By Sahara Lyon
On Monday, March 20th, twelve visual arts teachers spent their in-service day outside their classrooms, making art with fellow educators. The workshop, hosted by COCA and made possible through the Duke Energy Grant, was led by Dr. Sara Shields, Chair of the Art Education Department at Florida State University. Dr. Shields led the teachers through two different art activities that could be adapted for any grade level. Both focused on collaboration in the classroom, whether between students or schools.
After explaining a collaborative project that she and another Art Ed professor are working on, Dr. Shields demonstrated the first activity, which involved teachers drawing portraits of themselves that highlighted some of their different characteristics. Dr. Shields encouraged the teachers to get up and walk around to see what the other teachers were doing, encouraging them to give feedback and learn from the other teachers’ techniques. This way, collaboration was baked into the activity from the beginning. After the initial portrait was drawn, the work was transformed using liquid watercolors that teachers painted on the back, seeping through the front to create a tie-dye effect. The images were laid out to dry, and each of the teachers’ portraits created a community, which was the activity’s objective. Dr. Marilyn Proctor-Givens, one of the art teachers at Lincoln High School, stated, “The workshop sponsored by COCA and FSU allowed me to create an amazing, vibrant self-portrait using oil pastels and watercolor on a non-traditional canvas, a tablecloth. The process involved in creating the portrait allowed me to think about my character traits and express those traits using color and line.”
After breaking for lunch, Dr. Shields led teachers through the second activity, a screen-printing project. Teachers designed a room in a house that was screen-printed onto a large sheet of paper to create a home. A teacher uniquely developed each room, but the final collaboration resulted in a cohesive and unified project.
Margie Grussing, the art teacher at Astoria Park Elementary School, stated, “The COCA/FSU workshop was one of the best workshops I have attended in a long time! The lessons presented are very easy to adjust to a variety of age groups. The hands-on artmaking was super fun, from drawing self-portraits to creating prints for a printmaking lesson. We were introduced to some new art materials and methods that we can take back to the classroom.” Some of the teachers who attended also stated that they loved the opportunity to make artwork with their peers, something they rarely get to do.
In addition, the second lesson highlighted inclusive spaces and how things like design, collaboration, and artmaking can play a role in explaining place-making to students. Dr. Proctor-Givens stated, “we talked about inclusion and exclusion and did a printmaking activity which allowed me to create a comforting place where I belong.” In addition to focusing on collaboration, the lessons were centered on tying in other subjects, such as English and creative writing.
Dr. Proctor-Givens said, “the activities and lessons we learned in the workshop will allow us to teach our art students how to use traditional/non-traditional art materials in a more advanced way. We also learned how to discuss and create a collaborative work of art that expressed where we all belong.” Giving visual art teachers the opportunity to create art with their fellow teachers, learn a lesson from Dr. Shields, and earn in-service teaching points was an incredible experience. COCA is always thankful for a chance to support our community!
Look for the article on the Tallahassee Democrat’s website, coming at a later date.