Posts Tagged ‘Tim Christensen’

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Arts Learning Grant Recipient

April 9, 2018

Bangor High School

Potter and MALI Teaching Artist Tim Christensen

“Sharks, tarpan migration, stingrays. Canoeing in deeper water while a dolphin gave birth under the boat. No tolerance for being bored. I had something to say. Being a potter let’s me capture information and communicate it in a durable way. In 500 years what do you want someone to know about you, what your life is like in 2018”?

These are some of the stories that teaching artist Tim Christensen shares when he visits classrooms – stories of how he got where he is and how he is living in Maine and working as an artist. He shares why he does what he does and how it came to be. He started out selling text books after majoring in writing in college. But at age 28 after losing his job he took time to consider what he really wanted to do.

Earlier this month I visited Bangor High School while they had Tim working with their students from all three of their art teachers students. The school received a Maine Arts Commission (MAC) Arts Learning grant to provide this opportunity.

Tim makes clay bowls by throwing them on a potter’s wheel and uses the sgraffito process to decorate the pottery. Sgraffito is made by scratching through a surface to reveal the lower layer of contrasting color.

I’ve visited Tim in action in other classrooms and its always interesting to see where he is in his development as an artist and as a teacher. The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) is pleased to have Tim as a Teaching Artist Leader and on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster. It is clear from the teacher and student responses that Tim did a fabulous job and impacted students and teachers during during his four days at the school.

ART TEACHER EVA WAGNER’S REFLECTIONS

Tim Christensen was such a refreshing presence in our classroom. His knowledge, skills, talent, creativity and energy inspired our students to create truly unique artwork. I learned so much from him in just a few days and I am hoping to get him to come back and work with my classes again.

He is a great story teller and he really took an interest in the students’ artwork. They really responded to him personally.

Working with a professional artist is such a valuable experience to give to our youth. It helps them to see fine art as a viable career and exposes them to a whole new way of working and caliber of work. Often high school teachers, like myself, become a sort of jack of all trades because of the amount of time we spend teaching and preparing different lessons. A professional artist has the luxury to focus which raises their production and craftsmanship –  it is wonderful to be able to expose the students to someone who works in this way.

STUDENT REFLECTIONS

  • I enjoyed working with a professional artist because it’s broadening who we learn from. It was cool working with someone who makes and sells art for a living.
  • I learned that quality is better than quantity. I would love to work with this artist again.
  • I enjoyed that Tim took the time to teach us individually and took interest in our art. I also enjoyed the story he told us about sailing across the Pacific ocean.
  • It makes us realize that there are artists out there that make a living from their art. It broadens our outlook on art and gives us perspective of art in the real world.
  • It was inspiring to hear someone’s personal story of how they became a professional potter.
  • I learned about creating sgraffito that tells a story on pottery. I would love to learn more about throwing with Tim Christensen.
  • I liked hearing about Tim’s life story and how he started art. He had many interesting views on art and how he saw the world because of his art. His art itself was incredible, and I had never heard of the techniques he used.
  • Having a Teaching Artist in the classroom can further your understanding of a subject to have someone that is specialized in that art. They can inspire students with their story and give hands on advice.
  • It helped me to see what it would be like to be a professional artist.
  • I enjoyed it because I got to work with a professional on my favorite subject.
  • I learned that there were more than just the few art styles that I’ve learned about over the years so far.
  • I learned how to do sgraffito and that sometimes you don’t need to work from an immediate drawing, you can just start from nothing and keep going from there.
  • It allows you to explore ideas and techniques you might not normally do.  It allows you to learn from them, and hear their stories and get new ideas.  It dispels the idea that artists are unapproachable. It allows you to see other career options beyond lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc.
  • Working with a professional artist was really nice and eye opening to see what his type of life is like. He was a really good artist that was super different from any work that we’ve done in school but it was really eye opening. He was really nice and helped me personally open my eyes to doing different work that was outside my comfort zone.
  • Tim Christensen taught me to step outside my comfort zone and to realize that when I think I’m done with an art piece, if there is still open space on my work, then I am not done. He helped me make my work better and was overall a good teacher.
  • He was an excellent teacher, and had a thoughtful answer to everything we asked.

ART TEACHER ERIC HUTCHINS REFLECTIONS

Many of our students want to become professional artists, but it is a scary thought for them and even their parents to survive as an artist. It is really nice for them to see a Maine artist that is successful at what he does! Tim was able to introduce new and different techniques to many different classes, and offer opportunity for ceramic works to classes that would never get a chance to experience that. Every opportunity students have can open new doors for them.

Tim’s stories about his travels around the world set it apart from other artists that have spoken to our students. His travels and stories connect to the art that he creates, so the students can hear and see the stories at the same time.

We had teachers from other departments visit while he was presenting and even had the opportunity to create their own work with him. They were as engaged as the students.

Students were so impressed with how incredible his work was they were captured by him at the very beginning. It was nice to be “on the outside” and see the students entire conceptual process with the art and see how they react to someone else. It provides you with insight in how students understand and comprehend what is being taught.

PRINCIPAL PAUL BUTLER’S REFLECTIONS

The quality of the contact between Tim and the students was outstanding, and he brought great energy to his visit. Technique sharing is one thing, but interacting with a practicing artist in the way that our students were able to is quite another– and will have a lasting impact on them.

TIM CHRISTENSEN’S REFLECTIONS

I see my value as a teaching artist to be manifold. I create connective tissue in the arts education field by helping people to network, and by connecting art teachers working on the same ideas. I also can bring specialized knowledge into the classroom, whether it be about natural history, technical clay knowledge, or professional and funding opportunities. For the students, I am a fresh face with no baggage, someone who is working in the field of fine art, and is very comfortable sharing all of my professional knowledge. I also provide a platform from which the students can speak and be heard, by stressing the communicative, content bearing parts of any art project.

I very much enjoy teaching the sgraffito technique as a communication tool that transcends culture and/or time. In a way, sgraffito was the original emoji. I urge the students to think about what they would like to say to someone five hundred years hence, and to create artwork that is capable of doing that. I am successful when I have empowered students to speak using their visual voice and to create from a place that is uniquely theirs, confident that they will be heard and that what they have to say matters in the global conversation about our world.

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Deep Learning with Pottery and Poetry

January 23, 2018

YEEHA at Sweetland School

What happens when a collaboration takes place with an arts integrated school and two teaching artists? MAGIC! I had the amazing opportunity to be present while young learners were engaged in connecting their learning through pottery and poetry.

Lindsay Pinchbeck, founder and director of the SweetLand School in Hope invited poet Brian Evans-Jones and potter Tim Christensen to create connected curriculum and learning for the school’s students.

Both Brian and Tim are on the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artists roster and are Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teaching Artist Leaders. Lindsay is a member of the MALI Design Team and started her school three years ago.

This blog post combines the background information with the participants responses, observations, learnings, and feelings.

FROM THE COLLECTIVE VOICES OF THOSE WHO PARTICIPATED
LINDSAY
The Sweetland School recently had the good fortune of a residency with ceramist Tim and poet Brian. Both artists wove together a program sharing passion and skill in poetry and clay with the children. They created work that knocked all our socks off. Magic was the word tumbling off our tongues this week. For the teachers of Sweetland it was a wonderful opportunity to see the children with fresh eyes.

Brian shared a style of poetry called the Anaphora, with repeated lines. He pushed the children to apply real and imaginary content into their poems. He helped the children generate ideas and then edit and refine their poetry. His goal was to support each child to make a 5 line poem, they all generated much more work. I observed writing, reading, sharing, helping one another, public speaking, laughter and pure joy as the children created and shared their work. 

Tim worked in the studio over 4 days with the children to create 5 or so place settings – cups, plates, bowls, even forks and spoons were created.  The children took their lines of poetry and added the words from the poetry workshop along with images to each piece. Stories of travel and adventure, wove through their clay making experiences as Tim led the children forward in their pottery explorations.  

Children’s conversations:

  • “I know what you find in the magical misty woods!” “A smiling carrot.” 
  • “What do you do when you don’t know what to draw?” Tim “I make a mark and see where it takes me.” 
  • “You know what I have to say about this – It’s really hard but incredibly fun.”  

This week I observed a community of learners drive their learning forward. They advocated for what they needed, supported one another, weren’t afraid to ask questions and were giving and thoughtful hosts with our visiting artists. We saw the children at their best, staying focused for long 2 hours sessions in detailed work and generating work they were proud of. The power of visiting artists to inspire cannot be underestimated. In this safe environment where the children have learned to be themselves and own their ideas they were able to fly with the support of professionals who are passionate about sharing the magic of the process and their craft.  We as a staff learned alongside the children and were a community of learners together. 

To say thank you at the end of their visit the children encircled Brian on Tuesday and Tim on Thursday and sang to both visiting artists. This has officially been termed “Sweetlanded,” by Tim and it’s a pretty magical experience. When all the pieces have been fired we plan to have a special celebration of the work  at the Hope Library. Thank you Brian and Tim! and a note of thanks to Argy Nestor and the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative where this collaborative residency was hatched. It was a magical experience. 

BRIAN
At the close of my two days teaching at Sweetland Arts School, the 12 children with whom I’d been working asked me to sit in the center of a rug. Standing around me, they joined hands and began to sing. The song was new to them, so there were a few stops and starts, but they got there in the end. This is what they sang to me, twice:

In this circle deep peace

In this circle no fear

In this circle Great Happiness

In this circle safety.

This moment felt completely, beautifully appropriate for my experience on the residency. It wasn’t just that the song used anaphora (repeated phrases) to create its structure, which was the technique I had helped them learn for the poems they wrote with me. It was that, through their song and their spontaneous desire to give it to me, they were teaching me something, as they and their school had done all residency.

During the previous two days, I had sometimes felt the opposite of deep peace, great happiness, and safety: I had feared that my whole work at the school was going awry. I am not now sure why I felt this way, except that panic and a feeling of ineluctable disaster are often a part of a creative process. But by the students’ continued steady efforts, and I suppose mine too, things had turned out right in the end. Their poems collectively were funny, tender, deeply personal, wildly inventive, and above all wonderful to hear all read out one after another, as they had just done.

When I sat in the middle of their voices, I knew that they had given me this moment to teach me that I need not have feared: if you keep working, wisely and with good heart, your projects will succeed.

So what I will take away from this residency is a feeling of gratitude, not for what I taught, but for what I learned. I learned that a vision, to create a school where the arts are not peripheral but central, can be made to happen, by Lindsay and her husband Chris. I learned that children who are skillfully supported to trust their own decision-making and imaginations can invent the most marvelous things, such as the spontaneous class play involving sheep and blades of grass that was scripted and performed by the grade 1-3 group, to illustrate concepts of division and remainders, based on a poem they’d made about the number 17. I learned that there is more scope in my own teaching to allow students to make their own choices about how they grow their writing. And I learned a little, just a little, about what can be achieved if we step back, let go of control, and trust the kids, the process, and the art.

NINA
Watching the children with these visiting artists has been both inspiring and illuminating. They brought their best selves to the work each day, and churned out pieces that are jaw-drop-worthy. One word comes to mind in particular when thinking about their manner throughout this residency: absorbed. Their attention never seemed to wander, their focus remained strong, and their process was steady. The visiting artists were strong guides that brought their wealth of experience effortlessly to the children, openly sharing and encouraging progress and process along the way. The response from the children was eager and positive; the energy of creativity filled the room and excitement and pride about their work bubbled up. It was tangible.
Watching the children thank the artists at the end, was perhaps, my favorite part. They circled around each artist, holding hands and sang them a song we sing here at Sweet Tree to celebrate birthdays. A song about creating safety, deep peace and great happiness. This was both instigated and carried out by the students as an offering of gratitude, creating moments that were as beautiful as the work they made this week.
TIM
For four days, I had the great pleasure to work at Sweetland School. The students wrote poems, working for two days with Brian, an award winning poet from South Berwick. They then created 5 functional pieces of pottery, on which they etched, using the sgraffito technique. Starting with individual lines of their poems, the young artists translated verbal language into visual language, creating a place setting which could be rearranged in different settings, making mix and match pottery poems. This exercise challenged the artists to formulate imagery that was as specific as their words: no mean feat! 
For the younger artists, some in the 7 year old range, making the leap from verbal to visual was a struggle, though they were able to write their poems on the pieces, and had a ton of fun creating useful, functional pieces. For the older artists, in the 10-12 year old range, the concept came easily, and their illustrations highlighted specific points in their poetry lines, illuminating their intent, adding focus and emphasis. All of the poems, read aloud during a sharing period at the end of Brian’s time at Sweetland, were insightful and important, the young poets finding their voice easily, conveying thought and emotion beautifully.
I was struck by the powerful way that the younger students looked up to the older cohort, striving to match them in the quality of their products. I was also struck by the kindness of the students, the emphasis on community, collaboration, sharing, and creative expression at Sweetland. Real learning and growing was evident at every step!
OLIVIA
I could see the children’s minds work as they sat molding the clay and thinking about how to visually describe the words of their poems. It was incredibly inspiring and exciting to watch how naturally art meshed with all learning.
LINDSAY LAST WORDS
Thanks for sharing your very open and wonderful impressions. They are feelings I feel often and hope that others can experience too. That piece about being in the creative process and not know the road ahead or how we’ll get there is something that is so much a part of creative thinking and so scary for adults. It can be explored safely with the help of the children and I believe at the very heart of deep learning.
When we don’t know where we are going I think we are on the right track because doesn’t that mean we are learning something new?
 
Thank you all for trusting the process, believing in the arts and being able to stand back and see the magic the children have to offer, I think standing out of the way is sometimes the hardest thing to do.
Not only did this residency exemplify why bringing outstanding teaching artists into the environment is so important but that every one processed the learning so the value of it became clear.  A great big THANK YOU to Lindsay, Brian, Nina, Tim, Olivia, and the YOUNG LEARNERS for contributing to this blog post and for the great work they do every day as educators!
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Teaching Artist Leader

October 2, 2017

Tim Christensen

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teaching Artist Leader Tim Christensen took an amazing journey this summer. The Center for Maine Craft presents 30 Days at Sea, an exhibition of prints, books and clay work by Tim Christensen, October 5-November 19, 2017. The exhibition will feature new works created during, and in response to, the artist’s 2017 journey to Sydney, Australia via container ship.

In Tim’s own words

“In my work, I document the natural systems, as I understand them, that I see in my surroundings here in coastal Maine. This trip is an extension of that, is part of my life as an artist, was possible because of my life as an artist. And as so often happens, there were many rewards from this which I would never have had available: Off the Galápagos Islands, I watched hundreds of dolphins leaping out of the water, joyfully racing toward my ship to play in the bow wake…1000 miles from Pitcairn Island, I saw the ocean and sky, devoid of all life, saw the earth naked, and watched the conversation between sky and water play out over and around me…A day out of Panama, I saw long and thick wind rows of our discarded plastic, sheltering and entangling leatherback sea turtles, Mahi Mahi, sharks, and manta rays…Above a nameless series of seamounts, I saw clouds of flying fish erupting from the water for days on end, hundreds per minute. In the middle of nowhere, I saw a place on earth where I was 1500 miles from the nearest other human. To witness these things was a privilege, to represent them in art an even greater one.”

The exhibit will be at the Center for Maine Craft, off the turnpike toll plaza at West Gardiner. The opening is October 13 to kick off Maine Craft Weekend!

To learn more visit the Maine Crafts Association website.

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MALI Summer Institute: Day 2

August 4, 2017

Wowzer!

Kate Cook Whitt

Day 2 kicked off with an amazing STEAM presentation from Kate Cook-Whitt. The opening was titled This is your Brain on Art: Neuroscience and the Arts  – “Examining the World Through Different Lenses: Art and Science”. Kate is an Assistant Professor of Education at the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) at Thomas College. Participants agreed that Kate’s presentation was outstanding!

Teacher Leaders participated in several great mini-sessions, some led by teacher leaders and teaching artists leaders themselves including:

  • Nancy Frolich, Social Justice mini-lesson

    Social Justice and the Power of the Arts with Nancy Frohlich from Leaps of Imagination

  • 7 Strategies of Assessment with Jeff Beaudry from USM and visual art teacher leaders Holly Leighton and Samantha Armstrong

  • National Board Certification with visual art teacher leader Danette Kerrigan

  • Connecting the STUDIO HABITS of MIND to the NATIONAL STANDARDS in the Visual Arts classroom with visual art teacher leader Jane Snider

  • Things Into Poetry session with Brian Evans-Jones

    Things Into Poetry with poet teaching artist leader Brian Evans-Jones

In addition Bronwyn Sale and John Morris provided a session called Teaching for Creativity. The afternoon brought all three strands together (teaching artist leaders, new PK-12 teacher leaders and returning PK-12 teacher leaders) for a session with teaching artist leader and potter Tim Christensen. We engaged with a small medallion of clay using the process Tim is so in tune with: sgraffito.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on leadership, advocacy, and putting it into action on the follow up plans for the next year. Strand 1, the Teaching Artist Leaders met with Jeff Poulin, electronically, from the Americans for the Arts.

Day turned into night and educators gathered around the Thomas College fire pit for drumming and a chance for Tim to fire the clay pieces created earlier in the day in the propane fire pit. This provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the state. What a great way to end an outstanding day!

Strand 1 with Jeff Poulin, Americans for the Arts. Kate Smith, Design Team member, holds the computer during the question and answer period

Jennie Driscoll, Elise Bothel visual art teacher leaders

Jen Etter, music teacher leader

New teacher leaders David Coffey – music and Amy Donovan-Nucci – visual art

Tim Christensen firing the clay pieces

Fun around the fire pit!

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Conservation and Visual Art

June 4, 2017

Yarmouth High School Artist Residency

Art classes at Yarmouth High School in Maine are channeling their creativity in a new direction.  Students, led by internationally known artist Tim Christensen and Yarmouth High School Art Teacher Holly Houston, are creating clay masterpieces to showcase endangered wildlife from across the globe. The results are stunning and serve as an artistic display of the beauty in nature we strive to protect every day.

Students researched threatened and endangered critters to best convey their subjects through art. The students used clay to create sculptures, pots and tiles and later incorporated food and habitat needs and animal adaptations into their artwork using sgraffito, a carving technique. The contrast of light carvings on the dark surface draws the eye to every detail.

Each student approached the the assignment in a creative way to raise awareness for the species of their choosing. Not only did they develop new techniques for clay, but they learned how to share meaningful conservation messages through art.

Alex’s inspiration was the New England cottontail. “I was concerned with the endangered animals that live near and around me. This animal is found in young forest habitats which are depleted in this area and more habitat is needed to help it recover.”

Kelcie chose the piping plover as her focal species. “I chose the piping plover because it is an animal I am familiar with but did not know it was endangered before I started this project. The piping plover is found along the Atlantic Coast, including Maine. If you’ve been to the beach you have probably seen these birds before. They enjoy nesting on the beach near the dunes and forage for food near the waves. Unfortunately our presence of the beach has disrupted their habitat. In order for them to repopulate we need to give them space to breed and live.”

Daly describes how she planned to convey what she researched about the roseate tern through her work. “The viewer would be able to see where the roseate tern lived and what it ate, as well as their flight patterns. My primary goal with this piece was to convey this animal in the middle of an action, such as fishing or flying. The tern at the top was placed there in order to show how the Tern glided through the air, which would give the viewer clues about what kind of bird it was. The central tern was placed in order to show it capturing its food, something that also provides important information about this animal to the viewer.”

Many students had similar accounts; drawing attention to wildlife that need it most. Their work shows many species that are protected in many different ecosystems across the globe. For many species, work has been done to protect both wildlife and their habitat but much more is needed to ensure their survival. CLICK HERE to learn more about endangered species and how you can help!

The following post is being reprinted from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service blog located at THIS LINK.

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Prescott Memorial School

May 4, 2017

Teaching Artist Residency

When Patty Crawford started her job as the Literacy Coach and Interventionist in RSU 40 this school year she made a suggestion to the staff at Prescott Memorial School in Washington to consider contracting with artist Tim Christensen to provide a learning opportunity for students and staff.

Prescott Panda

Over a two week period Tim worked with the schools students and staff to create a large, approx. 7′ long, wall installation. The installation is in the shape of the school mascot, a panda, and composed of 105 sgraffito tiles. Individual artists used sgraffito to engrave a tile with their interpretation of a characteristic from Prescott’s PBIS goals. Their hope is that the installation will not only be a beautiful piece of art, but that it will also be used on a regular basis for the reinforcement of positive character traits.

Tim is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster and is a Teaching Artist Leader with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. Recently his “story” was posted on this blog. He can be reached at http://www.timchristensenporcelain.com/ if you’d like to get in touch with him directly and learn more.

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Tim Christensen – Teaching Artist

September 16, 2016

Berwick Academy Community Emotional Map Sculpture

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-7-37-10-pmTim Christensen, in his own words below provides an overview of a residency he did at Berwick Academy. Tim graduated from Berwick Academy in 1987 so returning to his community to collaborate on this unique project is pretty special! Congratulations to the community, Tim, and Raegen for carrying out this idea. The artwork is permanently displayed in the Commons building on the Berwick Academy campus.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-7-25-33-pmRaegen Russell (Berwick Academy art teacher) and I started talking about me coming to Berwick Academy, in South Berwick, at last year’s Haystack Maine Art Education Association fall conference. As the conversations continued, an idea began to form of making a community sculpture with the entire Berwick Academy (Pre-K to alumni to faculty to staff) in commemoration of the 225th anniversary of the founding of the school.

I started thinking about what was really being celebrated, what we mean when we say, “this school is 225 years old”. I figured out what was being celebrated was an unbroken chain of relationships that went all the way back to those three boys going to school in what is now on campus called, “the 1791 House”. Those relationships I wanted to document are the result of feelings and emotions of the community members for each other, and so could be recorded as abstract expressionist marks.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-7-24-45-pmI asked the artists to think about how it felt in their guts when they came up the hill in the morning to go to school, or were laying in bed at home at night and thinking about school. I asked them to make marks that seemed in concert with those feelings, and not to worry about drawing anything, to have no expectations except to show up and make marks.

They were each given a disk of dried porcelain which had been covered with black underglaze, and into the center of which I had drilled a hole, and gave them an etching tool of one sort or another. Most artists worked for 20 or so minutes, although some worked for 15-20 hours on their disk.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-7-25-22-pmThese were then fired and installed on 1/8″ brass rods into which I cut threads on either end, to allow them to screw  into a metal insert in maple orbs, which I turned on the lathe. The result looks like dandelion fluff, or atoms, or drawn circles.

It is basically a community self-portrait, in which every member has an equal voice. In my opinion, one interesting result was a school-wide conversation about the community’s feelings about itself, a self-assessment if you will. This of course invited the related questions of “where do we go, and what do we value as a community?”.

It was an honor to be part of this project.

Tim can be reached at timchristensenporcelain@gmail.com. Last Spring he worked at the Camden Rockport Middle School on an integrated unit. The blog post describing the residency is at THIS LINK. Tim is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster at THIS LINK. Tim is available for school and community artist residency’s. Tim is also a Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teaching Artist Leader – a new program established this year. The Teacher Leaders are listed at THIS LINK.

Embedded is a video that provides a close up look at this project.

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