A few years ago I participated in a program that helped prepare dancers to be dance educators. As a culminating activity at the end of the first year, each of the participants had to create and facilitate a class related to some aspect of dance. All of the classes involved movement but many involved more than one art form often combining visual art, poetry, and spoken word. These classes were designed to appeal to non-dancers and dancers alike so many of the participants had limited movement experience. This is the beauty of co-creation.
Something that consistently struck me was how beautiful many of the dances or pieces of art were that we created together even if each part was simple without a high level of technical difficulty and without a great level of skill in that art form. Beautiful art can be created by people with little skill if each person does her part with intention and care. I was reminded of that today when I started to assemble the cooperative visual art piece created by my kindergarteners.
Recently one of those kindergarten students complained that what we were doing wasn’t art and inspired my article last week about students who challenge you and make you think. After stepping back today and admiring the culmination of their hard work, I can’t wait for that particular student to see what he was a part of creating. Perhaps this will help him understand that what he was doing was in fact art and that together with his classmates he made something greater than he could have made on his own.
Since the California Visual Art standards call for kindergarten students to use lines, shapes/forms, and colors to make patterns and to use geometric shapes/forms in a work of art, we used the work of an artist named Bruce Bodden to inspire our cooperative piece. Bruce Bodden uses basic geometric shapes to create everything from clouds and sky to grass and trees.
My kinders created a grove of trees using patterns with colors, shapes and lines. They were given a template of a pine tree composed of triangles and an oval tree divided up into squares. In the pine tree they created a pattern with color. In the oval tree they created a pattern with shapes and lines. Against a backdrop of grass and sky made of different colored green and blue triangles respectively which they colored, the students chose one of the their two trees to place on our cooperative piece.
Individually the trees vary in their degree of technical merit but together, they are a thing of beauty. It is a great reminder to me that cooperative art-making can be a powerful and empowering experience. Next week my kinders will get to learn that too!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.