The above video is of Donald Glover performing on Saturday Night Live two weekends ago. He did a phenomenal job, not surprisingly. Since about 2011, I have been heavily following his career. So much so, that his music and videos were a major inspiration to my MFA thesis preparation and eventually my thesis exhibit. This multi-talented genius, who goes by the stage name of Childish Gambino, has just released a new video called, "This is America". It is complex and layered and violent and exciting. And it is the first piece of artwork that I have seen created about the atmosphere in the States that adequately matches the times. There is turmoil, there is death, there is hunger, and there is escapism. I've linked to the original video above, and included the SNL version below. Enjoy both. Perhaps use these videos as a point of reflection or as a conversation starter.
Escapism is a lot of what my artwork focuses on . . . Both in the work I do with community, and in the work I do in my classroom and personally. This does not mean that I advocate running away from issues, or not engaging in conflict or hard conversations. What this means is that I truly believe that you can refocus negative realities into positive ones. Obviously some issues are harder to do this with then others--and it takes a lot of hard work. But to progress in our personal lives and the collective lives of communities, we need to express our dreams and hopes and laughter. We need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And sometimes we need that light to focus on even if the tunnel is incredibly long . . .
Parades are a great way to celebrate community, blow off some steam, and escape into this strange land where you become part of the art piece. Literally: people from all walks of life line the streets and you are there in the center of it all, waving and dancing around, and shaking loud, colorful things at them. And they cheer you on and yell out your name. It's really so very bizarre.
But I love it so very much!!
You're Maker was hired by the City of Thomasville to make one of their parade floats. And, I was hired by You're Maker to facilitate the process. I thought it would be more inviting to participants if the workshops were free. So the city paid me and we capped the participation at 15.
The theme of the parade was volunteerism. So, we themed all of the workshops around community and volunteers. We made noisemakers and hula hoops, banners and flags and cardboard speakers. The flags had words on them that the students came up with them that stood for something in the community. Like "polite" and "peace" and "give". I wrote more about the first two workshops here.
The students loved it!!
Since the theme was about volunteerism, the students came up with the idea to turn that theme into "helping hands". So we decided to make giant cardboard hands in all different formations. Hands somehow led us to "volunteers rock", then the kids would dress up as "rockers", and so forth and so on . . .
So since we were all going to be "rockers" for the parade, we decided to turn a bunch of boxes into speakers. And while we were on the float, going down the street, we played Poison and Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe as loud as we could! It was oddly fun and reminded me of my high school days.
The trailer was borrowed and smaller than I expected. But we made it work! Using plastic fencing and zip ties, we covered the entire thing in strips of fabric. At various times while we were working on it, we would alternate between calling it a unicorn chariot and the trash trailer. I enjoyed both perspectives!
We were in two parades, so this is a combination of pics from both days. One of the parades was just for the younger aged community members. So lots of preschools and organizations that cater to junior kindergarten kiddos.
The next day was the BIG parade. It involved organizations from all over the city. All ages and all kinds! It was incredibly crowded and there was even a grandstand where we were announced and VIP's cheered us!
Another community event that my kids' artwork was featured in were the window displays at The Bookshelf in downtown Thomasville. In November, I emailed Miss Annie at the store and asked her if she would be interested in featuring student work in the windows as we got closer to the summertime.
She said yes. And when she said yes, I thought: this could be a really great lesson on presentation and learning about design through preliminary drawings and customer need. I had the students work in groups and draw design ideas based on the following words: discovery, imagination, and exploration.
So in late January, when Miss Annie and I reconnected about this idea, I invited her out to the school to hear the student groups present their ideas to her. She gave them constructive feedback and told them what she was looking for . . .
Twice she came to school, both time listening to each class and giving feedback. We were so incredibly thankful for her time!!
(The Bookshelf is a very busy store!! 😱)
After lots of discussion with the homeroom teachers, I decided to combine the students' drawings into one idea. I had the groups pick out two parts of their drawings that they wanted to keep. Then, we set out to make bigger versions of those chosen ideas.
We installed one window one week, and the next window the following week. Whats really exciting is that the work stayed up for a whole month, and was featured during Children's Book Week and Indie Bookstore Weekend. Yeeehawww!
What surprised me was how tiny the window storefront actually was . . . When I told the kids that we needed to work LARGE, I probably should've said we need to work medium. I had no trouble filling up the windows, as you can see. And I even used some books and toys from the shop to accent the artwork, which I loved!
I just love cardboard, y'all. If my students and I could make EVERYTHING ON THE PLANET out of cardboard, I would make it happen. I totally would!
Thank you so much for letting me share these two big projects with you! Up next, my very last post for the Brookwood School and an interview with an art teacher and puppeteer straight out of Pittsburgh! XO