The GALS Graphic Novel Project was created through the workshop process, combining content learning, critical thinking, and community awareness.
Phase 1of the project took place at the Metropolitan State University Center for Visual Arts under the direction of Talya Dornbush. Talya and her staff introduced the graphic novel format, and the girls were able to contextualize their work in the study of the “Under the Guillotine” installation, an exhibition of 18th Century prints by British cartoonist James Gillray dealing with social and political issues. Using the works of the exhibit as inspiration, the girls created individual graphic novels addressing social issues meaningful to them. These drafts served as models for the collaborative work in the next phase of our Project.
Phase 2 took place back at GALS, led by teaching artist Michele Brower. The class chose as its subject local artist/activist Teresa Castaneda. Teresa is an inspiring female artist and role model who overcame substantial obstacles to pursue a successful visual arts career (an NEA grant awardee!). She is also a GALS neighbor and community activist in the Santa Fe Cultural District. Our work with Teresa began with a 3-day metal casting workshop (part of a greater MSU Art event). She then invited the girls to her home, a live-in gallery of her work and the community projects she creates. Students worked in groups to prepare interview questions, with support from language arts teaching staff.
The girls took leadership roles in the design of the actual novel. They demonstrated excellent collaborative skills in planning individual pages while preserving artistic continuity. It was rewarding to see their commitment to the quality of their work and the progress they made in applying techniques they have learned throughout the year: pen and ink, acrylic and watercolor technique(color mixing and layering, brush work), and ceramic sculpture, supported by ongoing technical drawing instruction. For example, one student chose to develop her sketches and concepts with elaborate pen and ink hand-lettering. The final product was published in an accordion-style format. Girls created a presentation stand with book cover to complete the process. All decorative elements were repurposed in keeping with Teresa's aesthetic.
The project culminated in an opening at the CVA gallery during their First Friday event on May 6, 2016. Students took pride in the communal celebration that comes after hard work in the studio. They were recognized as artists and connected through real-world partnership with the local artistic community, activating social awareness and change through art! This outcome is consistent with the mission of both GALS and the CVA: to provide students with opportunities to engage in self-advocacy and community leadership, and to enjoy high-quality art experiences that advance the global urban dialogue.
The exhibit continues to run through the end of the school year at GALS.