I also teach art to inner city students. The circumstances are somewhat
different, but it sounds as if our experiences are similar. A colleague
and I teach a class at the Toledo Museum of art for inner city children
from third to sixth grade. The program is entitled Art After School. The
participants are brought by bus to the museum from various arter school care
facilities such as the YMCA, The Boys' and Girls' club and local churches.
Once they are at the museum, we take them to the galleries, show them specific
works of art, engage them in dialogue about the works and then go into the
sar to your experience with your students. It was difficult to get them motiv-
ated, and self esteem was definitely and issue. We found that the greatest
motivator was success.
We happened on this by accident. We wanted to give the children a halloween
party, but we wanted to do it within the format of the art after school
program. So, we decided to have a Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebration
(Days of the Dead). We showed them engravings by the Mexican artist Posada,
specifically his calaveras (skeleton caricatures). We discussed with them
the fact that these images were not just skeletons, or images related to the
celebration of the day of the dead, but also clever caricatures which address-ed social, religious and political issues of the times. The analogy that we made
was that the images were like the political cartoons on the editorial pages of the newspaper or the comicas in the Sunday paper. In other words, Posada was also
satirizing, or poking fun at certain individuals of types of individuals.
The studio activity was that the students were to create their won calaveras.
In doing so, they were to comment on current issues they felt to be important.
The results were phenomenal. They created calaveras dressed in Guess jeans and
Nike shoes, Chicago Bulls calaveras, calaveras in red and blue bandanas,
and even calaveras dressed as policemen. But even more interesting perhaps was
the ensuing conversation. It turns out that the students had created social
cg wanna be's, calavera drug dealers and pimps, prostitutes and police officers. As you can see, some of the responses were not necessarily "nice" or expected.
Ahistory and studio experience to their own lives. It is sad to think that any
child would be exposed to some of the things that these children are, and yet,
what better way for the children and for US to begin to deal with some of these
Art has traditionally been a vehicle for emotional, political and social
expression, and these children, perhaps more than most, need just such a vehicle.The result of all this was that the projects that followed this activity were
more successful, in large part, I believe, because the students were more con-
fident in their abilities and interested in what we were doing.
We are currently doing a lesson on portraits. It seems to be going very
well. If you are interested with the results and details of this lesson,
let me know and I will e-mail more.
I would love to hear about your successes, and I am sure that you will have
many of them! This is a difficult group to work with, but the rewards are
worth it. A SMALL SUCCESS FOR THESE KIDS IS A REALLY BIG DEAL!!
The Toledo Museum of Art
The University of Toledo