School Name: George Washington High School
Teacher Name: Melody Foley
Teaching Artist Name: Anni Holm
Big Idea: Our Space, MakerSpace, Lunchroom Makeover, Public Art = Home
Inquiry: How can we, through the ongoing use of art, create an environment that feels welcoming and empowering, (supporting the social emotional well being for both students and staff ) and hereby enhance the learning experience ?
1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you?
Teaching Artist response: I am interested in collaboration, social engagement and experiments, installation art and recycling (making art on a shoestring budget). I am also interested in continuing the work of transforming the lunch room, taking over new parts of the space, do something awesome, make the students feel good about doing something that not only will affect themselves, but also make others that frequent the space feel good.
2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom? So far we have started out each new school year looking around “our” space, take in to account what has already been done. Reviewed if we wanted to continue working on what has been done to improve it or change it. Researching what else can be done, take ideas as to what we are able to to, what we will need to make it happen, plan and then get started. This year, we looked at the can wall from last year, determined it needed something more, brainstormed what and came up with a piece of text, that we thought would give the wall more purpose and at the same time just exist as a reflective question. We also determined that the 3 remaining white walls, needed something. We spray painted one wall using green and bluish colors, and threw gold glitter all over it. We felt the color pallet would feel relaxing, perhaps evoke feelings of an ocean, but we didn’t want people to feel like they were drowning, so we also create a symbolic rainbow using fake pine and painted and glittered CDs. For the Christmas holidays, we created a Christmas corner with a green sparkly tree, decorations and then we weaved a colorful rug out of the old blinds from the teacher lounge. In the new year, we started discussing and planning what to do for the exhibition at Hairpin Arts. We had some measuring wheels laying around from two years ago, that we really wanted to use for a wall/space separator then, so we thought, perhaps we can use them to make a space within the exhibition space, to mimic what we are doing a GW, and then give visitors an opportunity to participate in the making of that space, by creating a flowers to flowerize the space. Over all I’d say, we have thought a lot, planned a lot, tested out things, done a lot, some things worked out and some didn’t – but overall, we have made a lot of progress in the space again this year – and we have been told over and over again, by both students and staff that they love what we have done – so it is all coming together as we first envisioned.
3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded?
We are constantly checking in and modifying plans. There is a lot of room for trying things out, leaving it, looking at it again and coming back to it to continue working on it, or changing it completely. In our teacher – artist working relationship, we often have conversations out loud in front of students as to what to do – and while we don’t always agree, we usually test different things out until we all feel it works. Because we are also trying to do everything with repurposed items, there’s also a lot of brainstorming along the way of what we can do to make something happen out of nothing – this particular process is usually what makes for a lot of adjustments, as not everything we have in mind actually works. An example is how to tie the measuring wheels together – where we first tried zip ties, which broke, then rubber gloves, which seemed flimsy, then ironed plastic bags which totally worked, but just took forever to make. At the end we ended up using fruit and veggie nets, that added lots of awesome color, then we ran out – and the only thing we could find was fabric, a student figured out that when you pulled it in a certain way it became really strong, so that’s what we ended up using at the end.
4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration?
Teaching Artist response:
While I feel like we are mostly on the same page and really flexible and accommodating toward hearing each other out, we occasionally have a hard time seeing what the other person means. We do think about our projects from different perspectives, which I believe is what makes our co-teaching as awesome as it is. While Melody might think, we have access to lots of plastic bags and can make these crazy strong ties to connect wheels, that might not have been what I had in mind esthetically. However, I’m willing to give it a try, to test it out and see how it looks/works. As we got a few done, the look of the ties grew on me, however, when realizing the amount of time to make each tie, it got me a little worried. Melody assembled a team to work on them and got some done, while I was out with the flu. In the mean time, I had dug out a collection of fruit nets from my basement and asked if we could just try to see how it would look during the next class. I could tell Melody wasn’t thrilled, when I brought it up, but as soon we looked at it, we were both excited about the added color scheme. Sadly, I didn’t have enough for the whole insulation, and the plastic tie production came at a standstill, so we ended up having to utilize repurposed fabric at the end.
5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making?
Teaching Artist response:
During our previous years of collaboration, Melody and I have come to realized that we have a lot of things in common and feed a lot of each others way of thinking and making. I think of Melody as the practical person, who has a lot of experience just making things, where I consider myself more of a conceptual person, but someone who is not afraid to try making things – I just think a lot about it before I throw myself at it. I feel like that has changed a bit for me. Where I would perhaps think a lot more about something before trying, I have realized that both in the teaching setting and “at home” I sometimes think what would Melody have done? Well, she would have looked it up and then tried to do it… and then I do. I have also learned that sometimes teaching is not about standing in front of students, but sitting down amongst them and just have conversations about how their school year is going, and what their plans are for the future. Share stories from our own high school days and really just be people, with our own worries and hopes for the future.
6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration?
Teaching Artist response:
To me, it feels like it has give us a third dimension, someone, who is not present at the time, but might be present, that we have to keep in mind at all times. This is not something new to us, as this has been our focus for the entirety of our collaboration, due to the space we have chosen to work in. However, I do think it is a healthy reminder, that we can throw in there in any discussion about what we are doing. How do you think the students will respond to this? What do you think this will do for them? Will they notice? Will they destroy this? Why are they treating this the way they are? When we hear about events that have taken place in the space, and we have received positive feed back, we have also used that as an example – encouragement to keep going, by asking, remember when so and so said that the students visiting from the other school were taking selfies in front of all of our projects and were asking why can’t we have something this cool at our school? Doesn’t this validate what we do? How can we continue along this path? Is this the path we want to continue on, or are we really just trying to activate and empower our own students?