Some people hate art. This is the most surprising thing I learned this year when I entered high school as a teaching artist. New York City is the capital of art, but hundreds None of our public schools have art programs. Many students “hate art”. How is that? When I was in school, art was fun, and an easy “A” was.
To be fair, you hated gym class, and how can you hate the gym – all you do is run and play games? But it’s not fun when you lack physical coordination. And I hated math because I didn’t understand it. There is no joy when you don’t have skills to hire and enjoy.
“Art is boring,” said one student.
I urge him. “Is it boring? Or are you just not able to paint the thoughts in your head the way you imagine them, so they frustrate you? “
Most people balance art with the ability to draw. While drawing is often a big component, it is not All of art. Art is also about color, design, ideas, expression, therapy, and the exploration of materials and ideas. This is where I go in my workshops: Let’s take the focus off drawing, but tell me your idea, playing with color and composition, and experimenting with media.
City Canvas Project
For example, you can do a lot with rectangles. This basic figure involves minimal drawing skills but allows for visual complexity when casting color, patterns, and composition. I designed a workshop for William Cullen Bryant high schools, where they created cityscapes by cutting and grouping rectangles. I’ve included some resulting images here.
I stayed with the principle of composing using simple rectangles as I designed a 4″ x 55″ artwork on the theme of “home,” commissioned by ArtBridge and NYCHA. The piece will be printed on vinyl and hung across the street from Woodside Houses High School. It is part of the city’s programme, City Canvas, which seeks to bring art into communities.
At South Bronx Community Charter High School, Thrive Collective and artist Fermin Mendoza and I commissioned to work with seniors to conceptualize and paint a mural of their beautiful new building. The mural was a chance for seniors to make their mark on this new school, and a chance to say something. In our first week, we asked students:
Who are you as individuals?
Who are you as a community?
How do you represent yourself visually?
Working with people who don’t practice art regularly—imposing a new way of thinking, a visually creative mindset—looks at first like brewing soup out of an iceberg.
Because where does one begin in art? People fear fee. Drawing is a hassle if the last time you made a picture (not including your phone) was when you were six years old. But everyone has Ideas—Thoughts about who they are, observations about the world, and thoughts they want to share. The students made sketches using the notes. Some used phones or laptops to find pictures to track. We got ideas.
Who are you? The students answered: Scientist, leader, player, creative, intelligent, inventor, fun, extroverted, talkative, quiet, relaxed, gentle, explorer, artistic, refined, steady, outgoing, beautiful. Who are you as a community? The students answered: Collaborative, diverse, diversified, hardworking, brave, ambitious, intuitive, resourceful and flexible.
A few weeks later I presented the students with the first draft of the mural design. This is the moment we saw the connection. I explained: Here is the Grand Concourse streaming from the boombox; Here is the collapsed building. Do you know your thoughts? Here’s the girl with the giant afroI drew it over and over again—Black stars represent freedom. And the flower garden, which represents diversity in your school – yI planted this idea. You asked for a phoenix, and you agreed because you said your school is flexible.
Below are photos of a giant blank wall being turned into a vibrant billboard for SBC. To transfer the image, we dropped the design onto a 45″ x 14.5″ wall and then traced it over with gray paint, section by section. By November, the new building had not yet been vacated for student occupancy, which meant that seniors could not paint yet. While waiting for clearance, Fermin and I painted over areas of the wall that required ladders and scaffolding. Students and faculty joined in December. Artists Jodi Dareal, Lourdes Rojo, and Emily Gooden helped bring it home, while perfecting the final details.
Why is art important?
Because expression is an essential part of our human nature. Because we are visual beings. We communicate. We love to see ourselves mirrored in words and images. This is how we learn about ourselves. So how can art not be part of our education? How can art not be a part of us? #BringArtBack