Funds from the CAP Grant allowed us to partner with Access Gallery to bring their unique Use Your Words Curriculum into our classroom. The participants were 18-21 and had varied disabilities. We looked at a few outsider artists with disabilities such as Dan Miller, Judith Scott and Mel Bochner. Several art concepts taught were: random, linear, layering, using words as art, and collaborative art making. Some intro activities included creating artwork using popular word icons while making a repetitive four square pattern, writing an I Am Poem then working collaboratively to make repetitive and overlapping pieces. We then began to create five large collaborative pieces and one individual project. These were: 1. Collateral Collage Piece: Using the school’s collateral material, we created an abstract piece that required layering and repetition. 2. Hawk Letters: We built individual letters out of chicken wire and wrapped them in colorful fabric. When completed, students wrote out their hopes and dreams and wove them inside the piece. 3. Two Sticker Pieces: Cutting out the color from various stickers, we made two large pieces entirely out of stickers! 4. Graffiti Piece: After hearing from well-known Graffiti artist Josiah Lopez and playing around with what their own tags would be, we created our own water-based spray paint graffiti mural. 5. Mel Bochner Inspired Piece: Students brainstormed words that represented their school. Using a process similar to screen printing, they created a masterpiece. 6.) Individual Piece: Students collected items that were important to them and reflected their personality, dreams and family and made personal collages.
Many of our teachers expressed strong enthusiasm for the accessible, self-expressive, and easy use of the art materials and of the art experiences. Access Gallery specializes in accessible art that takes many forms, including cost, availability and workability of a material such as stickers, torn fabric, and recycled materials. It was exciting to see students working collaboratively in teams to create unique, beautiful pieces of art. Teachers expressed how simple some of the ideas were but had not thought to use them in such a way. Also, a great highlight for everyone was the palpable excitement when several of the projects, after last minute touches, were revealed!
Our goals with the project were multifaceted. We were working to increase language and communication skills through providing opportunities to discuss, reflect and share the processes when making the art. A second goal was to give students the opportunity to work with new mediums and professional community artists. We also gave students the chance to work in teams to create work that would enhance the new school as well as work that could be sold to the community. Some of the art standards that we met included: Aesthetic Inquiry: Students reflected upon and assessed the characteristics and merit of famous artists and the work of their peers. Art Making: Students understood and applied a variety of mediums, techniques and processes when making the art in the residency.
Challenges did arise when working with such a diverse population of students. Even with our best efforts, some students were hard to engage and sometimes it just depended on the day we showed up. One student was dependent on his computer in order to communicate and had limited movement of his body. Despite the challenges we faced, we would rate the experience highly and could replicate this project in other settings.