Friday, August 3, 2007

Philadelphia Freedom School Banner

In this project I worked with twenty 9-11 year old students from the Philadelphia Freedom Summer School to create a participatory banner over a series of eight 2 hour sessions through the Fleisher Art Memorials Community Arts Partnership Program. This summer school enrichment program emphasizes cultural democracy and history through story telling, dance and visual art.

When I started working with this group they though of visual art as “being different", "drawing anything” or said they didn’t know anything. Some of them had art in their schools others had little to no formal art making experiences. Several were particularly resistant.

Over the weeks I struggled to keep the kids engaged and teach them a few solid skills. I know I was being successful when the room was silent and everyone on task if even for a few minutes. Even the camp counselors and the children who had been resistant were enchanted by the paint and pencils once they had a basic understanding of the elements or art.

On the last day I asked what they now know about visual art. They responded: “ I learned the colors’ shades and hues and that my teacher is a colorfully vivid person”. “I’ve learned perspective; one point, atmospheric, eye, worm and bird view”. “I learned that black and white can make different colors of gray”, “How to draw people, bodies, places and roads. I had a great teacher”. “That it was fun for me, doing the mural”, “when you do art you can look at it for many perspective”. All the children said they learned about primary and secondary colors, value and perspective.

We discussed and illustrated the connection between the individual and community through individual drawings, portraits of each other and journal drawings. The connection of their community to the community at large was illustrated through the creation of the banner/mobile mural. Finally the connection to the world was made through drawings of our hands that will be brought to Malawi in Africa by Philadelphia University professor Wendy Anderson as part of the ”Hands Across the Water” community arts project.

While this was a short unit it was very successful and I was asked to teach again with the program. Something I look forward to doing. The banner will be on display at the Philadelphia Freedom School offices and other locations about Philadelphia.