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.
This week I put the totem together in the garden. It’s cold now and the garden is covered in leaves and we can’t take kids outside. It does look great though. I put the sections together with landscape adhesive and shimmed it level as I added parts. I have never never used construction adhesive to join this kind of thing so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. In the spring it will get grouted between the parts or taken apart if the adhesive fails and mortared together.
We are getting close to the final step of grouting
We are topping it off with two doves. The wires are for attaching tyvek feathers
My steady job for the last 4 years has been making art with medically fragile technology dependent children and staff at Bancroft Voorhees NJ. These children are in wheelchairs and hooked to machines that beep and flash lights. All are non verbal and few can use their hands. When you take the time to be in the moment with them they do show joy. ….a good deal of joy! The totem project is a way to celebrate the joys of children that passed recently. This project is administered by yanjep.org.
We started by making handmade tiles of images that reminded the staff of the things that gave these children joy. It was such a gift for me to hear all the stories. Some teachers and staff have known these kids since preschool. The kids of course can’t make these themselves. I am the “art facilitator”for the kids and also the staff. These children respond to touch and sound mostly. When they can make choices in a way I can understand I go with it. I have a familiarity with the way they communicate and do the best I can to hear them. Many smile hearing my voice and so many react to touching materials. Touch is such a big part of their experiencing the world and a sense we often neglect. I’ve found that a good deal of patience and just being there and present goes a long way with these particular kids.
tomorow they come out of the kiln
This is how Chris and I look together. Chris is a special second grader I had the privilege to meet last school year. He got all the important bits right..the earrings,the mop of curls on the top of my head and the big grin. I adore this drawing.