CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Friday, April 13, 2012

The rule is: "Think BIG - Work small"
This is to try to honor the bus rule that anything transported on the school bus must "fit into a bag." Now - they didn't say what SIZE the bag is, but even with that, we struggle to follow this rule.
Cameron Stadium is finished at last! By "M," Grade 5
The above amazing, beautifully constructed, lovingly detailed "Cameron Stadium" was built over several weeks by an ambitious, detail oriented 5th grader. It does not fit in a bag. It barely fits out the door.
"What would happen" I plead, wringing my hands, "if everyone decided to build something that big?"
Fortunately, not everyone builds something that big. Not everyone could. Not everyone would want to.
It is the same with the clay. Last quarter a clay artist emerged who shattered all previous records for production:
Partial collection of clayworks by "G," Grade 5

And that's the beauty of a Choice-Based art studio. Instead of having enough clay for every student to make a  project or two, I stock enough clay for everyone who wants to use clay to have some. And it's the same amount of clay, because while most students do try clay and make something during their time here, not everyone is enamored with it, and certainly not everyone specializes in it. That leaves more for "G."

It's the same with cloth in the Fabrics and Fibers Center, or with the wire in the Sculpture Center. I don't need to have 20 brayers in the Printmaking Center, because twenty students would not all choose printmaking at one time. Two sewing machines are (usually) enough because not everyone has the interest or patience to learn to use these, or invent an appropriate project requiring a sewn seam. But some do.

We try to follow the "Think Big- Work Small" rule - it makes sense to us. It is reasonable. But so too is the rule posted on the  Fred Bab poster outside the art studio door: "ART Break the Rules."

Framing Emergent Curriculum

Once the ball is rolling in a studio-classroom, where students pursue their own ideas in the media of their choice,  the role of the teacher begins to shift from instigator to reflector. The teacher in a Choice-Based classroom  watches for opportunity to employ student work in service to the concepts that are important in Art.
My last crop of artists provided a rich array of material for me to draw upon in order to highlight art concepts:

The class pauses for a moment as I hold up "E's" marker drawing. "What do you notice about the colors "E" used? A brief dialog follows about the power of complimentary colors.

Triangles by "E" - Grade 5

The painting below has many possibilities - the color wheel is represented and ordered there, including colors that have been mixed by the artist, which could lead to a discussion of shades and tints - and the artist demonstrates a strong use of line and pattern. The idea of linear vs radial design comes to mind also. This painting could be saved for the next time this class comes in, and could be the basis of a "5 minute lesson" about these concepts.

Middle school students are pro-Op Art - if it wasn't for the fact that a group of artists "invented" that style of art over 50 years ago, my middle school students could claim that they  invented it right here in North Central Vermont.
By "R" grade 5

It makes it relevant, therefor, to drag out my tattered Op Art book and show a few examples; "Hey look! Some other artists figured out that using strong contrast like black and white or black and yellow is powerful and can make an artwork almost vibrate!" "These dudes were a big hit in the 50's and 60's for doing the same kind of work that you just invented!" The fact that the above design screams "fallout shelter" could be mentioned, if you want to go there...("this drawing makes me think of something else that happened in the 50's..." )

The idea is, instead of starting with an art concept or examples of famous artists or historical periods, it is profitable to wait and work with what the artists in your classroom initiate. Relating the concepts you want to emphasize to their own original work provides a measure of buy-in and relevance not often gained when starting with a faded art reproduction or Crystal color wheel.