Yesterday my ‘artist in residence’ information went up on the Artstarts website. I look forward to seeing what opportunities come my way by being on the roster. One thing about teaching and creating art; it’s never boring! As I prepared my information for the website many great pictures and ideas around working with young learners collected in my files and it was hard to choose what to leave out. I thought I’d post a few of the leftovers and talk about what made them special. This particular piece was created by a student in Calgary where the teachers and I decided to pair portraiture with Canadian history for a grade 5/6 class. It worked out wonderfully and this image is a scan of a photocopy of an image on one of the thank-you cards I received. A poor copy, maybe, but the effect works well for an aged look that you’d expect for a portrait of an explorer.
At this particular school we set up one of the best timelines for a residency that I’ve ever seen and the results were telling. Instead of condensing my time with the students into one or two intensive weeks of residency we spread it out over the year. I came in once a month for the whole day to work with 3 classes and spent 2 hours with each class at a time. The first visit was an introduction to drawing skills and discussion with the students about what they’d like to learn from an artist over the year. I juxtaposed this wish list with the art skills I would like them to learn and with the social studies and language arts curriculum expectations for the year. This is how pairing portraiture with Canadian history came about. Other examples from that year include:a study on China being matched up with Chinese brush painting techniques, drawing mythical creatures with storytelling, and painting landscapes with a study on Canadian geography. The teachers continued the work we had started in their art time which helped the students naturalize art as a way of learning and get comfortable with the skills they were learning as well.