Happy New Year!
From: Reta Rickmers
I was pleased to be asked by NAEA to write a blog but before I committed to it I had to ask my friends and colleagues if they thought I had anything to write about and they immediately suggested I write about my community collaborations. This is my first attempt at writing a blog so I am exploring unchartered territory. Thinking back over my 27 years of teaching high school art, I think the most important thing I have learned is that if art transcends the classroom in some way it has magnified meaning for the students. When art intersects community it makes a powerful connection. In order to find ways for my students to have these experiences I have collaborated with parents, teachers, our local university, local artists, art galleries and museums, former students and state and local organizations in the form of grants. As art teachers I think it is common for us to fear that the art our students are making is not relevant enough. Over the next month I will share with you some of the ways I have collaborated with different groups to avoid this problem and what I have learned from writing and managing grants for my program.
For me it all starts with networking. I started years ago to look for ways to enrich my program, The Art Studio @ PVHS. The Art Studio is a two or three year in-depth art program that was originally funded by the California Department of Education’s Secondary Specialized Program grant. At the beginning of school, I ask my students to get a photo release form signed by their parents with a parent email address required. This allows me to publicize our activities in the local paper and I also to send a newsletter to parents with photos to let them know what we are doing.
When we do community-oriented projects or events, I let everyone know, including my superintendent. By doing this, my program is known about town. Consequently, people contact me to donate supplies or to offer possible projects.
An early project offer was to create life-size mosaic fish that inhabit the Sacramento River to be installed at the base of a sound wall public art project next to our high school. All of my classes were involved in this project for two weeks. These permanent mosaics are now part of our City of Chico Public Art Portfolio.
Through my connection with the mosaic artists that worked with us, I was able to have my students create mosaics as class projects on four concrete benches at our school.
The students took great pride in creating something that would be a permanent part of our high school campus. They were required to collaborate in small groups and with the entire class to create a strong design. “Buy in” was incredible with students who came to school on Saturday to grout the benches. And, that is what we seek—art making that is relevant to our students, that provides opportunity for growth, and inspires them to do more.