Art with CAYA -- Youth Ambassadors


The week flew by with work at Bamberger Ranch and then at Southwest School of Art with the CAYA group, Texas host kids and families and the year-long residency group of SEED teachers. On this post, we just wanted to share some of the graphic and visual forms we worked on -- you can see more photos of the various aspects of the program, and the kids at work, on the Posterous SEED blog, if you're interested.

This is what I love about these graphic forms, and why I think they work as collaborative art projects:

First,  limit the palette in use  to some degree -- kraft paper brown, black, white and red  construction paper were the choices here (We loosen up on these color restrictions as the day goes on, figuring that the repetition will hold the general design together).

In the projects, we emphasize cutting over drawing or sketching. First, its less intimidating for kids who don't think they are good artists. Secondly, it keeps things simple and strong and bold. Black cutout letters and shapes are the bones for any little fussy stuff on top!

The t-shirts start with cutout "logos' for air, earth and water. Each kid makes a logo. I gang them together reduce each to a grid that will fit on a thermofax and the kids get to print their own shirts. Then, with colored fabric markers, each one can individualize and personalize his or her design. Again, the black ink on white shirt holds the whole design together.

The "dream towers" included collage work (each person cutout  a large word that described a personal dream, then collaged it with magazine pictures), a few notan designs, etc. Again, the color palette holds it together. I used the model of the Eames "house of cards" as patterns for the large foam board cards. These notch together with slits and make relatively stable and sturdy set/exhibit pieces that can be easily stored, recycled with new images with a new group, and infinitely rearranged. Since our final exhibit and presentation was in a gallery where we could not attach anything to the walls, these towers provided display space for work -- and they could be quickly assembled and disassembled and moved easily in the van or even a passenger car backseat!

The black foam  board cards were just taped into triangles (for stability) and stacked on top of each other. Kid wrote their recipes and remedies and cures for issues facing their world on these with chalk -- again, the boards can be wiped clean and reused. The blackboard form was fun, gave shape to the thinking and message, and was un-intimidating since if one made a mistake you could erase and do it again. And I love the black and white with the other forms.

The mask forms are simple paper bag masks using limited colors and mostly cut out shapes and forms. The kids (each in their group of either water, earth or air) chose a creature or element to personify as a mask and to "speak" for -- their assignment was to be a voice for those without words -- the animals, plants and elements of nature that depend upon survival with our solutions for the difficult problems facing the environment and our stewardship of the world, our partnership with the rest of the world. We used recycled packing materials from our lunches and other meals in these, as well.

After years  (and years) of doing collaborative (and quickly produced) art forms with kids and adults with all kinds of content, I do have my bag of tricks and approaches that help with visual strength and form, but still give everyone the sense of personal contribution and expression. I think that providing a few "rules" in terms of setting a strong format, limiting materials, and structuring the work experience all add up in the end.

Art and Leadership: Bamberger's Selah


Photo from Bamberger Ranch website.

Art and leadership. Leadership through art. Artful leadership. Of my out-of-the-studio hats, I'm wearing one of them the next three days, teaching with a group of colleagues. The students are Central American highschoolers who are attending a two week leadership symposium, the first week in Washington, D.C; the second week here in Texas. We are spending the next three days together at Selah, the ranch/ecology and environmental center founded by David Bamburger.

David and his work was featured on NPR a couple of days ago, you can hear more about the ranch here. And check out the website, here.

As to our activities, I'll be working with my colleagues from Alamo College's International Program -- Julia Jarrell, Daniel Gonzalez and others (including the "hosts" for the meals, logistics and amenities, the ILS program participants who are 20 young professionals and community organizers from South America). We will spend some of our time touring the ranch (hopefully the rain will stop!) and part of the time in creative arts activities.  San Antonio highshool students will host the Central Americans in their homes over the weekend and take them to their highschools on Monday. Next Tuesday we'll go to Say Si, a wonderful arts education and pre-professional training center for young artists, and continue working to create a multimedia presentation for the hosts, community leaders and peers. The Leadership participants will be exploring the roles, voices and actions that their world needs in the future. Here's a excerpt from our activity outline:

ROUND ROBIN of three activities with group divided into three teams, ILS participants sign up to work with one activity, being trained to help and then taking over some of the leadership with subsequent groups. Each activity takes about 50 minutes  including sharing at the end of each. Facilitators and staff will take photos as the activities are done and at the end, take pictures of each of the Leadership student participants with their products, as time allows.  I will also have a flip video camera and try to take some short action videos clips, too.. All our staff who have cameras need to bring them.

A. Leaders of the Future Badges

Badge making in pairs. Students and participants interview each other about their concerns, hopes and dreams for their future and the the future of the planet. What kind of important roles and careers and viewpoints and values are needed (environmentalist, activist, balancer, peacemaker, visionary, inventor, etc) The partners learn a bit about each other in the present, too. Then make colorful badges with magazine pictures and words (ENGLISH LABELS ON LABELS.doc attached. Please reproduce about 10 copies per page on colored paper if possible. Translate or do similar labels in Spanish and make copies of those too. Cut apart ahead of time if someone has time to do so, other wise we can do at the ranch)

B. Voices from the Future Masks

Students will think about who could be the “spokespersons” of the future – animals, plants, natural phenomena (like the earth or the ocean or reefs) and people. They will design and make strong graphic masks with paper bags, black construction paper, newspaper and white paper cutouts. If time, students will in small groups do some improvisation of what these voices from the future will say. Possibly make cartoon bubbles that go with the masks.

C. Recipes, Remedies and Cures

Starting with some brainstorming, create skits and write about the problems they see that must be solved to have a peaceful, sustainable, healthy future. Students will write, individually, then adding in groups, about the recipes, remedies and cures for these current ails. They will be in the form of recipes, etc. (ex. Recipe for Safe Cities: add  3 parts healthy sustainable infrastructure to 2 parts excellent schools, mix well with imagination, invention and technology. Do not forget to add concern, equality and love for one’s neighbors. Mix well, Let season. Do not put in too large a pan. Smaller batches may be more successful.) Begin work to make these into small group skits that could be part of presentations.


Star Party if weather permits

Continue nature program with Bamberger staff and ILS