Suri is going into 6th grade in September. She had this green toy that you can pull and stretch. I said I wanted to get one for my friend Jaquese who loves to tear and pull things apart. He is a Bancroft student who I adore. He is in a wheelchair and has a strong arm and a weak one. He will go nuts for this toy I said and showed Suri his picture. She asked to borrow the sharpie I had and quietly washed the toy and redrew the eyes and mouth. She gave the toy to me at the end of our time together to give to Jaquese. It still brings me close to tears thinking of this generous modest spirit in one so young. She has a special needs sister that can be difficult. She handles it with such love,empathy, and understanding. She makes me so happy in this world that makes me sad,angry, and depressed. This kid makes me feel hopeful that the world has more kindness than I could possibly imagine.
Can’t wait to bring it to Jaquese
Love you Suri
I am finished for this school year and it has been so interesting and only occasionally frustrating. This is a great school with engaged staff and administration. My glitches were the business office ordering materials and getting the building folks to play nice with art and women. It all worked out and we had our grant extended into next year. This is so important for this type of learners to have at least 2 years. This is a developmental learning school and what I might take for granted takes more time. On the last day students finally looked at me directly and related verbally. Jayde learned my name instead of saying “excuse me” all the time. On the last day we got students to draw things for the next part of the mural. I think autistic kids and most of us need to see something concrete not abstract to understand. I have been blessed with being able to see the big picture and help others do the steps to create something. I’m kind of an art general contractor. Most aren’t like me that way I’m finally realizing. Hopefully this realization will make me a better teacher.
What we have so far. This is 16 ft by 8 ft high and the lighting makes it so hard to photograph. It is a curved wall so that is why I went with an appliqué approach. The high relief bits are attached with construction adhesive and temporary screws. It was decided that I could install. This gave me the opportunity to have students set tiles directly on the wall and one of the most rewarding parts of the process. We now have 16 additional feet to work with. I’m delighted students now get it and are excited about designing more. I can’t wait to see how things develop next year.
Our high relief dog. A student made a drawing of a teacher’s dog that we used. We have an F-16(I think that’s the right plane) that another student drew.
A kids Sponge Bob
Some handmade clay bits with our background of blue glass tiles. I had them set handmade tile and glass tile on small pieces of mesh. This was a great way to have kids apply tile to the wall. I always want to know what clay and glazes were used so for us it was some kind of low fire white that I found in the art room and rehydrated. We used Amaco velvet underglazes my go to glaze for inside and outside and a low fire gloss glaze. I had most of the kids use cookie cutters to make tiles but some made more unique tiles. John made his name and large! We spread the letters out throughout the mural.
Ja’quese has been so much fun to play with for the last 6 years. I met him in the hallway with a volunteer before he started school. He grabbed my hand and we both started laughing and have been playing ever since. I look forward to hearing his squeals of delight when he sees or hears me. I’ve been playing with him in his wheel chair before class ends for a few years now. I love to hear him laugh. I wear an apron with art tools since I work on a lunch tray. One pocket has a light up rolling eyeball ,a snake finger puppet, and a zombie grandma popping eye toy. He likes to grab the apron and take the toys out. As an artist he excels at tearing paper to shreds! As a curious playful person he can’t be beat. My lesson for the past few weeks has been to make adaptive versions of some classic toys. I started with an old fashion fishing toy using magnets. This version has big fish that kids can hold and larger magnets so that the fish can be placed on the floor and fished from wheelchairs.
The fish are paper mache over a cardboard form. The fish have a large washer glued to the top and then painted with acrylics. I had a big magnet doodad from when I was a telephone installer and used that to fish with. It is tied to a piece of bamboo. It worked very well and Ja’quese really got the fishing idea.
Ja’quese laughing at me with an Ipad taking his picture
Ja’quese concentrating on catching a fish.
This coming Tuesday is my last day at Bancroft Voorhees. Budget cuts! Always the arts! I made a bamboo structure in the garden to turn into a musical contraption piece. I want to go out with cacophony and as much joy as I can muster without tears.
It is an app with alot of potential for fun learning but not with the kids I work with at Bancroft Voorhees. This population of learners needs more to touch in order to make choices and participate. I feel like I was doing too much of the decision making so this idea isn’t among my successes. In general making art with an Ipad doesn’t work well with severely disabled kids. This is just my opinion and I always think i just haven’t found a way to make it work yet. I started out having kids choose a shape from shapes made for me with a 3D printer.
Then we picked that shape in the app and added drawing or stickers or photos. The app allows you to take a photo or access a photo from your camera roll.
They then were sent to teachers to print. I will help put them together and the kids can look at them close up and feel them. The school printer doesn’t print on cardstock but that would be preferred. I REALLY need a spring project so I’m moving on to Koinobori…. Carp windsocks…lots of color ,light, movement, and textures to feel.
Happy New Year. This week I start 2 new residencies. As always I am excited and scared. I never get used to meeting new students and always have the jitters. Age has perfected my on top of it teacher facade. This year I am doing another big messy public art like project in Warren NJ. I will be working with special needs teenagers building a high relief mural.
I often feel like I am the only teaching artist in NJ that does these projects that require scale shop drawings, budgets,and material lists to be approved by building staff to meet code. This school got it right in getting these things out of the way in the beginning. I have had a few projects that did not and I left the residency without an installation because of building approvals. We started planning in September and are just now ready to dive in. The drawing lays out a basic template for our design. Student input will determine what it will actually look like within those parameters. I have found that it is very important with special needs kids to have a concrete clear simple plan to follow. I have also found that it helps with all schools to have a preplanned template to improv from. The key is to listen,be open to what is happening, and feel free enough to change it up if you see something great or it isn’t working. I try really hard to be a facilitator not a prima dona artist. My second residency is an after school program in Vineland doing stopmotion…with 3 Ipads. I have been so inspired by the ipadartroom.com website but her kids all have Ipads. I am still working on having a few Ipads with kids that are so hungry to play with them.
So like I always say…Let the fun begin!
This month at Bancroft we continued playing with a basic electric circuit by making a ping pong ball contraptions. You can find instructions on YouTube for all sorts of things using little motors. Vibration motors work so well with this population. If you can see they move and have color. If you can hear they make sounds. If touch is your dominant sense they vibrate. Staff and students all got a ping pong ball massage. Unfortunately I got a few teachers hair caught up in the propeller but no harm was done. I put it on kids heads and called it a brain massage. Great responses today from kids that don’t always respond. I got all the parts…motors,switches, batteries etc. on Amazon(contact me if you need details). I do so miss Radio Shack and the mad scientist section of Edmund Scientific though. It’s a new world.
I’m just getting to know Michael. He was fascinated with the whole process. He along with his classmate Ethan chose colored sticks and Michael didn’t try to eat his. They chose ping pong balls and we played with them before getting down to business. Ethan lost interest but Michael watched and listened to the entire assembly process. I gave him the finished project and he was still playing with it when I moved on to another class.
I recently found a great website ipadartroom.com. This teacher is amazing and encourages using an Ipad as an art making tool no more precious than a crayon. I’ve torn through most of her lessons. You want to respect your art materials and maybe an Ipad more since it’s pricey….BUT… At least for me it’s been used too preciously and therefore not enough. For me personally this has helped with artist block. What I’ve learned is that having the integrated camera makes drawing more spontaneous. I can snap a pic and use it as a starting point by tracing. Layers make experimenting easy. I can try all sorts of things ie: colors,tracing with out starting all over again. To be able to undo and delete is liberating. I believe this will be as great with kids that think they can’t make art as it’s been for me. I’ve been obsessed with drawing on the thing. I’ve been using the free Adobe draw app.