Making open-ended arts activities

I get to do an insanely fun program every Thursday at Darien called Bookworms, where we read a story and then make art together inspired by the book. Originally, I was trying to do a formal art class where we talk about different art theories and concepts. Of course this is a silly idea with ages 5-7, after school, and with my goals of encouraging informal arts education. Also, the kids are just so insanely creative that I didn’t want to squash it at all. So instead, we’re doing activities that are open ended, inspire creativity and joy, and encourage those minds to imagine. I love this quote from New Creativity Paradigms: Arts Learning in the Digital Age by Kylie Peppler: “Art with a capital A usually refers to those genres and works at the center of formal arts curricula, embodiments of highly valued creative practices, pedagogies and movements transmitted culturally between generations. Art with a lower case a, on the other hand, includes modes of expression that, while meaningful to its creator, can fall outside of the aesthetic perimeter of formal institutions" (2014, p. 5). This is what really makes me excited - toggling between those two things with kids who come into the class or space because they want to be there, and offering an open and engaging space.

Here's a couple of things we've done so far:

We started by readingIsh by Peter H. Reynolds Opening framework: We all can use similar materials in different ways! What happens when we all have the same exact materials? Artist to inspire: Franz Marc - German painter, born in 1880 - painted crazy colored animals! Took something that existed -ie cow, horse, and made it his own. RULES OF BOOKWORMS - there’s no right way, encourage each other, do we have any others? Activity: give everyone same supplies - scissors, glue, and paper cut into circles, squares, and triangles. Have them go crazy (this was also an assessment activity to see how their cutting/glueing skills were). Gallery walk: Put them out and have a walk through, talking about differences and similarities, letting kids talk about their artwork.

We started by reading Draw me a star by Eric Carle Opening framework: Today we're going to be inspired by a shape, and by our own imaginations and wishes. Post reading: i like this book because sometimes when you’re drawing or creating, something tells you in the drawing what to draw next. has anyone ever experienced that? Inspiring artist: Starry night, Egyptian tiles, Fred Tomaselli Activity: Using contact paper, we made a "Wish portrait" - a collage using sparkles and drawings that then you could hang in the window. Wish Portraits using contact paper

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds Opening: We made a list of what color an apple is, or the sky, or a tree. Then we looked at artists to inspire: Alice Neel, Van Gogh, Anders Zorn, and Mary Cassatt and their renditions of sky, water, faces, and grapes, and talked about what colors we saw. Activity: I bought a bunch of fruit and had them draw them with oil pastels, asking them to draw one with the colors they actually saw and then one with whatever colors they wanted. Then we did a gallery walk!

It's been a great time! I have heard from people that their kids are losing their love of art that they cultivated in preschool to rote coloring book pages and scripted crafts, and it feels like something I can do in Darien that is really purposeful and necessary. I was so inspired during the zine-making workshop to see how excited they were to write stories, and even had a kid who wasn’t in the class ask about it and spend an hour writing his own story.

Similarly, during a Book Group discussion about Frankie Pickle and the Pinewood 300, I had planned for the kids to do little races using a pingpong ball on a pegboard with a course they created made from pipecleaners. But they didn't even want to race, they just wanted to have fun dropping the ball down the course at different angles! So much joy to be had from spontaneous, open activities. 9-14-NutmegJr-FrankiePickle 3

And now to find ways to make our TEA room/Maker Space more accessible and inspiring!