SchoolArts Magazine

MAY 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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22 MAY 2019 SchoolArts T H E O P E N A R T R O O M I always hear teachers, especially non-art teachers, talk about how ready they are for the school year to end. Now, I love summer as much as anyone, but the end of the year tends to be my favorite part of school. The reason? My students are engaged and doing their best work of the year. I make this magic hap - pen with one of my favorite learning challenges: the minicollection. I ask my students to create a collection of at least three new artworks that show who they are as artists. Choosing an Approach This is a daunting task for some, for others it's a fun puzzle, but every stu- dent really needs to put some thought into it before deciding on an approach. Some start with a favorite media or topic. Others select an overarching theme or base a collection around a favorite work of art. To help students clarify their thinking, ask them to sum up the plan for their collection in one sentence. If they can only give you a word, like "flowers," then they need to think about exactly what they want to communicate about their topic. If putting their idea into a single sentence is hard, then hav- ing a conversation about it may help streamline their thinking. Creative Freedom This is an "open" assignment in my classroom, meaning learners are responsible for all artistic decisions involved in the creation of the work. This includes choosing a theme, deciding how to plan, selecting media, determining the size of each piece, as well as hanging the finished artworks in our final show. The work students come up with is as interesting and diverse as they are. This year, for example, themes included waves, family, online gaming, representa- tion of Asian women in popular culture, and memory. Artist Statements The final task for stu- dents is to summarize what they made and why they made it in an artist statement. These often give me a deeper understand - ing of the students I've been working with. For example: "Most of my work centers around my issues with mem - ory. Body: Fractured (One & Two) specifically focus on how my memory distorts how I see people. I often can't remember what my best friend's eyes look like or even what my own lips look like, despite seeing them every day. When people look at my pieces, I want them to think. I want them to think about memory, about what they can remember. I want my pieces to remind them of someone or something they used to have in their life. I want to share my experience and struggles with memory with the viewer." Art Show At the very end of the year, we show off our hard work with a one-day art show. We set it up during the morn - ing and it runs during lunch and entices students from around the school to come with screen printing, face painting, and games. This end piece adds fun, but also real-world accountability for my students in front of those who matter most, their peers. The hustle and pressure of get - ting work ready and setting up the show ensure everyone is engaged, while the fun of the day always ends the year on a high note. Melissa Purtee is an art teacher at Apex High School in Apex, North Carolina, and co-author of The Open Art Room, avail- able from Davis Publications. Wrapping Up the Year with a Minicollection I ask m tudents to create a collection of at least three new artworks to show who th are as artists. Melissa Purtee

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