Sunday, April 4, 2010

Community Collaboration

Where to even begin. A one page summary, I feel as though I could almost create a page (well, more) long LIST of ideas to involve the community into my art projects. I think this had a great deal to do with the way I was raised, both in my home and in the art room. My parents encouraged creativity at home, and we were always figuring out how to "make things" to pass the time. My art teachers were members of my community that I saw outside of the classroom in high school, so art naturally mixed and melded my community and classroom into one idea.

One thing I really love focusing on whenever I teach art in the community is the idea of bridging generational gaps. I think there is so much potential in integrating the youngest youth with the beautiful silver haired elders of a community. The two have such interesting perspectives on life, and can nurture the other in so many ways. I think far too often we overlook the potential to mix our "classes" up even once we leave the school building yet that is the chance when we have the most freedom to explore without boundaries.

The idea of postcards have really intrigued me for quite some time as an avid traveler. However after my level II field experience last year, a classmate of mine brought up Post Secret and the idea of a mail exchange and I have been hooked on several related ideas ever since. I think one great way to involve members of the community in the art program is to form a pen pal system. Students could write to members of a local club or perhaps retirement/nursing home. They could exchange artwork in the form of a photograph a month, or a drawing, or some other handmade trinket. I grew up in a town that thrived on tourists flocking to see the tulips lining our dutch streets every spring. It always amazed me how much marketing went into such a small little town and how it hosted such a large event. I think students or the pairing of student-community member could really be an excellent place to look for designs for publications. I know there are professionals hired to do those kinds of jobs, but local advertising for a festival created by the youth of the city is something that has great appeal to me; and feels so much more authentic and so much less plastic and commercialized. The Pen Pal system could be set up their freshman year of high school and carry through the four years. They could simply exchange art and thoughts each month/every other month/every semester; but there could also be events and opportunities for them to come together and create a joint piece (ie: advertising for a festival, sponsoring library events, some sort of mass mailing to build awareness about a topic).

My list could go on an on, I could almost virtually take any lesson plan and find a way to make it community based; whether holding a workshop in a public space and invite the community or to bring in members into the classroom... To relate projects to current local events or to spread awareness to the local community about a global issue.. The sky is really the only limit (although incorporating airplanes and flight would be pretty awesome)... Don't get bogged down in the four walls of your classroom.. Remember to look up and look out and around you often and take advantage of the relationships you could form in your community!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

ITM 27a.

I found this photo by James Van der Zee that really glamorizes the Harlem renaissance. It shows the couple and the car, extravagant clothing, nice clean neighborhood....Then when I began searching for photos that would "lament" this time period, I thought of the book Amazing Grace and it's vivid descriptions of the reality of the life in the South Bronx. I found the artist Roy DeCavara ( who was known for his photographs of the reality of Harlem. Not to say they didn't contain their own beauty but they also didn't hide aspects of Harlem or try to paint a picture perfect image over top of what existed. This image I felt contrasted the message of the first in a few ways. The scene is noticeably falling apart and filled with debris. Instead of a car, there is a broken down cart, and a billboard of a car, as if it's a dream not quite within reach.
I think this exercise can show how different perspectives see different sides in life... Where people come from.. and it also shows how varied nostalgia can be. What makes one person think of and miss home or a time or place may be different than those details that another person thinks of.

Art Advocacy

"The most important things in life-love,beauty,and one's own uniqueness-are constantly being overlooked. " -Pablo Casals

As I've been looking through some art advocacy websites, and reflecting on class discussions.. I ran across this quote in some searching online and it really struck me. I think the biggest goal of my advocacy will be to keep art (aka the love, beauty, and individual uniqueness of life) from being overlooked. Advocacy does not mean that you are putting paintbrushes in everyones hand and turning our entire world into practicing artists, but it is all about increasing awareness of the art world. As an art educator, I will naturally be in a position to advocate art; to promote art in the community, involving businesses and individuals in my classroom, spreading the art around town, promoting galleries and art shows in the area. It's hard to think of legitimate risks when promoting something you are passionate about, other than risking other people's criticism if they don't agree or believe with the importance of art. If advocating means taking official steps through school boards or city councils for programs, the risk would be not going in prepared-which you should avoid by getting your stuff together and entering in well thought out ideas. I'm enjoying making the advocacy zines in class, and look forward to handing them out. I'm giving a campus tour on the 12th, so I already know of an audience I will be able to share with.. :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Community Based Art-Curriculum

When I saw the subject and title of this blog/chapter before reading it, I got really excited. I love involving the community in the classroom. After reading, I realize this community took it to a whole new level by creating their own curriculum. I don't know if I am fully on board, honestly in part because of the work it took to put in place and to see how time could change it as people came and left. (time preparing/implementing=con) However, I did really enjoy the four points the book included as the four major pros: maximizing local resources, developing pride in local community's heritage, creating support for art education, and connecting art with the local culture. Those are huge pros to me, but I feel as though my goals as an art educator involve them within the curriculum I teach. I don't know if developing an entirely new/separate system is necessarily most effective or time efficient. Interesting reading nonetheless...

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Describe an experience you have had with a person who has a disability. How did your interactions with this person change your perspective on teaching?

The first memory that popped into my mind is a collection of memories from my first year in Art Education methods courses two years ago at UNI. There was a student who open enrolled in our class who had a physical disability. Working with a student and peer in a wheelchair opened my mind to accessiblity of supplies aroudn the room, as well as the room layout. Things such as washing his hands, reaching the dry racks, or finding supplies on the shelves in the closet required assistance. I was paired with him for many partner assignments and meetings outside of classtime around campus and the town gave me a new realization of handicap accessibility (or lack there of). We have continued to remain very good friends, but to this day he is unable to visit me where I live because I am on the third floor of a dorm that is not handicap accessible.

The one thing that I absolutely love about this individual however, is how real he is and how alive his passion for art it. He will not let anyone look down on him or expect less than the most creative outlet of artistic ability. My favorite experiences have been painting ceramics at pursuing picasso and comparing sketchbooks. Chapter 10 in Adolescents at School talks about the idea of people with disabilities being considered "eternal children", and how society rarely expects them to grow up, get a job, or get married. I feel guilty to admit it but I too fell into this subconscious perception before I got to know my friend through art classes and now I have repaired my view as I know about his dreams and goals and what he values in life.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to teaching every student and to valuing every student. The chapter in Real-World-Readings was a very interesting concept to me, that of teaching nonvisual learners. I think it would be a challenge but I would welcome the opportunity to push my skills as a teacher and learn to look beyond the visual properties of art. My personal art philosophy has always revolved around the idea that art is about the process, not the product.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Safe Space

I try to hold myself back from responding to every reflection, what-if scenario, or interview question relating back directly to my work as an RA, but it's such an all inclusive job that has influenced me in nearly every situation. I come at this week's blog with the perspective of someone who has been in the role of being in charge of/guiding/mentoring groups of 30-50 young females in the dorms. I have had students come and share many confidential things with me, and thus my best guesses as to how i'd handle things in the classroom is a result of how I have dealt with situations in the past.

If a student "came out" to me, I would first thank them for trusting me and reassuring them that what they told me would not be repeated to others without their permission. I would ask them if there was anything i could do for them to support them, classroom atmosphere etc.. If the student hadn't come out to their family and friends, I would suggest they consider why they hadn't, and how they could come to the point of being open to that idea in order to be honest with the most important people in their life. Depending on the school or community, I could ask or recommend counseling if the student was interested, if they wanted to share with someone else.

As far as making sure my art room was a safe space, I would encourage students to carry themselves with an attitude of acceptance. In the dorms, I have done a lot of passive programming (bulletin boards, bathroom stall fliers etc) that educate students on how to use accepting language and how to avoid offending someone-intentionally or accidentally). Hanging a safe space sign could help students identify me as someone they can trust (interesting side note, the Department of Residence at UNI offers training sessions on safe space allies, but they created their own logo...I don't know if it was part of a national trend? but perhaps the pink triangle is changing? does anyone know?). In the chapter we read for this topic, there were many instances of teachers not defending students, or stopping offensive language or behavior. I would hope that I would never fall into that behavior myself and that I would stop harassment if/when it occurred in my presence, classroom, or school.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Through extensive traveling in central and south America, I have often experienced the feeling of being the minority. I'm considered a blond in Chile and stick out like a sore thumb, I've had vendors insist on communicating with me in their very poor broken English because they couldn't fathom my ability to speak Spanish, and I have felt the attention of a pale skinned young woman in a Latino community.

However the time in my life that has stuck with me the most as being treated differently or with less respect occurred on my beloved UNI campus. I am a resident assistant on campus, and hold this title with pride. Part of our job includes being health aids, so I am and have been certified in health aid and CPR for 3 years. I am trained to respond to medical emergencies in a variety of settings.

One day I was studying in the tables upstairs in Maucker Union when I noticed strange behavior from a woman in the CME. She did not appear responsive, and as someone tapped on her shoulder I knew medical help was needed. I tried to come to the aid of this worker, who clearly did not have training and did not know what to do. Quickly a group of adults appeared, called 911 and began to try to figure out what to do with this woman. I tried repeatedly to tell them the appropriate steps to care for her and place her to get blood pumping but everyone was in a panic and ushered me out saying that "the adults have it under control" and "we don't need to create a spectacle".

I was infuriated that they would not listen to me due to their conception that as a youth I could not possibly know how to help, even though I had repeatedly told them I was certified. I was kept at bay outside of the office space until paramedics arrived and immediately wrapped her in a blanket, and had her lay down on the couch, just as I had been trying to direct the adults to do.

Luckily the situation was not dangerously serious, and the medics were able to help her. However that day I felt completely undervalued as a young person and felt a great deal of indignation and anger that they had incorrectly judged me. This was discrimination based on age, and has not been ongoing in my life, nor is it the harshest example I have heard of, but it provoked the upset emotions of discrimination that are vivid to me to this day.