Yarmouth High SchoolNovember 26, 2016
Teaching Artist and Art Teacher collaborate
For two weeks this month, Tim Christensen was a visiting artist in Holly Houston’s high school visual art classes at Yarmouth High School. In Advanced Placement Art (AP), Advanced Drawing and Painting (ADP), Ceramics I, and Art Fundamentals, Tim and Holly have led the students through a project documenting the systems around endangered United States animals, from beluga whales to ocelots, from Key deer to orcas. As well, most days after hours, the art room has been open to students from the entire school to come learn to work on the potter’s wheel independently, creating a busy and vibrant creative space where students could start to find new uses for their creative voice.
Three approaches were used with the art classes. AP and ADP worked with8x8 clay slabs, creating a visual design capable of communicating the facts and challenges discovered during their research into their animal. These designs were etched onto black slip on white porcelain, using the sgraffito method, a 6000 year old practice traditionally used to create culturally vital historical documents in a visual way.
Similarly, Art Fundamentals created hollow bodied sculptures of their organism, and covered their sculpture with their interpretation of vital biological system data related to their animal.
Ceramics I concentrated on the wheel, producing numerous vessels on which to scribe their interpretations of the data, paying attention to form and line, and the technical intricacies of wheel thrown pottery.
Combining the challenges of working with clay and sgraffito with a subject of personal interest and relevancy fosters an investment in the work, and allows students to overcome big challenges, finding multiple correct ways of communicating and creating. Students assisted in defining the assessable goals of the project, and have been able to gauge their progress through formative self-assessment by understanding the proficiencies they must demonstrate in the execution of the project. How they show those proficiencies is up to them.
When Holly and Tim work together in the classroom, they communicate beforehand about the tasks that will be demonstrated and skills introduced for each class session, and share observations or areas of concern or elation for each incoming group of artists. During the session, they address issues and answer questions, provide encouragement or demonstrate techniques, often referring the other to students in need of a little extra attention. As a team, they are able to bring a broad range of experiences and skills to bear, and the students benefit from having multiple perspectives on the challenges they are tasked with meeting.
Holly and Tim met in person or communicated online numerous times over 6 months before the residency began, working together to secure funding, align project goals, schedule both the residency and the flow of each project, and to brainstorm the nuts and bolts of each challenge.
This project was funded by the Yarmouth Education Foundation. All photos by Holly Houston. Tim is a member of the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) teaching artists roster located by CLICKING HERE and available for hire.
Thanks to Tim for providing this information for the blog post.