Arts Every Day Process

My first project at MICA’s Center for Design Practice (CDP) involved working with Arts Every Day. They approached the CDP with the challenge of creating a vehicle to promote their program and message of utilizing art integration in the classroom to interested Baltimore City middle schools.

During my freshman year of college, I participated in MICA’s Community Arts Partnership. CAP puts MICA students into Baltimore City schools, youth centers, and other community places. Having lived my entire life in a quiet suburb of Boston, the experience opened my eyes to the reality and difficulties inner city schools face, as well as the poverty and violence which further exacerbates the problem. I worked with a small team of MICA students in a preschool classroom. We were challenged to create and organize lesson plans that synced and enhanced the teacher’s goals for the day. We used drawings, pictures, and colors to teach math, vocabulary, and reading. As I look back now upon my time in that classroom having worked with Arts Every Day, I would say art integration played a major role in our lessons.

When I first heard the brief for the Arts Every Day project, I knew this previous experience with CAP would provide a wealth of insight that I could draw upon to gain a greater understanding and grasp upon our challenge. While working on the project, I remembered my fond memories of elementary school where my teachers brought our studies to life by reenacting Christopher Columbus’s epic voyage and transforming our classroom into the bottom of ocean as we explored the life of crustaceans and tide pool ecosystems. Arts Every Day’s challenge really resonated with me as I realized I couldn’t remember any great memories of learning during my time in middle school.

We began our project with extensive research. First we needed to understand and define for ourselves the concept of art integration. We teamed up with a MICA/MAT faculty member and an arts integration specialist who put our CDP team through lessons that had us thinking and using art integration methods to understand the concept. I felt transported back into my childhood as I cut, folded, and glued construction paper to build a model of how I envisioned art integration working. We visited Baltimore city schools using art integration, observed it in classrooms, and spoke with teachers, art coordinators, local artists, and students about its effect.

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^ We built art integration paper models and discovered that we all looked at the concept differently.

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^ My paper sculpture looked at the idea of capturing knowledge within students through different avenues.

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^ We visited Rowland Park, a successful and fully art integrated middle school in Baltimore City.

When we got to see a local poet inspire a language arts class to stand up and read some extremely personal poems in front of peers and strangers, I realized it wasn’t just poetry being taught. These kids were learning how to be a community, respect one another, embrace differences, and discuss problems with words. Even their own language arts teacher showed true vulnerability and openness to the process as he read a poem about his fear of losing his son to violence and drugs. Personally, I needed only twenty minutes in that classroom to realize what art integration did, how it worked, and its benefits. This fact combined with the rest of our research, told us our vehicle needed to show the concept in action.

We began our brainstorming. Combing through our notes from interviews, a statement made by an art coordinator at a local school stood out. She mentioned how kids often need other tools besides the factual information to retain and comprehend what is being taught. “There is a difference between teaching and educating, and you can find it through the arts,” she told us. We talked a lot about this, how art integration through various forms can help students learn the same information. Our discussion moved onto thinking about “seeing” or comprehending knowledge within oneself, how this process of learning isn’t always noticeable.

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^ Some early sketches/notes/ideas.

^ We began to think about layers of seeing and how to get across our concept.

We decided to use light writing because of its ability to communicate this idea of “seeing” things in new contexts. Using long exposure photography and stop animation we could visually show the difference between teaching and education through light and text. We drew up storyboards and figured out step by step what we were eventually going to shoot. Our team spent fun nights up on the roof moving different size flashlights and glow sticks in the shape of backwards letters and pictures as we took test photos. I’m still extremely proud of our erupting light volcano. We cleaned out Target’s supply of LED flashlights and printed color transparencies to put over their lenses.

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^ Our first test. We attempted to draw letters using different flashlights and various methods.

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Since we wanted our final product to embody art integration, we needed the actual video to show this concept at work. By developing an arts integrated lesson for local middle school students, focusing upon the principles of art and design, we were able involve the students in the filming of our video. Not only did the kids write letters, draw symbols, and create stories through light, but they got to see what happened behind the camera. The energy and mature attitude they brought to the stage took the video to another level. They contributed ideas and worked together tirelessly, making our footage more dynamic.

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^ We discuss composition and design with the local students and prepare for filming day.

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^ The students decided how and what they were going to create out of light.

We edited and cut together the footage. A fellow student and friend of ours produced the music. After showing the video to a few people, we realized a voiceover would strengthen and clarify the overall result. We brought back two of the middle school students to record the voiceovers in MICA’s sound studio. With a few final tweaks the video was complete.

Today, the video is used at training sessions, conferences, and for general promotion. It was also featured at the 2009 end of the year assembly at Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School, where the participating students were recognized and got to speak about their experience.

Check out THE AED VIDEO or learn more about the CENTER FOR DESIGN PRACTICE here.

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