Posts Tagged With: arts education

Bibelots and other nautical hijinks

A few months ago I was asked to judge Improbable Baubles at the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington. This hands-on program is designed to give Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Scott and Woodford County public and private school children the opportunity to create, perform and respond to art.  Participating students “learn the history of George Headley, his artwork and bibelots, and his significance to Kentucky.” This event benefits participating schools, as it directly ties into the Kentucky Department of Education Program Review in Arts and Humanities. The museum curator provides materials and lesson plans from which each child can make his or her own bibelot. Students then write artist statements, critique the work or their peers and choose among themselves who will go on to the main competition.

That’s where I came in. This must be a red letter year, because I have been invited to participate in four arts-related activities in as many months. They have all been fun, exciting and fulfilling, but this was by far the most amusing. And, this was just the judging!

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This Saturday, Improbable Baubles opens to the public with a grand reception, complete with a candy buffet. First, second, third and fourth place awards will be given, and each of us bestowed a judge’s choice award. Thanks to Toyota, students 18 and under will receive free admission for the duration of the exhibit, so don’t miss these objets d’art.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director 

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Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , ,

A blanket of support for Harley Laxton

The Kentucky Arts Council’s Derby blanket project has evolved quite a bit since it started five years ago. While the Derby-themed canvases vary in design and skill level, all are a unique representation of the group of students from each school, grade or community that helped to create them.

Ranging from fun and whimsical to intricate and detailed, the finished “Derby blankets” are placed atop picnic tables that have been converted into horses with an attached head and tail for the annual Governor’s Downtown Derby Celebration in Frankfort. Each year, the blankets that are returned to the arts council are different. And each year, a story emerges that brings new meaning to the project.

This year, that story came from Knox County Middle School (KCMS).

Decorated with horses wearing yellow and purple hats, the KCMS horse blanket includes a special note, “Dedicated to Harley Laxton for her courageous battle with cancer and her continuing progress.”

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A seventh-grader at KCMS, Harley Laxton was diagnosed with a high grade glioma tumor in November of last year. A cross country runner, Harley first noticed symptoms during runs when she would lose balance or fall. After multiple appointments and testing, doctors confirmed that she had a tumor wrapped around her spinal cord. While removing the mass through surgery wasn’t an option, doctors were able to perform a biopsy and recommend alternative treatments.

Harley, who once ran 3 miles a day, currently uses a wheelchair. She is not able to shoot her bow or spend a lot of time outdoors right now, things she loves to do. However, her mother says she keeps herself busy painting, drawing, making crafts and watching movies. Despite the changes her illness has brought, Harley keeps a good attitude. Part of that good attitude shows in her commitment to continue going to school as much as possible.

“Harley has a spirit like no other,” says her mother Vandy Laxton. “Her outlook is positive in every way! She is truly a shining light in my life and brings love and laughter to every day.”

Harley receives chemotherapy every two weeks in Lexington, and in the six weeks since she had radiation treatment, her tumor has been reduced to almost a third of its original size. Harley’s mom, Vandy, attends school with her daughter to help the 13- year-old maintain a normal schedule and keep up with classes. Harley’s latest report card read all A’s.

“Being at school with her friends and peers has given her the courage and strength to keep moving forward,” Vandy says. “We are so thankful and Harley is so excited that her friends and classmates have dedicated their art to her!”

Knox County Middle is just one example of the schools that have inspired and surprised us with their blanket creations during the last five years. From raising autism awareness to memorializing classmates that have passed away, this unique arts education opportunity has allowed students to express a wide range of complex emotions through their artwork. This year’s blankets, including Knox County Middle’s, will be on display at the Governor’s Downtown Derby Celebration on May 3.  To see them online, visit the arts council’s Facebook page.

Alex Newby, Communications Assistant

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Berea artist brings diversity and color to Frankfort classrooms and hallways

Walking through the halls of Frankfort High School (FHS) these days, you might notice things look a little different. That’s because, with the help of teaching artist Alfredo Escobar, students in Spanish and art classes at FHS recently designed and painted a tradition-inspired mural on the once drab walls outside the school’s cafeteria.

The mural, completed in early February, was the culminating project of a two-week artist residency with Berea graphic and fine artist, Alfredo Escobar, a teaching artist in the Kentucky Arts Council’s Teaching Artists Directory. FHS and Escobar partnered to create the mural through a 2013 Teaching Art Together grant from the arts council. The painting is made up of images that uniquely represent the school and the community of students’ within it. The mural was inspired by Escobar’s work “Mi Vida,” an acrylic piece that depicts the artist’s life from childhood to adulthood. Escobar worked with multiple classes over the two-week period to brainstorm concepts and incorporate those ideas into the mural design.

“I never tell the students exactly what they should paint; I lead them into their own decision-making process through which they choose their own content, spatial organization and color scheme,” said Escobar. “The emphasis of this project is not on the realism of the final product; rather, it is on the students’ expression of themselves and what is relevant to their lives.”

The full-time artist completes residencies much like the one at FHS with students and schools across the state. Using his own career and creative process as an example, Escobar strives to teach students how to creatively express themselves, whether through art, writing or other career paths. Parents, teachers and fellow students were invited to view the finished product.

The Teaching Art Together grant allows teachers to collaborate with practicing, professional artists on the design and implementation of residencies like Escobar’s. Ranging from one to four weeks, the residencies provide teachers with the tools to continue to incorporate the arts into the curriculum long after the artist is gone. In Frankfort High’s case, Escobar’s residency has allowed teachers to incorporate more art concepts into Spanish classes because the students have a better understanding of the steps and processes involved.

“The mural project was a great way to bring our student body together and give them something to be proud of,” said Tabatha Doyle, one of the teachers involved in bringing Escobar to the school. “The students take great pride in their work and our mural has motivated them to continue art projects throughout the entire school.”

Schools and teachers may apply for the next round of Teaching Art Together grants until April 15.

Alex Newby, program assistant

Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , , , , ,

Students shine at Poetry Out Loud Finals

After months of preparation, the Poetry Out Loud state championship took place March 13 in Frankfort at the Capital Plaza Hotel. The winner, Taryn Syck, of Pike County Central High School, will travel April 28-30 to Washington, D.C., for the National Poetry Out Loud Championship to represent Kentucky. While she was a tough competitor through the first two rounds, it was Syck’s third poem, “The Great Blue Heron,” by Carolyn Kizer, that put her on top.

I love the moment when everything comes together: The words, the delivery and the passion. Before I became the arts education director for the Kentucky Arts Council, I was not overly impressed with the Poetry Out Loud program. I did not appreciate the value of reciting poetry written by other people. I have seen some very powerful performances at high school poetry slams. So I believed having students perform their own poetry would be much more effective.

Today, I understand the value of this kind of poetry recitation. All 14 school champions were impressive. I am so glad I was not a judge. Each student in the program had been coached by one of the arts council’s teaching artists. They won their school competitions to advance to the state finals. All competitors recited two poems and then five finalists made it to the final round.

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Mary Hamilton, one of the teaching artists that worked with the champions, attended Thursday’s championship and later shared some of her thoughts about the day with me.

“There were three specific performances today that, if they would be available for Kentucky Poetry Out Loud programs to view, would provide excellent examples of very specific performance successes,” she said.

“Beautiful Wreckage” — recited by Titus Carter — “That recitation was stunning, absolutely stunning. He so captured the emotion of that poem. A video of that performance would provide a wonderful demonstration of how thrilling and amazing a recitation can be when the student allows their emotional connection to the poem to come charging through.  So many young men tend to be exceedingly reluctant to allow feelings to show. I think providing his recitation of ‘Beautiful Wreckage’ as an example of an emotional connection to a poem would especially encourage young men to give themselves the permission he clearly gave himself for that recitation.”

“I Remember, I Remember”  recited by Gabrielle Thompson  “That recitation provides a fantastic example of how pauses are not empty, but full. The spaces between the two ‘I Remembers’ at the beginning of each section were handled superbly. Sitting in the audience we could feel strongly that all memories are not remembered the same way. Her face, voice, and especially her communication during pauses, were wonderful to behold.”

“Famous”  recited by Haley Reed  “This is a lighter poem, and Haley did a marvelous job of clearly conveying the lighthearted nature and even the humor within the poem. There was also a clear change from when she was talking in third person and in first person. I considered it a wonderful example  well worth providing for future Poetry Out Loud students.”

Each of these performances, as well as Taryn Syck’s recitation of the “Great Blue Heron,” will soon be available on the arts council’s website. I invite you to visit our website to view these amazing performances by high school youth. And, next year, I hope other teachers and schools across the state will give their high school students the opportunity to participate in the Poetry Out Loud program.

Jean St. John, arts education director

Categories: Literary Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kentucky Crafted brings hands-on fun

It’s hard to believe Kentucky Crafted: The Market is right around the corner! While artisans across the state make final preparations for the show, the Kentucky Arts Council has been working with local arts organizations to ensure this year’s event will be fun for an individual or the whole family.

A part of The Market for almost 15 years, the hands-on activities are a chance for people of all ages to find their own creative side as they explore the ways in which art overlaps science, literacy, and even nature.

Working with the Louisville Visual Arts Association, Market-goers will have the opportunity to create their own animals and characters based on the work of beloved children’s author Eric Carle. Don’t recognize the name? Maybe you’ll recognize the titles. Carle’s work includes “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” a book about the fun, yet massive diet of a caterpillar as he transforms into a butterfly. This simple project allows participants to get as involved as they choose, making it the perfect pit-stop during your time at The Market.

For kids — and adults! — interested in building, the Lexington-based Living Arts & Science Center’s (LASC) Architecture of Life presentation will include an exhibit that illustrates how structures that exist in the natural world often become inspiration for architects designing structures in the modern world. Utilizing the LASC’s designs for an upcoming building addition, the exhibit will showcase the creative process that takes place from conception to construction. Opportunities for all ages to build with blocks of various architectural styles, and an area to design and create pop-up structures, will be available.

Kids — and kids at heart — can also build mini abstract sculptures out of reclaimed Styrofoam with the Josephine Sculpture Park (JSP), based in Frankfort. Based on workshops that are conducted at JSP throughout the year, each activity is appropriate for people of all ages and abilities. Participants will meet and work alongside local artists to create their own work of art to take home. They also can participate in creating community bee hive murals, sponsored by Bee Friendly Frankfort.  Examples include painting and collaging floral landscapes on beehives that will be installed at the park, and creating whirligig pinwheels from recycled plastic water bottles.

Finally, courtesy of Explorium of Lexington, guests will have a chance to create mixed-media artwork while exploring the human body’s five senses. By experiencing the senses through a creative process, participants will discover how much we rely on our bodies to send our brain important signals. In addition to creating original artwork, participants will test how well they know their five senses through a series of sensory stations!

If you’ve exhausted your entertainment options thanks to recent snow days, Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2014 is the perfect option to explore your artistic side!

Alex Newby, program assistant 

Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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