In order to expose each of my interns to a range of materials and techniques, I decided to focus on a different art discipline each week of the program. Originally I had envisioned beginning by looking at images of works by well-known artist as well as examples of other student work. However, walking through the labyrinth of art-covered walls combined with bottomless opportunities to visit any of the sixty-plus art studios hosted at the Bakehouse Art Complex, had no comparison to any fancy PowerPoint I could ever show.
During the first week of the program, we focused on drawing. We began by visiting a few studios and a longer than expected tour of the hallways, which inspired multiple rich conversations about interpreting images and the purpose of art. We made our way back to our production area, where I culminated with a demonstration on mark-making techniques and lines. I find that onlyN showing finished products can be a little overwhelming for students with little of no previous experience, so beginning the activity with a demonstration seemed like a good way to show students what starting a new piece looks like.
I think this is a crucial skill for all students to develop, given that it helps (or often forces) them to carefully examine the subject with their eyes, instead of simply recognizing what the subject is, and drawing a representation of it. The interns began the week by drawing objects from a still life. On the third day we moved on from objects to drawing the human body. This was a challenge, not because the students lacked the skills to complete the assignment, but because it was nearly impossible for them not to laugh when staring at each other’s faces while trying to draw each other on contour lines. As the days progressed, the bar kept rising, the culminating activity for the first week, was a collaboration between the dance and visual arts Co-ops. For this project the dancers arranged a short dance routine inspired by a series of collages done by the visual arts interns earlier that week. It was very rewarding to see both co-ops working together and feeding off each other. But most enjoyable was seeing my interns trying to figure out how to draw a moving subject.
The second week we focused on painting. Interns continued working the same observational skills but this time with a much harder medium to control. Visiting guest artist Loriel Beltran got the interns started on a project dealing with abstractions of the body using fashion photography as the main source. This project was actually inspired by Loriel’s own work. For this project, interns began by painting directly onto (fashion) magazine pages and then had to translate the image to a larger surface (18×24 inches) by using a grid. Over the second half of the week, students had a chance to investigate their own interest and came up with some really interesting work that was displayed during last Friday’s open house.
So far, last week (week #3) has been the most interesting, now that personalities are exposed and everyone knows each other. The challenge for this week was to plan and prepare for the open house event (entirely student-driven!) on top of continuing the studio production. It is fascinating to see how quickly students can transform when given the opportunity to lead, but it is even more rewarding to see them hold each other accountable and push for “team effort” instead of the directive leadership. Though we had interns who were in a visible “leadership role”, I did witness other interns who unobtrusively noticed a need and addressed themselves without being directed (Go Ashley!) It was very rewarding to see this type of leadership play out, as it is something that I strive to foster in the classroom.