Art & Technology

Congratulations to the many students, and their teachers, recognized at the Technology+Art=NOW reception yesterday evening. The artwork is stellar, and you should be incredibly proud!


I also want to thank — and congratulate — Arts Herndon, the organization that organizes this program. I want to thank them for recognizing our artists for excellence and for providing monetary scholarship awards to encourage these students in their endeavors. That may all make sense but it may seem less clear why I would want to congratulate them as well. 

I want to congratulate them for their vision.   Arts Herndon recognizes that significant advances in creativity and innovation are happening at the place where art and technology intersect. The Technology+Art=NOW program is a clear demonstration of this belief, but the really impressive part is that they have been doing this for ten years! Kudos, my friends, Kudos!


Fore more information about the program, go to the ARTSPACE Herndon website, or read the FCPS news release

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Stitchery

I admit to being on the fence about some media techniques we teach in elementary art. Take stitchery for example.

Stitching Techniques by Virginia Wright, art teacher

Is stitchery a medium and art form artists might choose to express their ideas in an artwork? Absolutely! Is stitchery a useful skill? Sure. Is it a skill all children should learn while in school? In this century, maybe knot (oops, a little mispelling there).  Is stitchery a fundamental art skill that must be included in a quality art program? I’m gonna go with no.

I guess this is one of those art vs. craft arguments. I put stitchery in a class with weaving, leatherwork, sewing, basket weaving, carpentry, and pottery (I’m sure there are others). Functional objects are at the core of each of these crafts, yet in every case the skills and materials of the craft can be applied to create meaningful works of art. Where to draw the line is the subject of a long-argued aesthetic debate.

What do you think? I’d like to know.

The amazing, blanket-sized stitchery techniques display shown above was created by one of our passionate stitchery experts in the elementary art program. Thanks, Virginia, for sharing your work with everyone!

Ten Things Better Than a Color Wheel

Let me get right to the punch line. Don’t waste perfectly good instruction time having your students make a color wheel!

https://www.guirys.com/the-color-wheel-company-the-big-wheel-classroom-color-wheel

There’s a reason there’s an uninspiring, frumpy old lady shown in this photo. Color wheels are boring! If you need to hang one in your class for reference, FINE! But there is far too much to learn to ask your students to make one. 

I may be a bit biased from one of my own teaching experiences. I once had a colleague who’s Art 1 students spent nearly the full first quarter painting a perfect color wheel. The result? By Halloween they hated art and wished they never signed up!

Here are 10 ideas better than a color wheel:

  1. Practice gesture drawing with primary paint colors.
  2. Collaboratively sort, arrange, and rearrange hundreds of different color objects or 1 inch squares from color print (magazine) pages by color groupings or relationships. 
  3. Set up a competitive painting challenge in which students complete as many tasks as possible in a given class session. Each task combines color theory and painting skills. For example: create a gradient wash with a vibrant hue. Create a natural texture using dry brush technique and a neutral color. Create a gradient blend of complimentary colors. Etc. 
  4. Play with layering color gels and filters. 
  5. Make artwork by layering colored tissue paper with a wash of glue (creating a transparent effect).
  6. Challenge your students to fill a hundred or more squares on a painting surface, each with a variation of the same hue. (Use this as the ground on which a meaningful artwork is created.)
  7. Collaboratively reproduce a “pixelated” image of a famous artwork or school mascot using food coloring and water in plastic cups arranged in a grid. (Photograph from above.)
  8. Provide precut papers with all of the necessary colors and have table groups race to arrange them into a color wheel as a warm up. 
  9. Have students use color relationships to arrange themselves in different ways according to the clothes they are wearing. 
  10. Have students photograph objects with their phones and arrange the images by color. 

And if none of these suit you fancy, just have them paint! They will learn more about mixing and using color in an authentic context than they will by making a color wheel. 

Got other ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Art is Joy

I am extremely  lucky to work in a school system where we don’t need to worry much about whether or not student’s get art instruction or have art supplies. In fact, I am often focused on raising the level of instruction to be more conceptual and challenge students to think at higher levels — to not simply focus on media and technique, but also teach creative problem solving skills.

The video below, however, is a wonderful reminder of the power of art to bring joy to others, even when it’s just a portrait from a photograph.

Students in one of our high schools participated in the Memory Project by creating portraits of children in orphanages and refugee camps. To learn more about the Memory Project, go to www.memoryproject.org.

Staff Development Day

I am so inspired by the FCPS art teachers who shared their expertise with one another for our staff development day. Sessions included media process demos…


…collaborative work sessions…


…presentations by practicing artist colleagues…


…technology and blended learning training…


…and many other valuable sessions including meeting the needs of students with special needs and working with English Languge Learners. 


Special thanks to our special guests including Stephanie from Greater Reston Arts Center, ESOL specialists Caitlyn and Jennifer, and preserving teachers Carmen, Rachel, Lisa and Christina who shared in the teaching and learning!

It was a fantastic day of learning. I wish we could do it more often. 

Meaningful Choices

Born of a disagreement, this group of art educators came together to address different approaches to choice in art education. The question comes down to this: Should we have “projects” in art instruction and if so, why and how should we do this that provides an appropriate amount of choice to our students. 


Each presenter shared some of their own experiences and approaches. Katherine Douglas presented her experience as a teacher in a primary choice-based art classroom. 

Anne Thulson made an analogy to the Prime Directive from Star Trek in which the crew of the Starship Enterprise were not to interfere with cultures of the planets they visit. She argued that the art teacher should interfere and intervene with the students as they learn. She shared a collection of Dérive strategies to engage with spaces which she uses in the School of the Poetic City summer project.

Olivia Gude provided a number of approaches to presenting conceptual projects without making art seem too important.  The subject of ordinary life is used through concepts such as mapping, telling stories, being dirty, awkward silence, punishment, weirdness, and lies. 

Sharif Bey shared approaches to exploration of material process to find unique entry points into learning. He points out that discovery can’t happen in the absence of circumstances that allow for it. 

Each of us probably has an approach that we feel more aligned with, but I believe all of our students will benefit from opportunities to engage in a variety of approaches and practices in making choices for the artmaking process. 

Bridging the gap between Art and Education