Saturday, April 30, 2016

Announcing the Spring Art Show!

Mark your calendars for this year's 3-8th Grade Art Show and Poetry Slam Finals. The event will be on Thursday evening, May 19th, from 5-7pm.  The artwork will be on display at the Lincoln Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library from May 14th through June 11th.  You can see the students' work at any time during library hours.  At the event on May 19th, the students will have an artist's reception and awards ceremony, and the top 10 poets from this year's poetry slam will perform their original poems.

I will be looking for volunteers.  If you can help with any of the following, let me know!

  • Hanging the work (5/14 at 10:30am)
  • Providing or serving refreshments (5/19 at 5pm)
  • Cleaning up after the event
  • Advertising the event
  • Recruiting judges with a writing or painting background
This year's theme is FREEDOM.  I chose this theme because it is an election year.  Through current events and social studies lessons, the students hear about topics that have inspired art for generations:  The Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights Movement, immigration, the American Revolution, and the Holocaust are just a few that come to mind.

Third grade students learned about the art of Chicago in class this year.  For their art show pieces, they created work inspired by jazz and blues music.  We learned about the Chicago Black Renaissance that was going on during the time of the more well-known Harlem Renaissance.  They looked at work by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Archibald Motley.  They read The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes and painted original paintings illustrating these themes.
Jasmine, Grade 3, Acrylic on Canvas

Fourth grade paintings are based on Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken and being free to make choices.  They were challenged to imagine the path they would take, and they painted their road using one-point perspective.
A few of the 4th Grade Roads Not Taken
Fifth grade students painted works inspired by Thomas Cole.  They learned about Thomas Cole and William Cullen Bryant who were friends inspired by the American landscape.  They read Bryant's poem I Broke the Spell That Held Me Long.  Bryant writes about trying to give up writing poetry but being called back by the landscapes that inspire him.  It was a good lesson in being true to who you are and what inspires you.
Noah Agron, Grade 5
Finally, the 6-8th graders' paintings illustrate their original poetry.  They wrote about what freedom means to them or what makes them feel free.  They structured their compositions on these poems.  I tried to offer famous artwork with similar visual themes for them to use as reference material, so they were exposed to some art history too.  Their paintings range in theme from playing sports or riding roller coasters to faith and religion.
Leo, Grade 6, feels free when he is escaping through reading books.  This painting illustrates fantasy and science fiction that he likes to read.


Friday, April 29, 2016

All About American Art

It's great to have the fifth graders this quarter!  I talked to Mrs. Edwards to see what they had been learning in social studies, and she mentioned they are finishing up lessons on the colonies and are beginning to talk about westward expansion and the American Revolution.  I decided to create a 10 week course on American Art for them so that it would tie in with these lessons.  I started with a discussion:  Imagine you have discovered a brand new continent. There are no phones, cameras, computers or even electricity. You want to record your discovery and to tell your story. What kinds of things will you want to share with the world about your discovery? How will you share it?

They agreed they would sketch, take notes, and write letters to document what they saw.  They also created a list of the types of things they would document:  Land Forms, Bodies of Water, Native People, Animals, Plants, Events, and Daily Activities.  I congratulated them on accurately describing early American art!  I showed them work by Thomas Cole, John James Audubon, George Catlin and others who documented the American landscape, American animals and Native American life.

Our first project was a landscape.  We used acrylic on canvas, and we used Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt as our inspiration.  The students did an outstanding job.  We learned to start in the back and work to the front, we practiced some aerial perspective, and we learned to use different brushes to get different effects.

Thomas Cole

Noah Agron, Grade 5

Kevin, Grade 5

Giana, Grade 5

After this project, we started a lesson on John James Audubon.  I read to them The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jaqueline Davies.  I like how the book introduces him as both a scientist and an artist.  After we looked at his work, I asked the kids if they thought he was a more true naturalist or if Thomas Cole was.  We had an interesting discussion!  I had them try observational paintings of feathers to try capturing an image like a scientist would.  They were beautiful!  Next, we are going to create new species of birds out of clay.  I feel like we need a more loose and creative project after two tough realistic pieces.  I think they will have fun.

Audubon (an early sketch with feathers)

Sean, Grade 5

Various Grade 5 Works

American Sculpture: Martin Puryear

Martin Puryear is a 79 year old sculptor who lives in New York.  He has traveled the world to study art and craft traditions, and he has rec...