School Name: Telpochcalli and TCEP
Teaching Artist Name: Jessica Mueller
Big Idea: Shaping Our Environment
Inquiry: Through art how can memory and imagined spaces create positive mental space?
1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you?
Teaching Artist response: I was interested in exploring spaces out side of the classroom and school. I wanted to break away from the usual expectations that our class has created in previous years. Could we explore new/different spaces in Little Village and in other Chicago neighborhoods? I was also interested in materially exploration. Could we break away from painting and printmaking and experiment with sculpture?
2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom?
Both Jackie and I wanted to do something completely different and unexpected with this class. With a focus on engaging with our environment we took the classroom outdoors (weather permitting) and begun working with nontraditional materials. As a group and often with their children parents walked to Douglas Park. With the support of Esparanza we gathered materials from our surroundings and with limited art supplies (string, glue, scissors, etc.) parents created work that reflected their experience of the environment. Many fruitful conversations were had during the walks to and from the park and school. Parents happened upon a house that had free potted plants, then took the plants and left a thank you note, they collected found objects along the way and exchanged advice and stories. Back in the classroom, parents created mini-3d environments depicting their ideal surroundings. Parents were asked, “Real or imagined, where do you feel most calm and at peace? What does it look like? Smell like? Taste like? Feel like? Who is there with you or are you by yourself? What are the sounds that you hear?” Parents first drew drafts of their initial ideas, then began making 3d forms out of wire and clay (model magic), they used markers to dye and to paint the clay. The environments were secured to small pieces of foam core and cardboard. One of the parents, Silvia, used SnapChat to add animation enhancements to her piece which created a very surreal, magical effect that when viewed as a video made it intriguing and difficult to determine the medium. It also brought the work to a new platform for sharing. Some parents preferred not to go this route while others were very excited to test it out.
The parent group from Waters Elementary invited us (and George Washington Parents) to join them on a field trip to the National Museum of Mexican Art. The three parent groups came together again, as they did at the exhibition of their work, Comadres en el Arte. Parents perused the museum, first visiting the artisan market with a variety of artists from all parts of Mexico. One Telpo parent became very emotional as she told me being there was as if she was back in her home town in Mexico and that this was the first time in 15 years she’s felt this feeling so strongly. She purchased a hand woven piece for her dinning room table to remind her of this experience and of her home in Mexico. Parents went on to view the Dia de los Muertos exhibition and then to the neighboring park to all eat tamales together. For many of our parents, even those who live in close proximity to the museum, this was their first visit.
Working with molding plaster and sculpting tools parents experimented with sculpture. They created 3-D images of either memories of places, objects, or symbols that bring them calmness and peace. Some knew immediately what they wanted to sculpt while others remained open and the objects reviled themselves as they sculpted. Parents created their own plaster molds, mixed and poured wet plaster blocks, then using chisels and reductive tools they gave form to the plaster.
3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded? Esparanza stepped in to temporarily replace Jackie before our first class. While planning with Jackie we were in close contact planning regularly and very excited for our new direction. Esparanza has assisted with communication both with our participants as well as with TCEP.
4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration?
Teaching Artist response: The collaboration in our situation is found more amongst the communication with the group as a whole. Esparanza is a great support in making sure the class is fruitful, she communicates with parents regularly, recruits new participants, helps with logistics and is always eager to engage with parents while in class discussions. Since Jackie’s leave most outside planning and preparations are handled by me. Our collaboration for the second half of the year has lessened. Esparanza continues to help with logistical concerns, communication, and participates in classes, but we do not plan together at this point. I have handled planning and prep work.
5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making?
Teaching Artist response: Having a fellow parent and community leader as a leader in the class goes a long way in engaging the community. Esparanza’s everyday presence at TCEP and ability to consistently communicate with parents has been essential to the sustainability of our program.
6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration?
Teaching Artist response: It has contributed to our work by inspiring us to be more engaged with our community environment. We walk to various locations when the climate is nice enough and explore the area, we’ve visited the National Museum of Mexican Art, and will be exploring outside of the Little Village/Pilsen boundaries as we take our work to Hairpin Arts Center, and our trip to DuSable Museum of African American Art and Osaka Japanese Garden in Hyde Park.