Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being Schooled at Soulcraft by B. Stupp

The post seen below was written by my colleague, art educator extraordinaire!  Enjoy!

Being Schooled at Soulcraft

I entered the Soulcraft educator cohort this past January encouraged by a colleague who expressed her overwhelmingly positive experience.

I am an art educator, have been for 25 years. I am retiring at the end of this year. My selfish interest in Soulcraft was to learn for myself, as an artist, how to make things out of wood. I am a painter and a fiber artist and am interested in how to tie my work with fiber into wood working…but, I am not a sculptor, and I know nothing about wood working. I also am lame at constructing and making something structurally sound. I am all about the form but not so great at the function.

I am already a maker. I understand the intellectual rigor that goes into making something…how in the process of making one must construct content and knowledge, solve problems, and persist to make meaning-the creative thinking process. I love working through this process with my students. At the level I teach, K-3 grade, the kids are wildly creative.

I teach, however, in an environment of non-makers. Making is not valued and domains of learning are compartmentalized to the point that art teaching is marginalized. In this environment, art class is: for students who cannot succeed academically, a planning time for real teachers, not measured with big data so really has no relevance, pretty pictures hung in the halls to make administrators look good to parents.

In this environment, art class is never thought of as a space where students actually learn. Art teachers have some responsibility for this, always scrambling to meet mandates that seem to require art to be measured, like….jeez, I don’t even know. It’s never about innovative ideas to further art education.

So, I am done as an art teacher. I am retiring partly because of this frozen state of art education. I was not sure if this experience at Soulcraft would influence me as a teacher.

It was a tough and chilly January for me and my attendance at Soulcraft was erratic. Each Saturday I was there, Peter and Jim took the time to support my formal ideas and teach me the tools and provide the materials that I needed to realize them. Each educator in the cohort was working on their own project. Each brought their level of skill and knowledge to the studio. I needed a lot of help…but every time I met a block, the community at Soulcraft was always there for help. Each person was working autonomously on their own unique idea. Observing all these ideas and their processes was truly inspirational and taught me even more. Sean, Dave, Morgan, Karen, Julie and others I can’t name…were always willing to answer a question, help find a tool, help me put together my shelves…unbelievable generosity and kindness. The enlightened conversations I have had with this community have been so different from those I have in my work environment and reaffirmed the value of my job as an art educator and maker.

I have taken away much from this experience. First, as an artist, I have a lot more to learn about making things out of wood, a lot more mistakes to make and a lot more questions to ask. I made a simple set of shelves that I installed in my kitchen and they actually function. I crave the ability to make freely at Soulcraft, to use the tools and methods as needed to create. Second, as an art educator, I want to explore the idea of projects that that open out to unexpected possibilities instead of pre-determined channels. I tried this for our art show in March. I had 200 second and third grade students create a project of their choice based on a theme. 200 students working with unique and different ideas and mediums…it was crazy and messy, and so exciting and meaningful. They envisioned their ideas, they explored and stretched mediums, they made mistakes and problem solved….The results were outstanding (I could go on about this, but…time and space.) Third is the idea of creating within a community. I owe so much to the community at Soulcraft for my learning. When my students were creating their projects for the art show, they were so engaged with each other’s ideas and processes. They critiqued each other, they
helped each other. They communicated their assessments and meanings with me and their fellow artists (all quite informally.) It was amazing, a real open studio, artistic, aesthetic experience in the classroom…but no one in this environment noticed…the projects were hung, the students artists’ statements were attached, the halls looked pretty for the administrators and parents, but no one took the time to look and read the individualized ideas of the students…so how do I communicate? This is my soul dilemma in my work environment.

I have been so schooled at Soulcraft.

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