Posts Tagged ‘Kids of Survival’


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.


Tim Rollins at Colby

October 23, 2014

Speaking on November 13, Colby College

Based in New York, Tim Rollins is an artist and educator who works with K.O.S. (Kids of Survival). Rollins and K.O.S. develop work out of critical engagement with texts, an example of which is the Colby Museum’s recent acquisition Darkwater (after W. E. B. Du Bois), 2013, acquired in honor of Colby President Emeritus William D. Adams.

Please join Tim Rollins and members of K.O.S. on Thursday, November 13, at 7 pm in Given Auditorium for the Colby Museum’s Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Distinguished Lecture.

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TIM ROLLINS and K.O.S. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – On the Raft (after Mark Twain), 2011 matte acrylic, book pages on canvas 96 x 72 x 1.5 inches 243.8 x 182.9 x 3.8 cm LM14598

Tim Rollins is an artist, teacher and activist who began his career as the assistant of the conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. In 1979, he founded Group Material in New York. In the early 1980s, he taught ‘at risk’ students with learning disabilities at Intermediate School 52 in the Bronx and went on to create the Art & Knowledge Workshop. His highly acclaimed collaboration with the members of K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) continues to this day. Rollins combines lessons in reading and writing with making artworks. The source material laid out and studied by the students generally relates to literary or musical classics, such as works by William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Ralph Ellison or Franz Schubert, but can also include comics or legal documents. Their collaborative work takes the form of drawings, photographs, sculptural objects and paintings on canvas and paper. The backgrounds of works are often comprised of pages of books pasted into a grid. The results blend elements of Minimalism with an interest in the revival of painting that took place in the 1980s and in art that is socially and politically engaged. He has said: “What we’re doing changes people’s conception about who can make art, how art is made, who can learn and what’s possible, because a lot of these kids had been written off by the school system. This is our revenge.”

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. have been involved in numerous solo and group exhibitions including the Whitney Biennale in New York in 1985, 1991 and 2006 and Documenta in Kassel in 1987.

Tim Rollins was born in Pittsfield, Maine, USA, in 1955. He lives and works in New York. The original K.O.S. members dispersed and now live in several different American cities. Some have gone on to become artists in their own right. Tim Rollins continues to work with young people via the K.O.S. project.

The schedule of events for Colby College is located at

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