I found some old report cards that my mother kept. One was from my kindergarten teacher. In the report she praised my art ability and said she wanted my parents to keep in touch and let her know how I was doing.
I decided to try and reach out to her and let her know how I turned out. She had an online presence and I sent an email. I invited her to my opening at Grounds for Sculpture in 2011.
Mabel and I reunited at the opening. She is shorter than I remember!
I have so many very clear memories of my time in kindergarten. I was so curious about learning and loved school and Mrs Willing. After that I mostly remember the stings and bruises of surviving school. As a teaching type we put ourselves out there trying to spark that curiosity for learning in others. We never know what tiny differences we make in the lives of others. I’m old enough to have some students quote me though. It’s kind of scary but they where good quotes. My kindergarten teacher gave me the courage to stay curious throughout my life. I am so happy to have shared my story with her and have her in my life again. I am still learning from this remarkable educator
So if you can…… tell a teacher you love them!
This year we are adding to the mural we started last year at MUJC developmental learning center. Having this 2 year grant makes a huge difference in a school like this. Special needs kids often take a long time to get used to a new person and our routine. Those that were involved last year know me and the materials. They come in knowing what is expected of them. This year we have some verbal students. One in particular Jasim, had a lot of great ideas for our addition. He talked about adding people to each side and I had him draw some on paper. The next week I asked him if he could draw them on the wall with chalk and put one person on a bike. He was thrilled to try this and without any hesitation started drawing. He also nailed the scale. This was not only great for him. The rest of the school started asking questions and learned more about the design process. Since the students aren’t allowed to use knives I will turn his drawing into a 3d form to mosaic. I enjoy seeing how these things evolve from drawing to foam form and then again as it gets mosaic on the surface. I’m thrilled to have a young designer this year too
The building has to go because the big idea is to create a garden space. This school has a space they call Main Street. It has a Shoprite that students work in,a paint store, a bank and other shops. The mural is supposed to be the green space on Main Street. Change is a big part of the creative process and Jasim is taking it in stride. I’ll ask him how he feels about maybe a person watering flowers!
Jaquese was thrilled with his new toy. He pulled it ,squeezed it, and hit me with it. You made a kid very happy Suri.
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.