SchoolArts Magazine

Summer 2017

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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attention to our students' most vul- nerable and important characteris- tic—their happiness. Positive Awareness The purpose of this assignment was to help students become aware of the positive things in their lives and encourage them to devote some of their time and energy in that direc- tion. Beauty exists all around us, yet we easily get sucked into the negative and the ugly. As an art teacher, my role in parent-teacher conferences is often much lighter than some of my colleagues. Parents come to me to make sure their children are doing well and behaving themselves, but most of all, parents want their chil- dren to enjoy art. I can't tell you how often I hear, "I just want my child to be happy." It might surprise parents to know that teachers have the hap- piness of their students at the top of their priority lists as well. Discussing Joy So how does one teach about happi- ness? It's such a simple theme, yet there's no clear direction to take. To introduce this project, our class dis- cussed the things that make a person feel joy. We discovered that, apart from loved ones, simple moments of experiencing joy and satisfaction motivate us to seek more of that same emotion—joy breeds more joy. Students commented about hearing a meaningful song, seeing a touch- ing photograph, witnessing a heart- warming moment; these are things to which we expose ourselves to ensure moments of happiness. F ollowing the discussion, students conceptualized ways to focus on the positive in order to begin the chain reaction of spreading joy. They tar- geted methods to help them appreci- ate the things they are exposed to daily that may spark moments of hap- piness, inspiration, or creativity. A Slogan for Happiness Students looked at the work of Bar- bara Kruger, a contemporary artist known for her black-and-white con- ceptual installations. They discussed how her art often conveys a strong message to the viewer from which it is hard to dismiss or escape. After analyzing this work, students dis- cussed the different ways that artists communicate to an audience, and they set out to develop a slogan that could help their peers find moments of happiness in small ways. The slogans were wrought out of very personal ideas of joy but were intended to be teaching tools for oth- ers. Some focused on finding joy in achievement through schoolwork or extracurricular activities; others reminded classmates to find beauty in nature or appreciate one's positive The purpose of this assign- ment was to help students become aware of the positive things in their lives. attributes. Some were simple slogans suggesting that happiness is some- thing that is achievable for all, once we decide to accept it. Installing Happiness The slogans were transformed into carefully placed installations around the school. Students were encouraged to use any medium that would convey their message, and the only criteria was that a portion of the installation had to be three-dimensional. Once placed around the school, these installations stood out to the population because they were differ- ent from the posters and flyers that were typically found on the walls. People stopped to view the pieces and found themselves pausing to reflect on their messages. It is nearly impos- sible to gauge whether these simple reminders helped any one student to become happier throughout their day, but the act of creating these instal- lations provided a catalyst for the artists themselves to search out more joy. Kari Giordano is an art teacher at Mount Everett Regional School in Sheffield, Mas- sachusetts. giordano.kari@ N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work. W E B L I N K installing-happiness SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 21

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