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Issue link: http://www.schoolartsdigital.com/i/186315
Grace Hulse J oan Gaither, a mixed-media fiber artist who creates quilts that reference identity, history, and social justice, recently visited my fourth graders to share her work and talk about the processes she uses to create it. Inviting working artists into the elementary artroom opens up opportunities for students to better understand the roles artists play in society, recognize that art-making can be a lifelong endeavor, and experience different approaches to art-making. Sharing Stories and Techniques Gaither arrived at our school toting multiple suitcases full of her fabulous story quilts, an iron, a printer, and fabric samples. Students were entranced by the variety of colors, textures, images, and objects on her quilts, and by the stories that were chronicled in her work. Gaither incorporates a variety of personal objects into her quilts relating to family members, such as beads, hats, baby bibs, and small toys. Gaither also demonstrated some of her techniques for preparing images for her quilts. She scanned some of the stu- dents' artwork into her printer, then put specially prepared cotton sheets into the printer to produce a color copy on the cloth. Next, she demonstrated ways to embellish the image with embroidery, drawing, painting, and by adding small three-dimensional objects. stores, our school, the public library, the nature center, and recreation areas. After scanning their images into the computer, students reducing them to fit into our map. The pictures were printed in color onto adhesive-treated cotton fabric sheets, then cut out and ironed onto the map. A Community Quilt The Finishing Details Inspired by the work of Joan Gaither, Students added a title for the map, a my fourth-grade classes began plancompass rose, and street names. To ning a collaborative community quilt sign the map, each student drew a colthat would be displayed in our school orful self-portrait, scanned it, and once lobby. To help generate ideas, I had stuagain printed it on the treated fabric. dents create several lists. Starting with To complete the quilt, I layered the personal identity, top with thin batstudents were Students developed a deeper ting and a solid given two mincolor cotton botunderstanding of what it utes to write a tom layer. To hold means to live together in a list of words that the quilt together, community and to respect the I used embroidescribed themdifferences and the shared selves. Next, they dery thread to created lists that experiences of its members. stitch over the described their street names and families, their homes, their neighboraround several of the larger images. hoods, our school, the wider commuAfter the quilt was finished, I nity, and places they had been or would allowed students to use any of the like to visit. I asked students to circle materials we had explored in makthe things that were most important to ing the quilt to make a personal quilt them, then draw thumbnails of these square. Because of students' experiitems or symbolic representations of ences creating the collaborative quilt their ideas in their sketchbooks. and their work investigating what it means to be a part of a larger community, their individual pieces were Mapping Our Community thoughtful and captivating illustraAs a group, students decided that a tions of their relationships with others. map would be the best way to collect The willingness of students to and display their ideas about personal self-reflect before, during, and after and community identity. I projected creating the collaborative artwork a map of our city on the whiteboard, helped create more than the physical then students traced the streets and artwork. Students developed a deeper other geographical information onto understanding of what it means to a large piece of white paper. I placed a live together in a community and to piece of cotton muslin over the drawn respect the differences and the shared map and different thicknesses of draftexperiences of its members. ing tape were used to lay out the system of neighborhood streets. Students Grace Hulse is an art teacher at Orems Eletook turns painting the muslin with mentary School in Middle River, Maryland. thinned acrylic paints. Once the paint email@example.com was dry we removed the tape to reveal the streets. NatioNal StaNdard While the map was being conStudents select and use subject matter, structed, students created drawings of symbols, and ideas to communicate things they wanted to include on the meaning. map. Everyone was asked to first draw a picture of their home, then choose Web liNk items from their brainstorming lists www.joangaither.com and sketches, which included local schoolartsonline.com 29