One definition of creativity describes it as the ability to make new connections between things. How fitting then to have the theme – Art Connects Us – to describe the meeting of so many creative minds at the WAEA 2014 fall conference.
Art teachers are famous for developing innovations and finding alternative uses for just about anything. Most of the small appliances in my house have found their way to my classroom. I don’t know about you, but in my world, hair dryers dry paintings, toaster ovens melt shrinky dinks, blenders make paper pulp, and salad spinners make abstract paintings.
Art innovations based on new connections to materials, people and processes were abundant at the fall conference. The workshop I presented with my art teacher buddy, Tricia Evers, focused on using old tools in new ways, or hammers in the art room. The photographs show teachers engaged in a little hammer time. Another workshop called “slow looking” challenged participants to discuss art with students on a deeper more challenging level. Working with glass mosaics on 3D forms instead of flat surfaces was the process suggested by a pair of experienced glass artists. Another team of teachers presented collaborating across the curriculum with art, English, and math through a single project. Putting a new twist on Zentangle designs in the classroom by using different colors and materials was the hands on focus of another session.
The list of innovations goes on and on. There was something valuable to be learned no matter what workshops conference attendees were a part of. Being exposed to how other art educators do things allows us all to take a closer look at what we do in the classroom and put new life into our methods and lessons. It doesn’t have to be something earth shattering that has never been done before. Simple ideas and tweaks to what we are already doing can make a big difference in student learning.
My favorite comment on the workshop we gave was simply that this is what art was all about – experimenting with materials and having fun. The standards were imbedded in what we were doing, but the most obvious thing in the room was the joy of creating. I hope to be able to continue that pure joy and enthusiasm with my students.