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Maria's Reflections: December


Artists in Schools

Maria's Reflections: December

CMA Resident Artist Maria D. Rapicavoli on her December projects at Hudson Guild.

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December was all about the foundations of two-dimensional design and different materials and media, including oil pastels, mosaic tiles, metal wire, and even vegetables! By the end of the month, we transitioned into three-dimensional design.

We started the month learning about the life and work of fellow New Yorker Jean-Michel Basquiat. Students drew their names or initials, street art style. I was surprised to see how the students quickly responded to my invitation to use graffiti to express their feelings, and many of them promptly shared their emotions. Students really enjoy using art to way to say something out loud without being judged.

Next, we embarked on our big mosaic project. First, we learned about artists Alma Thomas and Sam Gilliam and historical examples of ancient Roman and Sicilian mosaics. The project was split into three phases: (1) drawing the work on paper (2) gluing on colored glass tiles (3) grouting the mosaic. The results were exquisite.

This was the first time that we worked on the same project for multiple days. It was challenging for many reasons: first, the lack of continuity prevented many of them from finishing the project; and second, because of their excessive self-criticism, some students contemplated starting the project over several times. Not everyone could quickly grasp the process of sketching, gluing, and grouting due to the challenge of accurately filling the original sketch with tiny colored glass, leading to some frustration. For those who managed to finish the work, it was a great success. The students loved using grouting to fill the gaps between the small tiles, and they were delighted with making a work that looked more permanent and durable than a drawing. They loved to experiment with new materials, work on composition, and improve their attention to detail. This was the first step to learning to navigate a step-by-step process that demanded both time and patience. By the end of the project, students understood the importance of consistency.

Our final two-dimensional design class was an hit – vegetable printing! Students had fun cutting and carving vegetables to use them as stamps. It was a very fun and messy activity and perfect for getting in the pre-holiday mood! I initially thought the project would be a disaster because some students could not stand the smell of onions or garlic, and their first reaction was disgust. However, in the end, they all enjoyed the activity and the outcome was extremely positive.

To transition to our first three-dimensional design lesson, I invited the kids to "draw in the air" just as Alexander Calder did with his mobile sculptures. After learning about kinetic art and studying examples of Calder’s abstract sculptures, students experimented with balance, equilibrium, and lightness by creating a "mobile" sculpture that moves when the wind blows.  I was happily surprised to discover the kid's extraordinary ability to work with metal wires and create fantastic three-dimensional forms.

I have many memorable moments from this month's lessons ... A nice moment was when a student recognized Basquiat's dinosaur and exclaimed, "Oh, so that's the artist who made it!"

Kids also enjoyed oil pastels because they are softer than crayons, can be blended in, layered, and mixed, and they are very bright. The result was excellent; some students finished two or three projects in one day.

Another nice moment was when I introduced them to the mosaic technique. They loved the tiny bits of colored glass, especially second and third graders. They considered it a precious material and showed great enthusiasm for the new medium!

Maria's work at Hudson Guild is supported by the Emergency Arts Education Fund, which provides free arts education to NYC school communities whose art programs have been decimated by recent budget cuts.

Children’s Museum of the Arts’ three Residents Artists are currently implementing ambitious arts curriculum at each of our partner sites throughout New York City: Hudson Guild in Chelsea, Sid Miller Academy in Crown Heights, and Children’s Workshop School in the East Village. Come spring, our residents will showcase their students' work through exhibitions and installations across the city. Learn how you can support the work of our residents here.

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