Even though making art is sometimes an active physical activity it doesn’t hurt to define the time or enhance the mood for creativity.
By Nifodora Krumrie [Nifodora is the director of The Scarlet Macaw Community Arts Center in Sawyer, MI]
I have found that even though making art is sometimes an active physical activity it doesn’t hurt to define the time or enhance the mood for creativity. Whether you are an Art-on-a-cart Instructor or the lone Classroom Teacher, below are a few simple extras that will allow you to utilize your environment to the creative max! It is never to late in the year to give this process a try, but starting it sooner, is all the better. And if your students are in their teens you can probably bet that they need to practice this simple ritual even more then the little ones do.
We all know that rules and regulations are what school is all about and breaking the rules and thinking outside the box is what creativity/art is all about. But how can you go about accomplishing both without loosing control of your audience? I have found that as a facilitator of creativity, ritual around the artmaking process, is itself a key. “Oh no,” I can hear you think, “more work for me!” Well, yes and no. A little bit of extra effort in the beginning, will provide you with major payoffs later on. Especially if you are going to be working with these children for more than one year.
Discuss personal space with your students. In a packed classroom, this is often the most difficult thing for individuals to accomplish. But keep in mind that it is also the most important. Have students stand with their arms bent and elbows out to the sides, or standing with arms out, or by just using the space of the students own desk, depending on your environment. Establish whichever space fits, as each students personal space. Let the students know that the personal space rule must be honored at all times! In a creative environment this simple limit setting process helps to stop the meandering, demeaning and completive comments and vandalism of student work that can occur.
Dump the negative! There is no such thing as “I can’t!” or “This is ugly!” In the real world there is a place for all kinds of art. (References to Outsider Art, which has a huge money making market of its own, works well here.) It is easiest to have a “Negative 15 Seconds” before you begin your introduction to the days artistic task. This can be done, if you are lucky enough to have your own art room, by having students dump their negatives outside your doorway before they come into the Art Room. The first few weeks you may have to meet them just outside the door and allow them to vocalize their own (appropriate) negatives. If you are coming into the classroom or if the art tasks are performing in the class they are already in, have your students stand raise their arms above their heads and shake their hands hard and fast in the air, while vocalizing their negatives as loud as they can. This way they shake off all of the garbage that they are carrying around with them from the beginning of the day.
Now here comes the toughy! With careful planning on your part, you need to have:
A simmering pot for aroma.
A CD player for music.
While students are dumping their negatives you can turn these both on. Or if you are lucky enough to have an Art Room, you can keep these two critical things going all the time.
Any kind of small electric simmering pot is great. Don’t go out and buy anything expensive, keep it simple and cheep. Place the pot on a ceramic tile slightly larger then the pot and then place them both on the surface where it will sit, fill the pot with water, add 6-10 whole cloves and a couple of cinnamon sticks, plug it in and you’re good to go! Don’t get fancy fragrances, you don’t always know who has has allergies! Through years of trial and error, I have found that this simple and inexpensive apple pie combination perfect for the job.
As for the CD player, sound IS important! Ideally classical music has been hailed as the most creatively stimulating, but it also varies greatly in tempo and what you need to create is an air of safe ambiance. I am avidly promoting the Windham Hill, Narada samplers or other such New Age music collections. This sound should stay softly in the background, and because it is usually unfamiliar to children, there is not a lot of argument about what tune to play next.
Well, now that the hard parts are over introduce the day’s task, oversee your budding students progress and remember to keep the negatives out the door. And that goes for YOU TOO! During the creative process there is no such thing as “that’s wrong, too bad”, “you shouldn’t” and “do it again!” Just let the students collect all of their “oops'” and have them cut, tear or disassemble them into a new work of art at the end of the term by creating a recycled collage or greeting cards. After all that’s what artists really do. Remember if some students are having a bad day let them repeat the Negative 15 Second ritual, one at a time, by having them step outside the door while you monitor them and the 15 seconds. This allows the already engaged students to continue their work.