Editor’s Note: This post is in response to Letter to Ardina: 4th Graders and Re-Contextualization
Teaching artist work is full of challenges and I empathize with your choice to keep the Cattelan piece as your key artwork. I also felt that Cattelan’s work made connection to the project my students would be doing. Since my students will be making site-specific sculpture I felt that it made sense for the class to look at Cattelan’s site-specific installation for the Guggenheim.
A few weeks ago I showed my students a photograph of this installation from one point-of-view and rather than speak about the individual sculptures we focused our conversation on the installation and it’s relationship to the Guggenheim building. This was an important conversation to have because my students will need to think about the design of their work in relation to the school garden. Last week my students visited the Guggenheim and I received great feedback from the educators, one educator wrote:
“When I asked them their favorite work — most loved Cattelan! They did not see anything disturbing or provocative but loved the idea that it was chaotic and can be interpreted in many ways.”
A challenge that I’m working through is how to be resourceful with my materials budget. This year my residency is allotted $1,140.00 for 20 weeks; that equals approximately $12.50 per student. The reason the budget is especially challenging this year is because I would like the students to help me choose the materials we will use for the final sculpture. In order for them to be able to do this, they will need to experience and test different materials so that they can develop opinions about materials and make thoughtful choices.
To work through this problem I have been making a point to find free materials. I knew the materials should withstand weather so I started looking for things like wood, plastic, tile, metal, and found objects. I visited Materials for the Arts (MFTA), a warehouse managed by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs that provides free discarded materials to non-profit educational institutions, and I contacted different departments at the museum to locate unwanted items. I was able to secure scrap wood from the museum’s framing department and found additional wood as well as other things in bins at MFTA. Finally, I rummaged through my own closets and found a surprising amount of materials just hanging around.
In the meantime, my students have continued to explore composition and we have begun to test materials. In October we placed tests outside that were able to experience sun, rain, and snow, all in one week! From this, we have been able to determine that Gorilla Glue is better than Liquid Nails, wood to wood sticks better than tile to wood, and that the most expensive tile paint at Michael’s lasts the longest.
I have included a few pictures (above) that show some things we’ve been working on: materials tests, paper exploration, paper shape sculpture, plastic shape sculpture, and wood construction drawings.
Hope you had a great birthday week!