what we thought each eye was expressing or doing. She then collected the slips of paper, and redistributed them. Each person read aloud about 6 responses written by someone else. The exercise really helped me to enter the painting, and to spend time looking closely at it. I’d love to lead a similar activity with a group of students.

Taking Pause

I always find it helpful to pay a visit to the Smart Classroom Management blog, to get me thinking about my teaching practice. I really like the most recent post on this blog about the impact that pausing can have on students, when presenting lessons or giving directions. This is a good reminder for me to slow down and give students moments to reflect and take in what I am saying. I do, at times, find myself rushing through discussions and directions. I’ve definitely observed that skilled storytellers and public speakers use pauses effectively, to add drama, suspense, and emphasis to what they’re saying. It makes sense that well-timed pauses would be an effective tool to utilize in teaching.

According to the writer of the Smart Classroom Management blog, these are some of the benefits of pauses:

They’re predictive.

Anticipating answers and outcomes improves learning, and when you pause, your students will instinctively predict what you’re going to say next. You can use this instinct to your advantage by pausing before revealing important ideas, words, theories, or points of emphasis.

They build suspense.

When used strategically, a pause creates suspense and curiosity in the listener, causing them to sit up straighter and lean in closer. It can make the most mundane information seem interesting and worth listening to—making easier a critical skill many teachers struggle with.

They add depth and drama.

Pausing can be as important as content when presenting lessons. With the right timing and pace—and a bit of attitude—it can infuse your words and the visualizations you create with depth and drama, flair and emotion. It can help bring your curriculum to life, giving it the punch and energy it needs to matter to your students.

They discourage misbehavior.

Speaking without intentional pausing sounds like droning to students, who are quick to lose interest, grow bored, and misbehave. An occasional two or three second pause breaks up the familiar tone of your voice, keeps students on their toes, and helps them stay checked in and on task.

They allow you to adjust.

A pause gives you a moment to quickly assess your students’ understanding. It allows you to make eye contact, stay in touch, and make adjustments to your teaching along the way. It trains you to be sensitive to their needs and attuned to their nonverbal reactions to your lessons.

They help your students retain information.

An occasional pause, if for only a second or two, breaks ideas, theories, and directives into chunks, allowing them to sink in before your students are rushed along to the next thing. This improves memory and understanding and gives your students a framework from which to build upon more learning.