Saturday, July 26, 2014

Group Art Project

For several summers I have taught art to middle school age children at the Hoff-Barthelson Summer Arts Program in Scarsdale, NY. One of the art projects the children enjoy and look forward to is creating a mural. Often children are working independently on art projects, so I like to give students the opportunity to work together on a class project. I think collaborating with others is very important for children to experience. The theme is the HB summer arts program. We begin by brainstorming, which is a great way for children to get their ideas across. All ideas are valuable and given thoughtful consideration. I guide the students as we go so that decisions are made, and the group agrees on a final layout of the mural. Then I discuss with the children how they will execute their ideas. I stress that they should think outside the box and use new art techniques and materials. The mural above incorporated sponging, sand in the paint to create texture (grass), pasta for the pine tree and foam shapes for the leaves on the tree. Cardboard was used for some of the elements to create dimension and break the plane of the paper. I introduced the children to dry brush, which was used on the tree (bark texture) and the roof of the house (shingle look). The idea for the plane flying over the school came from a boy, who had just been at the beach where he saw a plane with an advertisement on a banner. One child contributed the idea of putting themselves in the mural. Then another child chimed in that they should put themselves in the windows. Everyone made their own self portraits. The children enjoyed spending time getting themselves to look just right. The mural took four days to complete. I made sure that each child made a contribution, so it was fair. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ArtsWestchester Teaching Artist
After a rigorous renewal process ArtsWestchester has selected me to remain a member of its distinguished Teaching Artist Residency Program for another 5 year period. Through my affiliation with ArtsWestchester I have taught diverse student populations. I begin developing my art lessons by learning about my student’s interests. I often use children's books to either support or inspire my art lessons. During an artist residency at the Mount Vernon Public Library I made strong connections between literacy and the arts. Jennie’s Hat and Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats inspired the collaging activities I developed and taught. I chose books by Keats because they reflect the diverse population at the library as well as offer strong colors and shapes to guide the children’s artwork. Children collaged their own hats made from oak tag. The inside of recycled shoeboxes provided a great surface for children to collage their favorite scene from Snowy Day. My programming resonated with the children because it was meaningful and had purpose. Children had fun while learning. Being an ArtsWestchester Teaching Artist is one of my proudest accomplishments as a teacher and I look forward to working with ArtsWestchester for many years to come.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


This mosaic project was inspired by a bag of leftover red kidney beans. The students in my summer art class used recycled red kidney beans along with an assortment of colored beans, pasta, tiles, and gems to create mosaics. I suggested they create a design that was very open (not a lot of details), but they decided what their mosaic would be - either something real or imaginary. Designs ranged from smiley faces, to Kermit the Frog, to a strawberry. The tree (pictured above) has a very ethereal feeling and may be more imaginary than real.  A background made-up of blue-green pasta gives the mosaic (above right) dimension. The students patiently placed the elements down. One girl broke the pasta into smaller pieces (Strawberry) so that it would lay flat. Another girl spent several class periods gluing rows of green and yellow peas for the background of her cat mosaic. Looking around the classroom at the completed mosaics I was really impressed. I saw a wide range of designs that were executed with great attention to detail and care. It felt good knowing that materials in the classroom that had been used for other projects were being repurposed in new and exciting ways.