Teaching & Learning in the museum district
Fine Arts classes offer new outlets for students to express themselves
7th and 8th grade students take a fine arts class every day. Yes, you read that correctly... every single day of the year. With over a dozen classes to choose from, students have the opportunity to experience a variety of visual, performing, choral and creative arts. Each year, new classes are offered as new topics of art exploration are uncovered. This year's offerings have included Photography, Drama, Sewing, Dancing, Choir, Mixed Media, Mock Trial and more. These classes provide a unique opportunity for students to have a hands-on experience with creating something meaningful. Here's a glimpse of a some of the work of our unique fine arts classes.
In Music, Poetry and Street Art students learn how to sharpen their observation and listening skills as well as critical thinking skills. Students are learning the vocabulary and tools for how best to approach listening to music, reading and interpreting poems, and looking at street art. The dominant theme of the first quarter was community. Students studied photos of street art to find clues to the community it represented. In music and poetry, students combined music, photos of our PS community and the spoken word to create an interpretation of Maya Angelou's "Human Family" iPhone commercial.
In the second quarter of the class, students began "The Wall Art" project, an original piece of street art reflecting a personal message, after studying the elements of community and activism with Mrs. Stoessel. Inspired to create their own street art, students brainstormed ideas about how to represent the PS community visually in a mural, and what elements of activism they might also include. Students chose to represent community with the PS window with each window pane representing a facet of the community that matters to them: sports, fine arts, academics, friendship, technology, core values, play and religion. The window is flanked on each side by the letters P and S, which is their "tag" or street art signature, because it will include each participant's name within the large letters. Their idea of activism is represented in a quote and in the desire to represent individualism and boundary pushing in the form of splattered paint outside the lines of the window. The student in charge of choosing the quote selected this sentiment by Teddy Roosevelt, "It's not the critic who counts; the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."
First Presbyterian Church granted the students permission to paint their mural on the outside brick basement wall of the north playground. While the work is still in progress, take a minute to look at a time lapse video below of how students are bringing street art to Presbyterian School. This project is anticipated to be complete by December 16.
Build and Destroy was inspired by The Collectivity Project, a 2015 installation at the MFAH by Olafur Eliasson, in which museum visitors were invited to build and take apart thousands of Lego bricks so that, over time, a communal construction grew out of individual actions in the same way that our city grows and is transformed. Building and rebuilding structures out of Lego is one ongoing component of the class.
Students wanted to explore the "destroy" aspect, so their first project was to disassemble and tinker with a variety of electronic and mechanical devices such as computer keyboards and alarm clocks that they photographed before and after disassembly. The class also participated on walking tours to look for evidence of changes in the built environment and discovered examples of structures from every decade of the 20th century, including examples by renowned Houston architects, Joseph Finger and William Ward Watkin.
In the second quarter, the class began a study of optics and photography as a method to document change. Students transformed a classroom into a camera obscura where each student built a portable camera obscura and experimented with pinhole apertures and moveable lenses. Students then moved on to image capture using iPads to take pictures of Lego creations, converted those imaged into negatives, and made cyanotype prints with the help of sunshine on the playground. Their final project will be short stop-motion videos as Lego projects are built and destroyed.
Students in the Course through the Museum District walk to nearby art museums every class period (in rain or shine) to explore a variety of art and art related experiences in the Museum District.
Regular gallery visits have included The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Lawndale Art Center, The Jung Center, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and the MFAH Sculpture garden. Students explored the permanent collections of the museums and had the opportunity to attend many temporary exhibitions including Degas: A New Vision at the MFAH; Flow, a paper installation at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; The BIG SHOW a juried exhibition of local artists at Lawndale Art Center; and a unique light installation Kusama: At the End of the Universe.
Students not only examine, sketch and analyze art, but they also interact with real artists and museum professionals at the various institutions. Over two class periods, students met with Kaylin Weber, assistant curator of American Painting and Sculpture at the MFAH. Ms. Weber discussed the paintings as well as shared behind the scenes details and curatorial challenges of her new exhibition Julian Onderdonk and the Texan Landscape. Students also interacted with working artists Rebecca Braziel, Shiyuan Xu, and sculptor Susan Budge in their studios at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.
The Chapel Band is composed of 8th grade students who play on acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass, piano and xylophone. The Chapel Band, co-directed by Andrew Hebert, Class Trip Coordinator, and Chris Sanchez, 8th grade IPC teacher, leads the middle school student body in chapel worship and rotates through a selection of song material. They hope to expand to other performance opportunities in the future. This ensemble will continue through the third quarter, but will change membership in the fourth quarter to allow for 7th graders to begin preparations to be Chapel Band leaders during their 8th grade year.
In Drama, students are learning how to communicate, research, design, collaborate, and create in theatre. Student projects include working on theatrical set and costume designs, creating characters and original short plays, learning audition techniques, monologue work, and scene study, which includes research and rehearsing short scenes from plays.
Click here to see a complete list of fine arts classes for the year.
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