20 June 2016

An unexpected turn of events - part 2

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."

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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.

life-sized papier-mache figures
We began with wood armatures...

life-sized papier-mache figures
...built up the forms with cardboard...

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...applied papier-mache...

video
...and finished with paint, beads, 
sequins, feathers, yarn and string.

video

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.  

life-sized papier-mache figures

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!  

life-sized papier-mache figures

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.

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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.

life-sized papier-mache figures

The environment in which the figures were placed had an impact on how they were perceived.

verna vogel campus calgarylife-sized papier-mache figures


campus calgary verna vogellife-sized papier-mache figures

life-sized papier-mache figures
life-sized papier-mache figures
campus calgary verna vogel
verna vogel campus calgary
Then they were put into the art supplies room over the weekend, giving a cheerfully cramped aspect to the small room.

life-sized papier-mache figures
campus calgary verna vogel
The following week they had their grand finale: spending a few days on stage in the lobby of the Jack Singer Concert Hall!

life-sized papier-mache figures

There were dance performances going on all week, so lots of people could see and respond to the installation.

life-sized papier-mache figures

Wrapping up their adventures at the Arts Commons, they were bundled into a truck and taken away, back to the school.

life-sized papier-mache figures

During the exodus, passers-by stopped to take photos with the colourful figures, adding a final layer of public interaction.

verna vogel campus calgary
campus calgary verna vogel
May these papier-mache figures - and their makers - continue to have interesting lives at their school and into the future beyond!

life-sized papier-mache figures

Goodbye and good luck!

3 comments:

P.D. Crumbaker said...

What an absolutely fantastic project. I found myself smiling more and more with each picture. We each of us have certain educational experiences that live on with us, decades later. These kids will certainly remember this one, as will everyone that interacted with the figures.

pdcrumbaker said...

Also, you remarks about ways to show inclusion "in stance, facial expression and interaction among people" reminded me of an video on artist Laylah ali, who at the time, worked with stick figures. I remember being so taken with how much could be conveyed through the line of a shoulder, the positioning of a hand:

http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/laylah-ali

(not sure if this will play in Canada - but maybe)

Verna Vogel said...

Thank you P.D.!

It was such a fun project to do - almost too big! But we got by and in the end it was beautiful. Yes, I do think at least some of the kids will remember this one.

Laylah Ali has got some interesting ideas, I do like her work and habits. And, labelling paintbrushes for colours so they don't get mixed, wow. Although I've never gone that far, the idea appeals to me on some level!

Thank you for your thoughts and the link, much appreciated.

:)
V