Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Home

I’ve been sharing many stories about my upcoming ‘Art For Earth’ workshops over the last while, but today I want to introduce yet another art workshop that I’ll be working on over the next three month with another London school.

Last spring, I was meeting with many school principals to promote my ‘Art For Earth’ workshops and those efforts led me to the Montessori School. Kristen (the vice-head of the school) told me that although my workshops had great value as a teaching tool, she wouldn’t be able to accommodate my program into their curriculum. However, she quickly continued, she wanted me to think about setting up a different art program that would fit into their curriculum. How could I say no!

I was very pleased with her enthusiasm and I thought that this outcome was even better than what I was hoping for. Now, instead of teaching at just three London schools, I’ll be teaching at four.

We began to talk about ideas for these art workshops.

I wanted to create a series of paintings that would teach the students the value of contributing their efforts to organizations in the community; organizations that help to create a positive community environment. Who should we choose to donate these paintings to: the London hospital, the local food bank, women’s abuse shelters…??? There are so many organizations that benefit our community in so many ways.

I decided to contact Habitat For Humanity.

Habitat For Humanity has just begun the construction of four new homes, here in London. They build these homes for people who have many challenges to face in their lives who are unable to afford the cost of buying a home (after this project is done I’m going to ask them to build a house for me!!! LOL!) By the time these four homes are finished, my students will have also completed four original canvases to be donated to these homes for the new owners.

Kristen and I and Julie (from HFH) are very pleased with this idea.

Because of the work the HFH does I thought that the focus for discussion during these classes and the theme for the paintings should be ‘My Home’.

During the first class we will be understanding the importance of ‘home’ in many different ways. First we’ll simply talk about the homes that we all live in: houses, apartments, condos, etc. Then we’ll talk about how our environment plays a crucial role in determining what kind of homes we build. We’ll talk about how the Inuit used to build their homes using tundra moss and whale bones. Then we’ll journey to the Amazon where people live in straw houses perched on poles.

The discussions will then navigate to realizing how fortunate we are, in London to have good quality housing, by comparing ourselves to others who are less fortunate: refugees without homes (struggling daily to find food and shelter as they flee war zones or environmental disasters) and people living in poverty with families of ten living in a one room box made of scrap metal, infested with fleas and rats.

These lessons will allow the students to realize how fortunate we all are and how it is our duty (and hopefully privilege) to strive towards making this world a better place for everyone. They will learn about positive action and expression. Their expression and thoughts will become the paintings and their action will be donating these works to our own community. With the support of the local media the students will learn that by sharing experiences with others, more people may become inspired to share similar thoughts leading to positive action.

All of this is just the introduction to the workshop. Now, we need to focus on what we will be creating…

I came up with an interesting idea. I’ve prepared two assignment work sheets with eight small boxes on them. The assignment is called ‘Where You Are’. I ask the students to answer this question and in the first box they are to draw a simple ‘thumbnail’ sketch to illustrate their answer. The answer is: I am in a classroom. In the second box I will ask them to draw a thumbnail sketch of where their classroom is: My classroom is in a school. And to continue… My school is in London, Ontario. London is in Southern Ontario. Southern Ontario is in Canada. Canada is a part of the Earth. The Earth is a planet in our solar system. Our solar system is surrounded by many other solar systems. Thousands of solar systems create the Milky Way Galaxy. The students will create eight different sketches to illustrate these points.

This exercise is designed to give the students a deeper understanding of what our home really is. They will appreciate that our home is not simply the dwelling we live in but the planet we live on and the universe that we exist in.

Now for the canvas…

Each of these workshops will have eight students participating. I had to come up with an idea that would allow eight students to paint on one canvas at the same time. This will be very challenging. I decided to divide the canvas into four equal sections and then divide the eight students into four groups of two with each group working on one area of the canvas. From the eight thumbnail sketches the students will choose their favourite four and these four images will then be painted on the canvas.

Wheeew!!! I’m a little exhausted after just describing the class.

Because this concept is to be repeated in each of the four classes that have been set up I needed to think of a way to make each canvas unique. I did not want to end up with four canvases that looked the same. I decided that I would also teach the students about the uses of colour focussing on the grey scale and monochromatic rendering. Simply, one of the canvases will be painted in many shades of blue while the others will be shades of green, orange and purple. Plus, each class may choose a different group of four images to paint, from the eight thumbnail sketches.

I’ll be teaching these classes every Thursday afternoon starting next week, until the middle of December. I just finished prepping the first canvas last night at around 3am.

I can’t wait!!!


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