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!
We are covering the forms with paper now. These students are doing so well that they complete whatever I bring in for the day. This is another messy job but we have a big tarp under the work table to contain the mess. This time I am using unyru paper rolls and diluted elmers glue. I love this paper but it has gotten too expensive to use in my future school projects. I will switch to bogus paper available at places that sell packaging material. It is recycled newsprint and kraft paper but slightly heavier. You need a paper that is unsized so it is more malleable. Sized papers are stiff. Unsized papers eventually become pulp. Unryu is very strong,stays workable for a long time and covers in one or two layers. Bogus paper usually requires more layers and isn’t as malleable but it works well enough and it’s cheap. My personal favorite is blotter paper. It is thick and covers in one layer but turns to pulp fast so hard to use with kids. Last year I used what I called art snot as an adhesive with what I called bogie paper. Great art terms for 2nd graders. It is methyl cellulose and I used Elmers art paste. I had trouble with the layers de-laminating and haven’t tested it again so I went with white glue which I know works. The paper needs to form a hard stable surface over the foam.
Last Thursday was our first day getting our hands dirty. Our design is becoming large foam forms to paper mache. I’m putting the forms together at home and bringing them in for the students to paper mache. The students are enjoying the process and do very well at this task. They are working well together which is good to see. These are the forms for the center of the mural. What will become the sunflower is almost 8 feet tall. We are using 2 inch polystyrene insulation board available at building supplies. I insert wood furring strips or washers in places so that our installation hardware will not tear through the foam.
The tools I use to cut and shape foam are pictured here. Knives cut foam better than saws. I tried a hot knife but wasn’t happy with it especially the smell. I use a utility knife and an old bread knife. I use a fine tooth handsaw for inserting wood. I tie the wood to the foam with rebar wire. You can use packing tape,duct tape,whatever works to attach other things together. You can make a shape out of more than one piece and join them. I often pin pieces together with dowels. Like doing drywall the form doesn’t have to be perfect but the better it is the easier it is to cover. It also needs to be structurally sturdy so no wiggly loose parts. I shape the foam with the bread knife and smooth it with a corrugated shaper. It is a messy process. I had the bad experience of having a school order the white foam made of little balls. Don’t ever get this. We had little foam balls everywhere!
This month at Bancroft I’m doing the typical Picasso portrait lesson of abstracting a face but with a new twist. Being a facilitator I drew the shape of each kids head and drew the figure eight and some lines to divide the head into shapes. The students made color choices and sometimes provided some direction as to where to put the color or pattern. Jaquese made some marks of his own and crumpled the paper as usual. I then took a photo of the drawing and used an a free app Gifycam to add a gif to the drawing. These kids often respond in some way to movement and light close to their faces. There was a good amount of reactions today because of the gifs. Reactions can be an awakening, a smile, eye movement, a vocalization or in one case holding the Ipad up to a face. Every response is so small. One just has to believe that something is happening. They help me live in the moment,to really listen, and better accept what I don’t understand. Adding the gif was fun for me and I think my enthusiasm rubbed off on the staff and students. I really had fun today.
This month we made sguigglebots and it worked very well with these kids. Vibration motors were a hit with most of the students. They seemed to enjoy the feel of them and we had good reactions. The sound was stimulating to them also. Visually they were less interesting to the students but the staff loved it. A few more able students picked them up and were fascinated by the spinning propeller on top.
Patrick was engaged with the contraption without the markers. Check out that smile! Next week we move on to moving gizmos with ping pong balls, sticks, and more vibration motors
I love this photo of the proud artist and it’s even in focus.
Yesterday I did 3 workshops at the Moore symposium “Sculptural Practices for Diverse Learning Needs”. I work with kids and doing the professional development with teachers required by grants always scares the shit out of me. I’m not a real teacher and I find them intimidating. I had to write an academic sounding description for the workshop so it was Creating a Large Vision through Cooperation. Writing really isn’t my thing as those of you following this blog may have noticed.
Most of my photos are out of focus but I’m adding some anyway. Not only do teachers scare me but I rarely agree to do one time workshops. I think of them as fast food artmaking like a McDonalds happy art meal. I like to work with a group for at least 12 days so I get to know students. I found that it wasn’t so bad and wasn’t so scary once I got started. Somehow there were classes full of grownups smiling, talking, and playing nice with others. The room was full of laughing, and chatter. The big creative mess we made pleased me the most. It is possible I prefer the longer experience because I see progress. In these one time workshops I just have to have faith that some learning has taken place and get used to it.
It went well. When I looked at the photos I took there were lots of smiles in a room that looked like art was happening. I might be open to doing this kind of thing again!
One young woman disappeared at the end of class and left this piece. It says it all.