Friday, April 03, 2009

The Brackett School Annual Concert and Art Show 2009

This year's art exhibit, The Art and Music of Central America, was a big success thanks to the hard work of students and the support of Brackett staff and families. As always, many thanks for your ongoing support and appreciation!

Costa Rica/Panama
As part of the Kindergarten curriculum, students recently began a unit on clay and its sculptural properties. Students were first given oil-based clay to experiment with the many ways clay can be manipulated. This was done as a class, in a succession of steps, guided by the teacher.
The following week, students looked at two examples of animal sculpture: one carved from wood and another from earthen clay, the latter of which originated in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. Students were asked to compare the differences and to look for how the artists used texture to convey a greater likeness to the animals featured in the artworks. Kindergarteners then discussed the rainforest, where sections of it can be found in the Central American countries of Costa Rica and Panama, and the kinds of wildlife that can be found there.
Students were then introduced to earthen clay and instructed to use the “pinch” method of clay manipulation to form a rainforest animal of their choosing, from the clay. They were also encouraged to use pottery tools to create appropriate textures in the surface of their sculptures.

El Salvador/Nicaragua/Honduras
Grade One
Students in the first grade have been learning how artists depict people in motion in both paintings and sculptures. For this lesson, first graders were first shown examples of figurative sculptures such as The Blackberry Woman by Richmond Barthe in 1932. Students were led to notice how an artist  will position various parts of the body depending on their activity, to depict the person's movement.
 Students were then shown actual examples of Sorpresas which had been collected during travels to Central America. Sorpresas, which translated to mean “surprises” in English, are tiny sculptures depicting Central American people in daily life activities, and can be found in many countries in Central America. The surprise, which are the sculptures, themselves, are revealed when the sculpture's ceramic cover is removed. The cover usually pertains to the person's activity as depicted in the sculpture.
 First graders were instructed to model a small sculpture from colored modeling clay based on a person engaged in some daily activity. Results ranged from shoveling snow to watching television. Some students chose to represent themselves in a scene from their own life. Students were then given a styrofoam cup to decorate and use as the cover for their sorpresas-inspired sculptures.

Grade Two
For this lesson, students in the second grade were introduced to a unique practice of puppet making which occurs in Nicaragua every December. In the Spanish colonial city of ‘León Santiago de los Caballeros’, there can be can be found Gigantonas (female giants) and Enanos Cabezones (Big-headed Dwarves), which are processional figures that are the result of mixing of indigenous and Spanish cultures. These puppets march in parades and dance in the streets while musicians play drums well into the month's nights.
Students were informed that the gigantonas represent the Spanish colonialists who held power in Nicaragua for several centuries. The enanos, on the other hand, represent the shorter, native people of the country. Their large heads symbolize the intelligence and resourcefulness of the indigenous Nicaraguans in the face of political conflict.
While actual people dance beneath the puppet structure of the giants and dwarves, second graders were instructed to design a dancing puppet on a stick. These puppets would have moving parts and students were required to take such consideration into their design plans. Some students modeled their puppets after themselves, while others created more fantastical creatures such as robots and aliens.

Grade Three
For this lesson, students in the third grade took an imagery trip to Guatemala, the home of many descendants of the ancient Maya people. Students were given an introduction to some of the major stylistic characteristics of Mayan artwork, as well as a brief historical introduction to their culture and the changes brought about by the Spanish Conquest.
Students learned that many people of Maya heritage today still practice some of the ancient arts of their ancestors, particularly weaving, as it remained untouched and unchanged by Spanish colonialism. Students also learned that traditional garments woven and worn by many people living in rural areas of southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize are comprised of special stitches that tell the stories, folklore and religious beliefs of the ancient Mayas. These stitches are often personalized by different weavers, but remain largely intact, differing only slightly, which serve as a unique method of identification of the maker of the garment.
Students were given a worksheet to help them plan the design of their own stitches of special meaning. Results varied widely. Some reflected the personal identity and interests of the student, while others were designed to represent the forces of nature and animal life.

El Salvador
Grade Four
For this lesson, students in the fourth grade were introduced to a brief history of El Salvador, from the Spanish Conquest to the years following the Salvadoran Civil War in 1980-1992. Because of the country's long history of conflict and warfare, Salvadoran communities remain in a state of rebuilding and restructuring. Students learned that many cities, towns and villages in El Salvador have had ongoing mural projects for a variety of reasons. Some murals have helped improve the appearance of towns and buildings still in a state of reconstruction. Others have been painted to depict feelings and reactions in response to events that have occurred over the past few decades. Some have been painted as memorials to remember those who suffered or sacrificed trying to bring peace to El Salvador. The result of most murals has been a sense of pride and increased morale for the citizens of such communities.
Students were shown two groups of Salvadoran murals: those from the civil war years, and those painted after the civil war. They were asked to compare and contrast the two groups of paintings, while paying close attention to the use symbolism used in the murals.
Fourth graders were then assigned into small groups and instructed to work together to design a mural on the theme of community, which they were allowed to interpret in any number ways, ranging from the Peirce School community to the greater global community. The use of symbolism was also encouraged.

Grade Five
For this lesson, students in the fifth grade were shown various examples of the traditional craft of Mexican tin work, a process in which a thin piece of metal is cut, etched and/or hole-punched into a textural design, often to decorate functional objects such as picture frames. After explaining the process and functionality of this craft, fifth graders were shown several examples of contemporary artists who have been inspired and influenced by the materials and subject matter of Mexican folk art, and how they incorporated those elements into their work. Students were also introduced to the Mexican craft of Milagros, which means “miracles” in English. While not made of tin, this tiny silver charms are an important item in the religious belief system of many Mexican people. They can symbolize any important element of a person's life. Students were instructed to design a personal symbol to represent themselves in some way, inspired by the powerful simplicity of the milagros. After creating a symbol in relief from thin cardboard, students were able to incorporate the decorative elements of the tin work by covering the cardboard with tin foil and using a stylus stick to etch designs into the surface.