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Tim Rollins

January 10, 2018

Inspired by literary classics

Mr. Rollins at the FLAG Art Foundation in Manhattan in 2016. Credit FLAG Art Foundation

Artist and educator Tim Rollins died on December 26 at age 62. Tim was born and raised in Pittsfield, Maine. He went to the University of Maine.

The Portland Museum of Art had an exhibit of his work and the work he did with students. At that time he was quoted by the Portland museum as saying that he learned a lot from watching women patch quilt panels together in his hometown of Pittsfield.

“We do everything through the power of ‘our,’ ” Rollins told the PMA. “That was the incubus for K.O.S. I said, ‘You know what? If you want to build a barn, you don’t study the theory and practice of barn building. You build a damn barn, and if the barn’s broken, what do you do? You fix it.’ I just took that homespun philosophy, and we created our own situation. Independent, libertarian. I got that from home.” (Portland Press Herald article, Dennis Hoey, December 28, 2017)

He and his K.O.S. students combined lessons in reading and writing with production of works of art. In a creative process that Rollins called “jammin,” he or one of his students would read aloud from assigned texts while everyone else drew or painted, relating the stories being read to their own life experiences.

Not only did he fulfill the following statement he wrote to his parents at age 5 but he was an amazing teacher for his students in the Bronx. “Dear Mom and Dad, when I grow up I’m going to be an artist, a teacher and a scientist. Don’t get in my way.”

From the New York Times

Mr. Rollins devoted almost all of his 35-year career to his unusual combination of art-making and teaching, and to the group, which exhibited as Tim Rollins + K.O.S. (Kids Of Survival)

The collective had its beginnings in 1981, when Mr. Rollins was working as a substitute teacher in New York City. He was invited by the principal of I.S. 52, a junior high school in the South Bronx — a devastated area at the time — to develop a special-education program for students with learning disabilities that would combine making art with improving reading and writing skills.

In a classroom with a barely functioning sink and broken windows boarded up with plywood, Mr. Rollins and his most interested students had begun to function as a workshop when they hit on the idea of using books for both inspiration and material. After a long period of study and sketching, they would distill a book’s narrative to a single motif and paint variations of that motif on a canvas collaged with the volume’s pages.

Read the entire article about Mr. Rollins and his work in the New York Times, January 8.

This video provides a historical picture of Mr. Rollins and the work he did working as a teacher and how he utilized stories, history, art and music in his teaching. Tim demonstrated good teaching techniques utilizing integration many years ago.  There is a video series on Tim Rollins and his work. This is part 1.

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