Along with the Wall collection we installed the final cubby construction from the grade 5-6 students. Being outside on the land, there was much finger crossing and forecast checking for the weather. Wind could be the project's downfall (literally), and with projected breezes from the south west i decided to play safe and put the installation in sheltered spot in the shade of a large acacia. It had a cubby kind of feel, and with the ground underneath relatively flat - we had a good base to lay boards for overall stability. In case of emergencies, I had a kit of ropes with tent pegs, tarps and posts, spay adhesive, and adhesive tape to make sure the whole thing didn't blow away.
The plan was to bring along the boxes, and allow the kids to build their own cubby in an interactive art display.
Here's what happened...
Throughout the day, several different configurations emerged... with the students enjoying finding their own construction then placing it in the perfect spot. Kids who weren't involved in the workshops were also keen to be involved, which was great. I had hoped that more of the students would take their mini cubbies home once the garden festival had finished, but at the end of the day pretty much all of the boxes remained. So, with the help of a (mostly willing) team of volunteers we carried the boxes across the land and back to school for the students to pick up from there.
The above photos are thanks to the incredibly talented Jai Seales who captured the day beautifully here.
So here it is...All wrapped up. The Wall, by the preps, grade 1's and 2's from Balnarring Primary School. Over 200 boxes, thoughtfully assembled with their own relief sculptures and an assortment of interesting objects. It looked amazing.... and the feedback was awesome.
The kids were keen to see their artwork on display, delighted to be a part of a community event and really proud of their achievements. Half the fun was finding their own assemblage amongst the mix, which prompted me to consider creating a "spot what" activity to go with the display.
I was super lucky to have help from Pea and Sandy from Balnarring Primary to install the wall who, due to the limited exhibition time have offered to reinstall the boxes in the school gym so the families who were unable to see the finished product get a second chance.
Unexpected bonus: We even won a prize....BEST IN CLASS (I'm fairly sure we were the 'only' in class) for the Balnarring Flower Show. Nice!
Bringing it Home
So... here we are. The week leading up to the BIG REVEAL. The main thing on my mind at the moment is ... "Will the boxes all fall down and the installation be a complete failure?".
Wind will be my main problem... but my technical crew have a back up plan, with tarps as wind shields if necessary. The tarps will make photographing the installation problematic but I think we'll just have to deal with that on the day. So far the forecast is looking good with cloudy skies, mild temperatures and a slight breeze.
We'll add stability with boards as a base and tomorrow (!), I'll resolve adhesives.
The other unknown is the number of kids that will be there on the day to participate in the installation. Tomorrow a note goes home with the school newsletter, and promotional material has gone out in the local magazine publication...The Bridge, as well as BVC facebook and other social networking pages, so hopefully a few kids will come along to see their works all together.
Perhaps, on refection it would have been better to have the installation closer to the end date of the project, given that some groups finished their works back at the beginning of August. I wonder if the gap between completing the works and display distances the kids too much from the process.
Questions to be answered in evaluation...
What did you enjoy about the project ?
What did you find challenging ?
What surprised you?
How would you improve the workshops ?
Would you choose to do a similar project again? Why? Why not?
On sunday, as well as coordination the installation, I'm hoping to record some responses to those kind of questions for my project evaluation.
Inspiration for the construction component for grade prep - 2's came from the artist Louise Nevelson. Not only was her story interesting; a woman artist working at a time when art was considered a masculine domain but her methodology was readily transferable to working with the younger grades. Each student would be able to achieve a finished sculptural piece, and together the works would combine to create a cohesive piece with (hopefully) plenty of visual impact.
I introduced the classes to Nevelson, explaining that she grew up playing in her fathers' timber yard and making things (much like they had in previous art classes) with scraps of timber. We looked at images of her works and the way she combined interesting shapes to create her sculptures, then talked about her inspiration... nature, the city and space.
Our next step was to combine the layered relief sculptures we had created during the last session with salvaged commercial materials into shoe boxes. The students were asked to use each interior surface of the box as a base (sides as well as base). The results were really impressive, with everyone achieving an interesting result. While I'd initially planned on spay painting each box the same colour, to replicate the style of Nevelson's sculptures, an unsuccessful grant application meant that the funding wasnt available. On refection -I think the kids will prefer seeing their work as they completed it anyway. So I'm happy with that.
Some students did extend the assemblage beyond the initial single lesson, so we were lucky to have an optional additional session to complete the project.
My initial inspiration for “Growing Home" came from the RIVER QUIVER project from Turpin and Crawford; a community art project that emerged from explorations into a specific environment. In this case the Pages River and the NSW town of Murrundi. The video is well worth a watch if you're interested in environmental art.
Subsequent research then, was based around the construction of large scale “puppets” that could be installed temporarily on the land in Balnarring.
As I began to gather ideas and reconcile resources and restrictions on time and space, it became clear that a project the scale of River Quiver wasn't going to be achievable. So I began considering what the essential themes of the project were - and use those themes as a starting point for the workshops.
Hence Growing Home. Exploring what ideas of what HOME means to us. How do we create our homes? What elements of ourselves go into that creative process?
The work of German artist Friedenreich Hundertwasser provided a great place to start. Not only could we link our warm up drawing exercises using spirals to his art, but his concept of skins was a useful way to introduce the grade 5-6’s into thinking about the ways we express ourselves though the environments we create. Briefly, the idea we talked about was that one way to understand ourselves and our place in the world is through our skins: epidermis, clothes, home, social environment and the earth.
By asking the students to include elements representing themselves in the design of their own personal environments or cubby constructions, we aimed to extend understanding of their creative process in the building their own worlds. And its a bit of a leap... but extending that experience as a metaphor for life. PHEW.
Art and Philosophy - nailed it.
Community Art Projects in Balnarring and beyond