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LAUSD “restores” art education (?) or “something vs. nothing”

Here is a pretty picture to start things off (every blog post needs one)-

nigella in bloom

nigella in bloom

Here, go read the article for yourself and see what you think.  I’d love to hear it.

In the poll section of the article it states “Some kids need more creative approaches to learning.”  Very true.

But I doubt this is the answer.  It is another stopgap measure aimed at doing “something” rather than nothing.

Even Steven McCarthy, the district’s K-12 Arts Coordinator, said “one reason arts integration is at the core of the plan is to safeguard arts education from future cutbacks”.  So there you have it.  It’s not really an effort to “restore” arts education.  It’s an effort to shield it from future cuts in order to salvage  and maintain SOMETHING.  Otherwise, parents that care are going to get pretty rowdy.

“We want to have the same quality offered in every school”, says the LAUSD.  So with that goal in mind, they have hatched this plan.  Images of starving children come to mind.  Better to give them all 30 grains of rice per day than to give some kids 60 grains of rice and others, none (or eat less ourselves and make sure that ALL the children get at least 60 grains of rice). At least most of them won’t die. Of art starvation.  Or will they?

At least the LAUSD can say they did something.  Even if that something was half-baked.

Remember, Penny and I were giving weekly art classes all year long in a 4th grade room at a public elementary school for free and were told there was no longer time for us to come in as they would be devoting our “art time” to preparing for standardized testing. It still pisses me off when I think about it.  I just try not to.

An interesting study regarding soccer titled “Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks” explores the emotional reactions to action vs. inaction.

Tanabata was yesterday.  I wished for more and better art in public schools.

I almost deleted this blog…but for some reason I haven’t. So far…

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a good read

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Trash for Teachers

The librarian at the local branch library suggested we check out this link as a source for cast off materials from manufacturers that can be used for art projects. You won’t want to miss this if you are in the LA area.
Maybe your area has something similar.

Here’s one I found in Ft. Lauderdale FL-

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changes in the making for elementary art

I have been busy in the studio and at shows recently and just letting myself settle with the idea of not being in a classroom this year.

Still wanting to bring art to elementary age kids,but how?

Still wanting to be true to my beliefs about why I like to do it in a public school classroom.

I like the public school setting in that it allows for a more equitable distribution of the subject matter (as opposed to kids who get art classes outside of school for a price). Not everyone can afford to attend those kind of classes. I also like to see art offered alongside the core classes of math, reading, and social studies as opposed to seeing it always offered as an “extra”. It means something different.

But alas, one cannot always have what one wants. So rather than force the issue, I decided to let it rest and see what came to me.

Here’s what has been offered- regular workshop space at the local library’s community room on Saturday mornings at the Dana Branch Library, Long Beach. We provide the lessons, gather materials, & donate our time. The library provides the space, a teeny weeny budget (for filling their display cases with art), and hopefully some storage space for materials.

So now Penny & I have spent some time thinking about how to structure it. We are not interested in a babysitting/drop off/drop in situation. We want there to be a complete lesson offered each time followed by hands on working/studio time. We want to limit the minimum age to 9 years old. Here’s what we are thinking:

-two Saturday morning workshops a month (starting this December and probably only one this first month) Each month we will explore one theme or genre.
-the class starts at 10 AM sharp. no late comers. 30 minute oral/visual presentation followed by an hour of hands on art making.
-at 11:30 (until 12:30) we will open the doors to drop ins who can take advantage of the set-up and materials to explore the topic on hand.
-any students who were there for the formal class will be invited to continue working and teach/ share
alongside the newcomers thereby further enhancing their experience and that of the drop ins.
-this will be free but donations for materials will be greatly appreciated.
-we will plan the year in advance as we did for the classroom and due to my travel/teaching/show schedule we may invite some other working guest artists to come and visit/teach with us.

Well, that’s the idea so far. Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome. We are filling out the paperwork required by the city and will hand it over to the librarian this week. She will approve it for co-sponsorship so as to bypass any fees etc.. Hope to get started after the Thanksgiving break.


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still ruminating over the possibilities here but in the meantime you might take a look at this:

Until I have a little more time to write up part two on the Houston show post, i thought i’d share this link to a trailer for the film “Who Does She Think She Is?” now circulating to limited screenings. I would like to see this film in my area. You can visit their blog here. Ask to have a screening in your area.

Now I assume that many of the readers here CAN name 5 female artists. But did you know that 80% of the students at the School of Visual Arts but that 70-80% of artists represented in museums are male?

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current status of elementary art

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about art and kids. Really. Several times a day if you have to know the truth.

I don’t even have kids in school any longer. Both my boys are now in college pursuing their interests in
music, performance, and recording arts and sciences. I have always advocated for them to do what they love. Obviously not for the money- that will come in time- but for the enjoyment and love of life itself. Working a job you hate just for the money is no way to go about living life. But I digress.

The current state of affairs in the fourth grade classroom this year is that they simply are not interested.
Not interested in having two people who are passionate about art and kids come into a classroom once a week and give an hour long lesson for free. Supplies included for the most part. Generally we spend a minimum of 10 hours a week between the two of us in discussions, preparation, online research, and gathering of materials. This is public school. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

We have decided we are not going to pursue it any longer. We’ve sent emails, had our phone # given to the teacher and had no response whatsoever. We are looking for a new classroom. One that wants us there. We will be taking applications this time. We have requirements. If you think you know someone who is interested in applying, let us know. This is not about the individual teacher-she has said she wanted us to return. But I think that we have a system in our public schools that just really ties the hands of the teachers and forces them to do so much testing and crazy nonsense that they are really not free to teach anymore. Yes, I know we could probably go to a private school but I really believe in educating everyone equally and public school is it. At least for now. Even after school programs don’t interest me as much.
Or perhaps we will find somewhere else to spend this energy that benefits kids. We will reconvene after I return from the Houston show. We are thinking about what we are doing wrong. And right.

I also just returned from a visit to the LA County Fair which just ended this past weekend. I always like going there and seeing the student art displays. This year was no exception. It gives me hope. That there still are some public schools out there teaching art. I saw some marvelous student work.

I visited the Millard Sheets Gallery and saw some fabulous work in the current exhibition “Footprints” directed by Tony Sheets, Millard’s son. Many of Millard Sheets paintings and works are displayed courtesy of the Sheets family. Millard Sheets believed and acted on his commitment to “Bring Art to the People” by designing and overseeing the building of the arts building at the Los Angeles County Fair site in Pomona and filling it each year with a show of paintings and art. Never before had art of this caliber been available at a county fair.

the following is from Millard Sheets obit in the NYT from 1989:

“Millard Sheets, a prolific painter, a designer of more than 100 buildings and for 26 years an art professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., died at his home in Gualala, Calif., on Saturday. He was 81 years old.
Mr. Sheets was born in Pomona, Calif., and graduated in 1929 from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1943 and 1944 he served as war artist for Life magazine, stationed in India and Burma. During the early 1960’s he founded Millard Sheets Design Inc., an architectural firm in Claremont that designed banks, schools, malls and private homes mostly in California and Texas. He served as the chairman of the art department at Scripps, the art director at Claremont Graduate School for 16 years, and as director of the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1950 to 1956. ”

I was introduced to Millard Sheets and his work by my friend “Woody” (AKA Melvin Wood) many years ago (say 30) as Woody used to work in Millard’s studio during the Home Savings and Loan days when Millard designed, built and installed the many fabulous public art pieces that were commissioned by the bank and are still there today. We used to go on jaunts with Woody around the southland on weekends and in between visiting our favorite cactus or orchid nurseries we would drive by many of these sites and admire the craftsmanship and design. Woody was famous for his stories about working with Millard and the many artists from Claremont and Pomona Colleges that abounded in that era. His relationship with Millard Sheets brought him into contact with the many great artists of that time including Sam Maloof (furniture maker), Harrison McIntosh (ceramist), & Rupert Deese to name a few. He put us in touch with the concrete men who did much of the casting for these sculptures and these guys came out of retirement and cast our piece for USC back in the late 70’s. Another interesting fact about Woody was that he was one of the original artists on the “Gumby” television show, doing the claymation work that allowed the figures to move. Pre- Nickolodean! Many good stories about those times as well. Woody was a great artist in his own right and I have a number of his pieces that I hold dear. Millard and Woody shared a common interest in teaching at the college level and Woody retired from teaching art at Cerritos College before moving to his moutaintop in Mendicino where he passed away more than a decade ago now. I often think of all of them and imagine their combined creative energies whenever I encounter their work in my world.

If you are interested in seeing a great exhibit of Millard Sheets’ work, you can visit the exhibit Damngorgeous: Millard Sheets and his California Legacy
September 13 – Jan 4
at the Oceanside Museum Of Art


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computer lesson for the 5th grade

Courtesy Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (

Courtesy Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (

I came across an interesting post in my art education group at yahoo. (you can join this group by request by visiting here.)
The post referred to a photoshop/computer graphics project and you can see it here.
It is in Japanese but you will get the drift of it from the photos. I think it is a pretty ambitious lesson for 5th graders-at least judging by the 4th graders we work with. Pretty cool though and very Japanese.

The lesson also contains some great links to learning sites revolving around subject of Stonehenge, stone circles, dolmens, ancient standing stones, cairns, barrows, hillforts and archaeology.

The jist of the project is to consider creating a sculpture garden at your school site. The lesson calls for the students to create a Stone Circle sculpture digitally and insert it into a pre-existing photograph.

The Japanese text is also pretty simple. I think it would also make a good lesson for Japanese language students by practicing how to follow instructions written in Japanese at a 5th grade level.

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in the spirit of creativity…

just thought some of you might enjoy a little conversation going on over at my friend Jude’s blog
on fostering creativity…..
feel free to join in the conversation…

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End of summer…thinking about art

Pinwheels for Peace
click for details

Penny & I are getting together next week to brainstorm again for the upcoming year. We think we are ready and re-charged and looking to make some changes in what we are doing in the 4th grade room this year. We want to get better at this and towards that end we will be making a list of what was most and least successful from previous years. We will look to others who are doing similar work for inspiration- such as Jane LaFazio over at Mundo Lindo and to the folks at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles which has a fabulous outreach program that goes into the schools there (hint, hint Long Beach Museum of Art). It would be great to see the local museums actually going out into the schools in addition to having the students come to them. Sign me up as a volunteer when that happens!
Last year we were able to (by the skin of our teeth!) get the class down to the museum to see one of the exhibits and participate in a workshop on portraits.

So if anyone reading this has any other suggestions of places online that inspire art education in elementary grades, please post the link in the comments.


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Practice Looking

sculptures finished
Our student show will hold it’s reception Thursday the 29th of May from 5 PM to 8 PM at the Dana Branch Library at 3680 Atlantic Ave. Long Beach and Penny Voelker (the other half of “we” at EA) has written a statement for the show on behalf of Elementary Art expressing our thoughts on our work this past year in Room 9.

“The pieces in this exhibit are a sampling of the many art projects we have done in Room 9 this year. Our intention has been to try out many different media and topics so that we can better relate to art that we see every day or in special exhibits. We can understand art better if we have tried out a process for ourselves already, like landscape painting or stenciled art. We can understand some of the decisions the artist made to express his piece. Having painted, we also have some feeling for the use of color, and we are more sensitive to how artists use color to make us aware of feelings. We used this experience on our field trip to the Long Beach Art Museum at the portrait exhibit. The process of art appreciation goes on all the time in our lives. We have started to understand some of the questions to ask ourselves.

Practice looking is a good title but we also got practice with lots of other things: practice playing creatively with our materials, practice doing something without worrying about a letter grade, practice seeing possibilities and trying out new things, practice concentrating and giving time to something, practice making things come out right and overcoming problems for ourselves, practice getting things done. Art is not always comfortable or easy, but meeting a challenge is fun.

Making art is also a chance for introspection, even at age 10. We have to confront our selves every time we make art. Questions pop up like this: Why am I bad at this? Will people like this or think I am really stupid? What will happen if this turns out really badly? Why should I do this project anyway, it doesn’t mean anything. Okay, here is what we hope everyone has realized by now. Part one of art is the artist making something that perfectly realizes his intentions, having fun but in a serious way, enjoying the process. Part two of art is someone looking at a piece of art. No one knows what he will
make of it, it’s up to him. So, art is for having fun, for making or seeing things that look good to you. It’s not about you personally. It’s about the artwork.”

We hope you’ll come and enjoy the show! It runs May 29th thru June 5th.

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