12 May 2016

Intelligence, Courage and Love

I believe I've landed a dream job: teaching visual arts at the Arts Commons through Campus Calgary Open Minds and the One-Day Arts School program.  

The students teach me a lot.  Mostly they teach me about being really open-minded as they are generally not bound by pre-conceived ideas of structure and meaning in their projects.  It's very refreshing.

This month I taught two mask-making workshops with grade 4-5 students, with a concept based on this poem.  My idea for the project was to think about identity in terms of intelligence, courage and love.  If we have these three things - and most of us do, if we look deeply enough - then we are rich, no?  Intelligence, courage and love are things that no one can take away from us, because they come from inside ourselves - and we can use them to overcome life's pain and celebrate beauty.

First I will show you some prototypes I made, and then the students' work.

verna vogel mask prototypes, papier-mache and cardboard masks
Mask prototypes: papier-mache and shaped cardboard
For every new art process, I make prototypes in my studio.  Doing this ensures the feasibility of the project within the time frame and - perhaps more important - creates a kind of mental space for me to think about how the project integrates with the students' curriculum, how I can introduce the concept, et cetera.  I do my best thinking with my hands.

The first workshop was through Campus Calgary and we had two days, which meant we could do papier mache!  Below are my prototypes for complex and simple mask designs:

verna vogel papier-mache maskverna vogel mask-making class

verna vogel papier-mache masksverna vogel mask-making workshop

The second workshop was through One-Day Arts School, so we used templates to make shaped cardboard masks.  Starting with a simple template, these masks can become more complex by extending the shapes.

verna vogel mask prototypes
Shaped cardboard templates and masks

So those were my own studio prototypes.  Below are some masks the students made, and they did some pretty sophisticated work.  Both classes were super creative and came up with whole new concepts of how one can make a mask.  I learned a lot from them!

Papier-mache masks:

Half & half face, 3D bird beak and wings, wild pink feathers,
abstract triangular appendage - so much imagination!

Shaped cardboard masks:

See the yellow mask at the left?  That's hockey net on top!
There were so many excellent variations on my simple template.

Some of the students' comments and descriptions of their masks:

The different colours symbolize different aspects of my personality, such as my helpfulness (love), my sense of humour (intelligence), and my patience (courage).

The silver colour and Viking shape of my mask is for courage, the red gem in the middle is for love and the amber gems are my intelligence.

I used paint splatters which look like MRI images of areas of the brain which light up when engaged.  Also, the blue-green colour is like a peacock, which is a very intelligent bird.

My mask is overall red and has sparkly gems all over it, because intelligence, courage and love are inseparable.

I feel grateful to be able to engage in this level of creative thinking, to contribute to the creative learning of future generations.  It seems a very worthwhile use of my talents.  A quote from the Arts Commons website:

"Uncovering curriculum through the lens of the arts has the potential of engaging our youth, equipping them with the skills and knowledge that will help them respond to the complexities of our world today and in the future."

Yes indeed.


Barbara Muir said...

The big thing about teaching that you've captured so well, is the prep and the gamble. And who look what happened -- astonishing work, first from you, and then from your students with you. Very exciting!


Verna Vogel said...

Thank you Barbara! That is an excellent description in a nutshell: "the prep and the gamble" And yeah, the students were wonderful and everyone had so much fun!