A dress made from caution tape
and cotton swabs
I have always loved the concept of artistic competitions such as “Project Runway,” “Chopped,” or “Made.” The idea that you can just hand a topic over to a group of students, ask them to work at top speed, develop, revise, and collaborate in a highly creative environment with no artistic boundaries is exciting. As a twenty-year veteran art teacher, I also need those days when students surprise me with their quickness and willingness to improvise. It can be difficult, in the daily grind, to get students to work “outside the box,” so to speak.
A Surprising Recycling Challenge
Because of my limited budget, I decided to do recycled fashion. Over a few weeks, I asked students to bring in clean recycled materials such as paper, plastic, cups, plates, and small toys. (If it could be used, we bagged it up and took it.) I asked a local church if we could borrow a large room so that I could set up our “innovative workshop” as a surprise.
With more than 200 pounds of recycled materials, I brought sixty students over on the bus. They walked into the room to see a massive pile of discarded items and ten round tables surrounding it. Groups were organized into color teams and given a few minutes to walk around and look at the items. When they returned, I counted down “3, 2, 1…” All sixty students ran and scavenged faster than I could have imagined. When they were done, the pile had been picked over like old bones in the desert.
Recycled Avant Garde Fashion
Each group was given a theme or artist for inspiration, but not for copying. I encouraged them to look at period fashion for garment shapes and to develop an avant garde design that would go down a runway in four short hours. I loved seeing students collaborate and work through issues so quickly. Their ideas were new and fresh and included everyone in their group. They worked to their strengths, assisting each other in any way possible.
The Best Day Ever
The results were incredible. Thousands of items had been bound, glued, taped, and pinned together to create fashion that made a unique statement. Students were asked to vote online for their favorite design, and the winning group received a horrendously tacky stuffed monkey trophy. After completing the Best Day Ever, we were all exhausted, but in a good way. Seeing students work in a flexible and dynamic way reminded me what learning was supposed to look like. I believe those experiences will help them become more creative and well-rounded artists, and I’m excited to see what they create for their next classroom project.
Nicole D. Brisco is an art teacher at Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas. firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating: Generate and conceptualize new artistic ideas and work.
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