Keri’s refined teaching methods this year are indicative of the faculty’s necessary reaction to the novel constrictions of the coronavirus. Her answer: be creative. Can’t use the wealth of various resources in her normal classroom setting? Make sure each student has their own, self-supplied workspace. In-person time is limited and the possibility of going remote looms in the background? Make sure the curriculum is blended and can move to any location. Everyone has to wear masks? Emphasize personal choice and the individuality of students (as always). Even while she admits that cutting-edge technology is not her go-to medium of preference, Keri is making the most of the opportunity. For their first major assignment of the year, her 5-6 students last week began a unit exploring the idea of “Water as Art.” In this case, the only critical, required ingredient for their creation is water, which the kids cannot easily access on campus at the scale needed (at least not while keeping the classroom reasonably clean and dry). Therefore, they need to think about how to use water to create a unique design elsewhere, and therefore what other elements they may involve. Since the early phases of the unit are cerebral, the kids need to imagine their prospective designs and explore their ideas as concepts, both in discussion and as digital proposals. Keri therefore created a Google slide show as a preliminary stage, to which each student has added their own slide describing their plans, whether specific and logistical or varied and abstract. Keri’s own slide emphasizes her experimental thought process, including one idea for a photography collection of various colors mixed in water, another for watercolor and mixed media to produce various textures, and a third idea mimicking a Turkish artist who mixes paints of various densities to use the surface of water as a replacement for traditional paper. Following suit, the students have produced a wide variety of their own plans, each of which exhibits their unique perspectives as individuals, and their understanding of needed flexibility as their projects unfold. One student plans to freeze flowers within ice forms. Another will make a paper collage then add water to bleed the colors. Keri ensures that her time with the students in person is not all talk, too, since, as she states, “I need you to make things. Art needs to be active.” So, on Thursday her students also undertook one of Keri’s annual assignments, decorating the covers of their sketchbooks. To do so, she had them envision the cover as a canvas, then search through magazines to cut out (at least) eight to ten images and four to six words that inspire them. Each magazine was purposefully inconsequential in and of itself, and often was not the sort of reading material the students would naturally select on their own. Rather, to complete the task, they needed to reimagine the images and words they selected, literally cutting them from their intended context and reusing them anew. Their sketchbooks thereby became forums for invention and experiment, personal expressions of their new ideas. Keri reminds them of all that art can do, and they know they are safe to express the world for its available possibilities rather than its apparent limitations.
Art as Remedy
Sep 7, 2020