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Lesson Plans

Re: : Homelessness : Making art, reclaiming lives

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mon, 31 Aug 1992 02:47:37 +0300

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I find Andrea's description of the homeless not only poetic
but's its metaphorical content, also literal. Strong language
is appropriate for a situation which should cause us rage instead of
cognitive dissonance at the selection of vocabulary. Kevin's questions and
his response beg the question of the importance of Andrea's lessons
and their intended impact. She has selected a challenging topic, is
using an interesting approach, and is utilizing the vehicle for art
to create a larger awareness of the issues related to the topic both
in her students and with the public at large through a public display
of the results.

I think of the work of Paul Strand and Dorothea Lange, which created
a social consciousness about the conditions of impoverished people
and mobilized public concern and at the time, funding through the
WPA. I think also of Jacob Lawrence who decided to be an artist as a
child, attending free art classes for low-income children. It was the
experience making art that changed his direction and vocation in

In Seattle, there is a facility for homeless people to come and
create art. Art is a means of self-empowerment both in the creating
and the viewing of image, whether they are created by street people
or about street people. This center was supported because of the
powerful work about and by street people. Should it not exist
because people are going hungry? Should Barbara Krueger stop making
billboard art because her images have social commentary? Kevin's
questions about the larger context are in themselves problematical
because they are an abstraction and as such, a dismissal of the
intention and aims of Andrea's project itself.

The metaphor used during the disarmament movement of
the '70's and '80's was it is the individual snowflakes that
together, break the branch. And as Ghandi said, the person sweeping
the ashram is just as important as the person demonstrating in the
streets. In other words, change happens step by
step, individually, at the local, level. Every attempt no
matter how small to touch lives and change them through art
should be applauded.

Teresa Tipton

From: kmt127
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 21:05:27 -0600
Subject: : Art and the Homeless:Making art, reclaiming lives

In response to your ideas on teaching about homelessness I would recommend
you researching the work of Hope Sandrow and the Artist and Homeless
Collaborative (A&HC). This group is an affiliation of artists and arts
professionals and women, children, and teenagers living in New York City
shelters. The A&HC is an ongoing, interactive project that neither
abandons nor alienates the art work from social context. Art is made WITH
rather than FOR shelter residents.

Some other thoughts:
You stated, "The broken lives of individuals and families who live in
poverty and without
homes litter our cultural landscape.." The term litter is problematic in
this context, it can signify a dominant belief that homelessness is dirty,
criminal and a problem that needs to be swept up, or swept away. I know
that was not your intention, however phrases can be easily misinterpreted,
or worse yet, never critically discussed.
Its not clear what your studio project entails but be very careful, Any use
of photography and homeless individuals could easily turn into a
objectification by merely capturing them on film or somehow reifying,
(making concrete) them as an exotic "other" to be gazed at and displayed.
You state that students will "broaden their understanding of their own
values, and the (un)changing aspects
of our cultural environment. This involvement(communication) is the first
step toward change and resolution of one of todays sad realities of human
existence; homelessness" Larger issues need to be problematized, such as;
can art do anything for the homeless (have any appreciable impact on the
lives of people struggling merely to survive), what form of agency (if any)
is created through this work, or a "better understanding of our own
values," should the money involved with the art be used for other means,
can images of homelessness actually create a lack of sensitivity towards
the issues, and if so how, and what is the difference between art and
social work in the context of helping the homeless (is it the aesthetic
component that makes it art)?


Andrea wrote:
hello. andrea here from Ohio State University. I am looking for any feed
>back or additional ideas on my proposed plan for teaching about homelessness.
>The broken lives of individuals and families who live in poverty and without
>homes litter our cultural landscape. Although this problem has existed since
>the very begennings of human existance, never before has it seemed so out of
>place as it does in todays contemporary society of wealth, access,and
>priveledge. Although this issue has decreased in "popularity" since the late
>80's/early 90's, it didn't go away. Social Restoration indeed. Here it
>Lesson Title: Homelessness In Contemporary Art
>Issue: how art can be used as a vehicle to influence social awareness
>Grade Level: high school (9-12)
>Studio: photography using pin hole cameras made by students
>Introduction: The introduction as presented to the class will attempt to
>provide answers to these questions: What is homelessness, and why is it an
>Who is homeless, and why? Exploration of the different types of people who
>are homeless all over the world, and how they arrived at their situation.
>What is being done to improve/solve the problem, and how does making art
>about it help?
>We will study three different artists of diverse backgrounds who explore the
>issue from very different angles:
> 1. Krzystof Wodiczko-public performance/sculpture about homelessness
> 2. John Decker-photographer of homeless living along The Ohio River
> 3. S. Rene Jones- photographs by a homeless person
>Studio: 7-10 classes
>the first day will consist of a prepared introduction to the issue, slides of
>the artists mentioned, and close with a participatory discussion with
>questions and explanation of the studio/artmaking project
>the second day will be for students to research their ideas and begin
>construction of thier cameras. research could include: The Internet(if
>available), library, and interviews with people in homeless shelters
>(volunteers, staff, or residents).
>the third through fifth day will be used for studio. As students begin to
>take pictures, there will be a demonstration on the process of developing
>their photos.
>the fifth through seventh day will be used for finishing the artworks, and
>displaying them in the classroom for a formal assesment. (discussion,
>critical writing activities etc.)
>the additional days(7-10) could be used for an extended version of this
>In the longer version, students would write proposals either for the donation
>of materials (developing chemicals, photo paper etc.). this would depend on
>whether or not the specific school in which this lesson was taught could
>afford to supply the students with these items. (photography can be pretty
>expensive even in this simple method)
>AND/OR the proposals could be written to access public or private space for
>displaying the finished artworks. For example a gallery, or lobby of a
>building. The community often likes to get involved with displaying student
>work, it gives the students an opportunity to participate in this aspect of
>artmaking (showing), and it gives the community an opportunity to observe and
>learn from their works.
>The Studio Activity: students will receive instruction on how to make and
>use pin hole cameras.
>the cameras will in some way reflect the ideas they have about homelessness,
>and/or the ideas they have for the photographs they will be taking.
>for example: empty coffee cans and Quaker oat containers ( you know, the
>cardboard cylinders) make great pin hole cameras. students would then
>transform these containers into art that also functions as a camera. The
>purpose of this is that the final photos will be displayed along with the
>The Purpose: The purpose of this acitivity is to encourage students to
>identify and explore this issue (and themselves) thorugh the medium of
>photography. Through the teachers introduction and student investigation
>(research/resources) students will gain a broader knowledge of the issues
>which effect the world and local culture. Students will gain insight to these
>issues as they express their views, and in some way become more involved with
>issues that concern our society. Through this involvement, students will
>broaden their understanding of their own values, and the (un)changing aspects
>of our cultural environment. This involvement(communication) is the first
>step toward change and resolution of one of todays sad realitites of human
>existance; homelessness.

Kevin Michael Tavin Ph.D. Candidate
Dept. of Art Education
The Pennsylvania State University
School of Visual Arts

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