Blog post written by K.I.D.S. Teaching Artist Meghan Keane
"This past spring 2010 I taught the first collaborative Red Hook Initiative + K.I.D.S. After School Program.
I spent six after school sessions with eight young, creative, energetic guys. The program I designed was a response to the current exhibition at the Kentler -- two temporary art installations created by artists Ilene Sunshine and Mary Ting. Both artists created their installations during the month of January, using the gallery as if it were their own studio space.
For the after school program, our main theme was exploring color and its expressive potential. However, we were inspired by the exhibition's impermanent, large-scale, architecturally-responsive qualities. Ultimately, the students spent each week talking about, thinking about, and making art that explored positive (colorful) expression and negative or weighty (colorless) expression. We saved the art work at the end of each session in preparation for using ALL the work (drawings, mixed media) in one final installation -- wrapping two classroom desks as an on-site installation! For this final project we not only spent time looking at the works by Sunshine and Ting in the gallery, but also at works by Christo & Jean Claude, best known for wrapping historical buildings and designing The Gates in Central Park.
Our six weeks together were incremental, dynamic and, as you'll see, built up to our final collaborative project...
WEEK ONE: Creating texture, Exploring color
Students explored texture and color through rubbings of hardware supplies: filters, washers, etc. Students noticed that the rubbings that were made only with pencil (graphite) were not as lively or as positive feeling as the rubbings they made with vibrant colored pencils.
<----- sample student rubbing
WEEK TWO: Responding to Haiti devastation
Students were asked to imagine a city before and after an earthquake. They were also asked to use color to help their audience pick out the city in its prime vs. the city after a disaster. We had a good conversation about what sort of colors could not only illustrate (cement gray, rubble brown) but express devastation and desperation (dark, muted colors). Many students noted they were tired of talking about the subject but were intrigued by the challenge of visually representing these hypothetical cities. One student taped piles of rubber bands to paper and flipped it upside down to indicate tremors -- a shakable, quaking conceptual drawing!
WEEK THREE: Drawing to Music
Students made a series of drawings to music -- fast music and slow music. They chose colored pencils or colorless graphite depending on the speed and emotion of the music. At the end of the day we divided the drawings into two piles, thinking of our future installation that would likely be in two parts. The piles were: drawings that expressed positive emotions (usually colorful with fast lines) vs. negative or more brooding emotions (less colorful with slower lines).
WEEK FOUR: Field Trip!!
During our class visit to the Kentler International Drawing Space, almost thwarted by snow and skunky weather, the students glowed and showed off their amazing perceptive skills. They pointed out that this was not your normal picture exhibition: this new art hung from the walls, the ceiling, wrapped around corners, took up floor space, and required your total attention so as not to step on it!
Above: Ilene Sunshine installation, February 2010
WEEK FIVE: Analyzing Color, Playfully
Photocopying a recent art book I had created, the students were asked to revisit the idea of texture through coloring and color designs. Students used artist quality markers on these ready-to-color images, but had to keep in mind which pile they would like their drawing to go towards at the end of the day: the positive or the negative expression pile. Students colored liberally but kept the colors true to the +/- theme.
Taking the dialectic we had been working with all along, we decided to name our forthcoming installation project in advance: during this session we also brainstormed, discussed, and voted on titles for each installation. The guys ended up finally agreeing upon the titles BEAUTY and GORE as the two words that they wanted to describe their upcoming wrapping installation. Quite a busy day with lots of good art-making and art title debating!
Above: Students designed fonts for each of the titles out of wiki-stiks; they decided together that they wanted to include the hand-made titles in the installation the following week.
WEEK SIX: "Beauty : Gore" Final Project, Student-designed Desk Wrapping
Keeping in mind all that we'd worked on and discussed over the past five weeks, the students divided into two groups, each working on wrapping one giant desk (table) with the artwork they had created over the course of the spring. The Beauty installation-wrap used the drawings that had been placed in the "positive emotion" pile; the Gore installation-wrap used the drawings that had been placed in the "negative emotion" pile. The students spent the whole session creating their temporary installation, covering the desks with works from the past six weeks, while I documented the process with guest filmmaker, Michael Keane, who shot video of the process for the students.
Above: Detail of the title GORE, each letter wrapped around one leg of the desk.
At the end we celebrated, took final photos, and delighted in the ephemeral quality of the work by allowing the boys to help deconstruct the installation! A great finale to six weeks of hard work and lots of colorful fun!
I look forward to teaching this coming fall session of RHI+K.I.D.S. After School and to the Kentler's ongoing collaborations with RHI! Onward!"