Teaching & Learning in the museum district
Snapshots from an Exhibition
I am appreciative of teachers who do more than they are asked to do, purely because they want the students to have ample opportunity to learn and to grow as people. This year, Alyssa Smith (Lower School Spanish teacher) and Jacqui Chaltain (Lower School art teacher) merged their existing after-school clubs to become the Art and Spanish Day of the Dead Club. Their goal in collaborating was to enter their work in an exhibition of school art at Lawndale Art Center’s annual El Diá de los Muertos exhibit. Because of the behind-the-scenes efforts of these two teachers in early August, Presbyterian School’s proposal was the first entry they received.
When news came that they were chosen to exhibit, the students went right to work creating a varied, inventive and bright-hued exhibit of which our school can be proud. Because Lawndale Art Center is one block from school, grade levels walked over to enjoy the exhibit – made more meaningful to them because displayed on the walls were the works of their friends.
Here, you will find pictures of the art and reflections from both teachers and students about the experience of celebrating culture, working collaboratively and enjoying the fruits of honest effort.
Alyssa Smith, Lower School Spanish Teacher
It was a wonderful experience for me to collaborate with Ms. Chaltain in order to delve deeper into the folk art traditions surrounding El Día de los Muertos. This is a holiday steeped in rich traditions, and a wide variety of cultural practices which combine to create a celebration that is not only somber, heartfelt, and reflective, but also filled with humor, gaiety, and fond memories. I enjoyed how the work of our students reflected all these aspects - from the Trees of Life dedicated to a beloved family pet and a member of the armed forces, to the Calaveras, which depicted humorous scenes and intricate designs. I had never had the children decorate tombs before, and the kids really enjoyed the process of creating the mound out of a paper paste, and incorporating traditional elements such as dried legumes, marigolds, and other materials to create them. Another fun experience was watching the group project, El Tapete de Arena, take shape. In spite of all the hands involved, the collaboration flowed effortlessly, and the end result was something of which all members were proud to claim as theirs. It is bold and eye-catching. In the end, the most gratifying part of the experience was watching the pride beaming from the children’s faces as they introduced their pieces to their classmates during the grade level field trips to Lawndale, and hearing their classmates congratulate them on their work. Many students appeared to discover that they really were artists through this project.
Nora Lawless, Fourth Grade Club Member
Ms. C showed me my spot in the front. She told the class I was to be in charge of the whole group project. While my mind was buzzing with thoughts, Senora Smith was showing us a slideshow of ideas. After the slideshow, I asked Senora Smith what exactly was Day of the Dead. After, she told me and showed me some books to look at. There weren’t a lot of carpets, which was our group project. After awhile, I found the perfect thing. A skeleton dog. I could draw a pair and a baby.
After weeks went on, I felt like I was the only one working on the group project! But finally, some people came to help. Suddenly, the carpet was so crowded, I had to squeeze in to work.
Jacqui Chaltain, Lower School Art Teacher
The Day of the Dead Celebration is a wonderful cultural celebration honoring those people who have made impact on our lives and are no longer with us, specifically family members. Third and fourth grade artists participating in the celebration this year had the opportunity to explore images and make art that honored this tradition. More importantly, the exploration allowed Presbyterian School artists the opportunity to make connections to their own lives. Looking back, there were some profound moments of connection and meaning during this art experience. One of our artists lost a family pet towards the end of the project. His grief was channeled through his art after he was reminded of the celebration’s purpose. He added a skeleton and a statement to his sculpture dedicating it to Maddie, his family’s dog. He imbued his sculpture with a relevance that was personal and a connection that anyone who has lost a pet could make. Our artists created from the heart using color and texture of their choice in their individual pieces and working in collaboration to create a group project that was original and also lifted up pets. Carl Jung describes two events that are casually unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced together in a meaningful way as synchronicity. As an artist observing other artists, when chance occurrences happen in the creation of art (such as the death of a pet, the group project focusing on pets and a cultural celebration of those who have passed), it brings to mind Jung’s definition of synchronicity. I am deeply touched by the connections that happen on a spiritual level.
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