Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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January 09, 2017

Community Collaboration: Phoenix Fashion Show

From: Reta Rickmers

A more recent foray into the community came in the form of a fashion show in April 2016. Inspired by Project Runway and local fashion group Chikoko, I decided to venture into the unknown by challenging my 2 classes of Art Studio students to create wearable art out of recycled, upcycled, or unusual materials. I love fashion - you should see my closet! I’m addicted to Project Runway and I like to pretend I’m Tim Gunn: “just make it work!”

The creations were not meant to be functional but had to be able to get down the runway and back. Students could work alone or in groups up to four. If working in a group of four they had to produce 2 fashions. The entire project took 3 weeks from introduction to the runway show. I had thought about doing this project for years before, finally, I was motivated by this specific group of students, many which were second, third or even 4th year students of mine. These students seemed to me to be able to meet this challenge because they were creative, enthusiastic and self-motivated students.

As in introduction to the project and as part of my art service learning requirement, I had 20 students help back stage at the October Chikoko Fashion Show. This created much excitement for our show. 

In March student teams reviewed their individual strengths and decided on the roles they would play. They also had to decide on materials and begin collecting them. One student was our sound person, another our videographer, another our stage manager. Someone from each team had to model the fashions or they had to find someone to model. We had all body, gender, and personality types as models. Students worked together to brainstorm and draw their designs before beginning construction.

Photo #1

Most of the students had never used a sewing machine. I brought in a brand new, but simple sewing machine and told the students it was up to them to learn to use it. Some students who had experience taught other students and one former student brought in her sewing machine and gave sewing lessons and lent a helping hand because she had heard about our project. Sewing was not required. We used over 500 hot glue gun glue sticks to get 27 works of art down the runway.

Rickmers photo #2

Fashion #3

I received a small mini grant of $200 from our local Arts for All arts booster group that allowed me to give money to students to help procure materials, but many didn’t need it as we had bins of fabric donated to us and most of the materials were recycled. Garbage bags, aluminum foil, papier Mache, spray paint, balloons, paper, fabric, beads, jewelry, plastic bottles, bottle caps, tarps, zip-ties, plastic table clothes, plastic bags, shells, paint, ribbon, twigs, playing cards, remade dresses, fabric scraps, bottle caps, popcorn bags, cardboard, duct tape, plastic flowers, tissue paper, lace doilies, broken CDs, film slides, magazine and old books pages were employed in amazingly creative ways.

We had three themes emerge: The elements, fun and fantasy, and spring prints. Teams were responsible for hair, make up, and accessories such as jewelry and shoes.

Photo #4

Photo #5

We secured a location for the event, rented a catwalk, sold tickets, enlisted the help of parents, asked a dance troupe and the school jazz band to perform, and we had a dress rehearsal. We sold out the event and raised money for an art scholarship. The students were incredible! The community was supportive. Our fashion show combined teamwork, creative thinking, and problem solving with the changing role of the teacher from expert to coach. It was the favorite day in my teaching career.

I will be giving a presentation at NAEA in New York 2017 on Phoenix, a fashion show created by high school students using unusual materials. Hope to see you there!

Photo #6



Linda Elliott

What an amazing day this was! Incredible and a perfect example of community.

Lori Stevens

Can't wait for the annual show again this year! :o)

Tanis Skislak

What a wonderful experience. Their expressions were evocative. My only cautionary comment is to be careful of the lengths with the audience so low to the stage. Too many potential woo-woo moments. I loved the whole thing!

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