The Art Mobile started the new year strong with a visit to the state capitol during the meeting of the legislature. With the help of two board members, Penny Price-Swanson and Bob Worthy, the mobile gallery was set up in the beautiful rotunda where we could chat with passing Senators, State Representatives, and other capitol visitors.
Our goal was to spread the word about the Art Mobile of Montana. With support from local politicians, we hope to reach more and more students every year. Because of our grants from the Montana Arts Council, we know that state support is vital to our continuing service to arts education in Montana.
The lovely Rep. Susan Webber from House District 16 stopped by to show her support for the Art Mobile. She is pictured here with work by Lauren Monroe (top left), "Bulbs" by Bev Beck Glueckert (top right). Below are "These Boots" by Cathryn Sugg (bottom left) and "Choose Your Own Adventure: We Told Her Not To," by Rebecca Weed.
Rep. Jean Price (HD 24) was kind enough to introduce me to the House. Doing so encouraged members to stop by and talk with us. Also pictured here is Dennis Parman, Executive Director of Montana Rural Education Association. We were very glad to meet him and hope that we can work together in the future to serve rural communities.
Thursday morning, November 18th, I drove to West Glacier from Whitefish where I stayed the night. The sixth graders helped me unpack the van. It's always so helpful when students are available to help!
West Glacier Elementary had requested a Native American art lesson, so I designed a ledger art inspired project. Students use old homework to depict images of major events in their life. By doing so they reflect on the images that are traditionally depicted in ledger art. In our collection this year we carry three ledger pieces, by artists John Pepion, Gordon Henry, and Lauren Monroe.
In the morning I taught a half-hour presentation to the kindergarten through second graders, followed by a short art lesson. The kids had a great time!
We then had 3rd-6th graders come for a single presentation, then they split into two for the subsequent two classes. The third and fourth graders especially took the assignment very seriously and we finished early enough for them to present their work to the class if they wanted to. One little girl, Aspen, drew a picture of a time she had almost drowned. When she presented it to the class, she and the other students very maturely had a question/answer segment, where her peers raised their hands to praise her work and ask questions. Although these students were very young they demonstrated very wise behavior, and at the end of Aspen's presentation everyone applauded for her.
Leah Grunzke, the educational director for the Lewistown Art Center, brought The Art Mobile of Montana to Lewistown for two days on October 18th and 19th. On the first day we invited Denton Elementary to join us for a presentation and an art class. They brought eleven students from kindergarten through third grade. All of the kids were so well behaved, I don’t think a single one talked without raising their hand.
The art piece that got the most interest was Rebecca Weed’s “Choose Your Own Adventure: We Told her Not To.” One little boy went off, very seriously, on a whole story about how the girl in the painting was biking and got hit by lightning, etc. The rest of the students were just as involved
Their teacher, Ms. Econom, said that during this presentation she "learned how to properly question primary age students about art in a way that has them making higher-level connections." We do our best to reach students in a way they don't often experience. Pushing them to question the images and messages in art expands their empathy and imaginations.
After our presentation we did an art project modeled after Mimi Matsuda's "Bike Rack." The project involves thinking about personification. Using a combination of oil pastels and chalk pastel, we draw an animal doing something that only humans can do. During the project, the same boy who had taken Weed's drawing so seriously drew a tiger. After finishing the teeth on his tiger he said, “There, now he’s devastating.”
The two teachers were supportive and happy with the day and suggested I visit the high school later this year.
The Lewistown Art Center is a very well-run, active art center that offers three different weekly after-school art classes for local students. School buses will even drop the students off at the Art Center on those days. Lewistown is a happy, healthy art community and it was a pleasure to visit.
Alberton K-12 School- Alberton, MT
During the high school presentation, Courtney brought in a large drawing she had recently finished. The students were glued to it as she presented. Her intricate details and creepy undertones prompted questions. The piece Courtney brought in illustrates the tragic story of the Donner Party. Many of Courtney’s drawings include stories of children and their bravery. In this drawing, you will find a girl the age of 11 with a doll and bible sewn into her dress. “This girl here was a real whippersnapper. Her name was Patty Reed. She was one of the survivors of the journey and to keep some her most prized possessions, she sewed them into her dress. Patty not only survived, but lived to be 89. She provided many first-hand accounts in the recorded history of that disaster.” There are other details in the drawing that hint to larger ideas about western expansion and manifest destiny. Below the children’s feet in her illustration there is a toy elephant. “I put this elephant in here as small toy, but it’s part of a larger story referring to Seeing the Elephant. Seeing the Elephant is a phrase that comes from early pioneers believing they might see an elephant in the west. People actually thought there were elephants and wooly mammoths roaming the west,” Courtney told the students. Courtney then described her process. She typically spends about 30 hours researching her topic. After she researches the story, she creates a small thumbnail sketch. From the sketch she fluidly starts illustrating the story in abstract and literal ways. The large drawing she brought in took her about 80 hours. Alberton high school students were amazed and responded well to the Courtney’s talk.
Coincidentally, one of Jo’s art classes had been working on drawings based on Courtney’s work. In the assignment, students were to illustrate a story either from one they found or created. Jo asked Courtney if she could visit her class in the art room to participate in an in-progress critique of their drawings. It was a small class of about 6 students. Students took turns putting their art on the white board for us to examine. Courtney gave out advice and compliments to each student. One student commented on how she can’t quite figure out the nose of her wolf. Courtney offered advice, “Do you think you can ignore it for just a little longer? For me, sometimes I need to add more information to the entire drawing before I can resolve some of the small details.” As a group, we tried to interpret the stories of each drawing. One student was making up her story as she went along. “New animals and weird things keep popping up. I’m actually kind of stressed out right now and some of the stories I’m making up as I go are about that.” Courtney was glad to see the student artwork and Ms. Jo was ecstatic to have the artist present with her students. Courtney will be showing at the Missoula Art Museum this October and Jo has already confirmed she’s bringing her students in to see it!
Swan Valley Elementary- Condon, MT
The K-8 school in Condon has about 30 students. We had one presentation and lesson with the entire school. All of the students were thrilled to see this year’s art. I asked them if they had remembered some of the art from last year. One student remembered “Rock, Paper, Scissors” an artwork by Stephen Glueckert. Another student recalled the recycled dress from Jo Nasvik. It’s always fun to ask students from schools we revisit about artwork from the year before. I’m always amazed by how much the students remember. It goes to show how impactful the art mobile visits are for students and how much they look forward to them each year. After recalling last year’s art, I asked the students if they could tell me why they make art. One first grader answered with this, “Well, you can start with one small dot and then that dot can turn into anything in your imagination.”
After the presentation, I lead the envelope mixed media project with the students. There is a small writing portion to the project, so one of the kindergartner’s had help from his teacher in spelling. The kindergartener’s three favorite things were.. “1. Design 2. Building things 3. Testing things.” The students were all so creative in how they utilized their envelope.