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  • Writer's pictureMakalla Shernick

Generating Ideas

Saturday March 4, 2023

When students came into class, most of them began working on their Zines. Every week for the first 10 minutes of class is reserved for students to choose what they would like to work on. I expect as time goes on there will be a larger variety of students engaging in different forms of artmaking. This time is also beneficial in giving space for students to revisit past projects to reinforce a modality of self-evaluation and reflection as an integral part of the artistic process.

As I walked around the classroom, I took notice of where everyone was at in terms of completion. Most of the Zines I saw were nearly complete. An interesting think I have noticed about this age group is that if they are unsure of how to proceed in their work, they will often sit silently and do nothing. One student I observed seemed to be in this ‘stuck’ state in her Zine project. After getting an idea of what she was going for, I referenced the identity map we completed on the first day. I modeled verbally how she might use the concept of mind mapping to further develop her ideas. Soon after, I noticed her making significant progress with her work.

As it turns out, idea generation was the theme for the rest of the entire class. Students were introduced to their collaborative project through watching and responding to Ellen Griesedieck’s American Mural Project. This collaborative work is the largest indoor mural in the world, with over 50,000 individual contributions. This mural was important to show to students so that they may consider working three dimensionally when inevitably approach their two dimensional panels.

After the video, Caroline led a thoughtful discussion with the students. Some questions we asked were:

  • What was the theme of this mural? Were there any other themes you saw?

  • What things did you like or find interesting about this mural? How does it compare to other murals you have seen?

  • Why do you think this mural was created collaboratively?

The most successful format for asking questions was when we grouped students into pairs to discuss the last question amongst themselves before being prompted for an answer. This was a unique experience in that we heard from students who haven’t spoken up yet in the larger class discussion. I am interested to use this format for discussion in future lessons, and to see if this changes our larger whole-class discussions.

After being introduced to the idea of collaboration in artmaking, students began generating their own ideas for their large two panel collaborative project. We started by generating ideas as a class and putting those ideas onto the whiteboard. As students contributed ideas, I modeled how to make connections between different ideas and relate them to a larger theme. After modeling, I would prompt students to explain how they might connect their contribution to what is already on the board. After lots of different ideas were generated, the class decided together what three potential ideas they would like to explore further.

The three themes identified and chosen were Fantasy, Time, and Societal Expectations. We spent a total of around 30 minutes fleshing out those themes. Students, in groups based on their table, would spend 5 minutes at one idea before moving to the next. This way, each group was able to visit the same idea twice. This resulted in, as one student put it, time for their “minds to flow with ideas.” An unexpected result from this was the copious amounts of non-verbal communication that was happening. Students were commenting “I like this idea” or responding visually to one another’s ideas/drawings.

Once lots of ideas were put down for each theme, we gave each student a marble that represented their ‘voting power.’ Fantasy one almost unanimously, save four votes for Time. We spent the majority of class on this activity, leaving only a mere 10 minutes to create a plan on our scaled down ‘mock-ups’ of the two panels. To my utter shock, as soon as soon as given the ‘go,’ students began working fast to get their plan together. Some students created 3D objects out of paper like small books, or eyes with beads. Others repurposed original drawings that were made during the time spent brainstorming. There were even a few who took cutouts from magazines. The atmosphere of the room was alive and buzzing.

Collaboration in art is not the primary modality of artists within the western tradition. Most art is completed alone, or at least from the mind of one individual. Even ‘collaborative’ works commonly seen in school settings often feel contrived and lacking in creative expression. Experimenting with collaboration in this way is exciting grounds for breaking from traditional means of artmaking in a multitude of ways. I would say this was a very successful introduction to collaboration in artmaking. I am excited to see how this project develops as they work on their panels for the next seven weeks.

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