Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a week-long Campus Calgary Open Minds session with grade 4-5 students at the Arts Commons.
Mission: to create "3D, site-specific installation artwork which will interact with the public."
Response: life-sized papier-mache figures!
The theme of the class was "Inclusion". We discussed what "inclusion" means, and ways to show inclusion in stance, facial expression and interaction among people. We had a tour of the building, and the students made some preliminary exploration drawings - I encouraged them to come up with at least two variations on their ideas - and then we dove into working with our hands.
We began with wood armatures...
...built up the forms with cardboard...
...and finished with paint, beads,
sequins, feathers, yarn and string.
Such simple words to describe a series of complex tasks! There were many elements to consider:
Anatomy - wood bones, cardboard muscle & tissue, papier-mache skin.
Simple machines - positioning arms and legs to create a dynamic figure.
Use of tools - drills, tape measures and staple guns (the papier-mache was also new to a few of the students).
Spatial thinking - scaling up 2D drawings onto the 3D armatures.
Colour - conveying emotions and ideas through colour.
This project was a first for me and I was not sure whether it would be possible to complete in a week, but in the end it all came together wonderfully. Once again I found I could trust the students to take an idea and run with it.
Their teacher's attitude also had a huge impact on the success of the project - she was happy to take it on even if it didn't work out, saying it would be a great experience either way. Now that is an ideal attitude for collaboration!
Because, you know, these art sessions really are a collaborative effort between the artist and the classroom teacher, to ensure the students have a fun and in-depth learning experience.
Also invaluable was the help of various parents throughout the week, as well as the hands-on support of Arts Commons program co-ordinator.
On the last day of the week-long session, we transported the finished work to various locations around the Arts Commons building.
The environment in which the figures were placed had an impact on how they were perceived.
Then they were put into the art supplies room over the weekend, giving a cheerfully cramped aspect to the small room.
The following week they had their grand finale: spending a few days on stage in the lobby of the Jack Singer Concert Hall!
There were dance performances going on all week, so lots of people could see and respond to the installation.
Wrapping up their adventures at the Arts Commons, they were bundled into a truck and taken away, back to the school.
During the exodus, passers-by stopped to take photos with the colourful figures, adding a final layer of public interaction.
May these papier-mache figures - and their makers - continue to have interesting lives at their school and into the future beyond!
Goodbye and good luck!