Visual artist Tony Ortega led our 106 elementary students to create Alebrijes, fantastic animals. Beside him, Lisa Zimmerman, poet and creative writer, helped the students give life and voice to their creations and reveal their characters. Alma wrote, “Whisper ‘leaves’ into its mouth.” Ty wrote, “He smells like summer never ends.” Second grade Natalie wrote, “He looks like a black and orange sunset.” With the support of Think 360 Arts for Learning and Colorado Creative Industries, Idalia Elementary was fully engaged in the creative process.
The overarching goals of this residency included self-expression, creative problem solving, thoughtful reflection, engaging in the creative process, and cultural awareness. The academic standards met were numerous: observe and learn to comprehend and study art, invent and discover by generating works of art, relate and connect by personally linking to their art through poetry, attach meaning to their creations, relate art to diverse cultures, promote problem solving through deeper understanding of concepts and content, reason and make intellectual connections, use specific language, style, tone, text, and structure, and have a clear focus and sufficient elaboration and detail.
Success hinged on preparation and a passion for the process. We had professional artists and teachers who were committed and flexible, and adult and student volunteers who listened and facilitated. Careful planning was essential. We took a month to gather recycled supplies and to order art supplies. Tony Ortega worked with elementary staff the day before we launched, showed them the steps and models for each, and explained how the following days would unfold. Each day Tony met all the children during breakfast to stage the day. Then in small group instruction, he modeled the steps. The volunteers joined during modeling time, then slid in to help and support, allowing Tony to weave through the students to assist or to begin the next group.
Lisa Zimmerman’s poetry and prose workshops ignited the children with thoughtful models, precise language, and creative prompts, resulting in breathtaking writing linked to the creative process and Alebrijes. Students wrote, “Think of the heartbeat as you feed him.” “Get used to fur.” “Build without thinking and dream on with your animal.” "Your eyes are like flames." "You sound like wind blowing against a crooked little cottage." “I come from the quaky roads that rumble every time a car comes by.” "He smells like fresh air, almost like he's not there." The kindergarten wrote, “O horse, your mane feels like a kingdom of fluff/ O dinosaur, we miss your roar and swinging tail/O humming bird, I feel your silly flutter in my heart.” Samantha summed up with this acrostic, ”Animal creations are fun/Nice to chat with friends/Interesting to see people's animals/Made me try to be open-minded/Artistically wonderful/Like making a friend/Insanely beautiful/Time is short/Outstanding to see the process."