September 2022

The Beginnings Issue

Art teachers guide students through activities that help them to learn about their peers and encourage self-expression. Young students create playful self-portraits that share how they are feeling about the first day of school, elementary students collaborate in a surrealism-inspired game of chance, middle-school students assemble name tags for every teacher in their school, and high-school students express their personal interests through colorful cell phone wallpaper artworks.

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Highlights From This Issue

Editor’s Letter: Beginnings
Editor's Letter

Editor’s Letter: Beginnings

The start of a new school year always seems to offer a fresh beginning. For new teachers especially, meeting students for the first time may offer a challenge. Personally, I always had students making art in the very first class, keeping them immediately busy. With this in mind, I asked teachers on social media, “What do you consider to be a favorite lesson to begin the school year?”

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Personal Pigeon Portraits
Early Childhood

Personal Pigeon Portraits

In this first-day-of-school lesson, students engage in a read-aloud of the picture book, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! They also look at the expressive self-portraits of Frida Kahlo. Students then draw their own self-portraits that express how they are feeling about the first day of school. The head of their portrait is glued to a pre-cut pigeon body.

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Exquisite Corpse Self-Portraits
Elementary

Exquisite Corpse Self-Portraits

Exquisite corpse—the name alone is enough to capture anyone’s attention. If you’ve never heard of this surrealism-inspired art-making method, let me explain the process. Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver or picture consequences, is a method by which a group of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to an artwork in sequence and is sometimes allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.

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Art from the Heart
Elementary

Art from the Heart

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. As art educators teaching elementary students, Jane Brumfield Montero (Michigan) and Robb Garrett (Poland) created an art exchange to spread cheer to students during this troubling time. Students expressed their deepest feelings and shared words and pictures about themselves, their own cultural identities, and their solidarity with Ukrainian children.

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Found Photography & Beyond
Middle School

Found Photography & Beyond

When I was a child, my mother was gifted a heart decoration with the phrase, “Many hands make light work.” I saw this every day in our kitchen and that message still resonates with me today. After reflecting on a few semesters of virtual teaching, I was excited to merge different ideas and develop a schoolwide project based on the concept of found photography.

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Masked Self-Portraits
Middle School

Masked Self-Portraits

This lesson is a great way to get to know my middle-school students and for them to start thinking about the theme of identity. Students also focus on the use of symbols they believe represent different facets of their personalities. This year, I modified the lesson. Students drew a realistic self-portrait and used symbols to create a mask on their portrait (we’ve been in-person all year, so masks are very relevant to my students).

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Design with the Cell Phone in Mind
High School

Design with the Cell Phone in Mind

For this lesson, I wanted students to create and photograph an artwork that would become the wallpaper for their cell phones. They could express their personal interests if it was school-appropriate. Students had access to watercolor pencils, markers, paint pens, magazines, rulers, and compasses. They could email me a Google document filled with images if they wanted to collage elements or trace them. With this in mind, I also provided light tables.

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The Graphic Punch
High School

The Graphic Punch

When I think of design, my first thoughts are of computer-generated imagery, logos, and graphics. My class, however, is focused on handwork, and computers are used mainly for photography and research. There is something beautiful about watching students work with their hands, hone their craft, and learn to refine detail. Whether my students are drawing-based or design-based, I have always kept composition at the forefront.

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Helping Hands
Meeting Individual Needs

Helping Hands

Fine motor skill development is happening almost solely in the art room. Classroom teachers are required to focus on testing, ELA blocks, and math and science units. Activities that usually would require fine motor skills (such as writing) are sometimes done on computers or tablets so technology requirements are met. Therefore, it falls on the art educators to develop, support, and hone those fine motor skills. Consider adapting your lessons and creating fine motor integration activities and centers as a gift to the children of this technology-driven world.

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Contemplating Water
Contemporary Art in Context

Contemplating Water

California-based artist Eric Tillinghast creates ambitious large-scale installations, sculptures, site-specific work, paintings, and photographs that explore humanity’s relationship with water, a precious resource that is increasingly at risk. In Tillinghast’s unique art-making practice, water is the inspiration, subject matter, and medium. With drought conditions and climate change causing concern throughout the world, Tillinghast’s art is perhaps more relevant now than ever before.

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