A Visual Arts Club at North-Grand High School Find their Art Voice

 In The CAPE Blog
A Visual Arts Club at North-Grand High School found their art voice and a community to understand their struggles with remote learning.

The 2020-2021 school year was challenging for remote learning and quarantine. Students from the CAPE Visual Arts Club at North-Grand High School met twice per week to make art, listen to music, and celebrate the power of art.

 Big Idea and Inquiry Question

When the club started meeting virtually, there were not a lot of students interested in participating due to the circumstances of the pandemic. However, after some recruitment, the club found a group of students excited to participate. Our teaching artists and teacher team, Tahiry Cuevas, Amanda Moen, and Gwyneth Zeleny Anderson, were guided by the students’ emotions and created a new inquiry question to guide the re-birth of the club.

 The new inquiry questions allowed the students to get to know each other through sharing stories; listening to music; asking each other fun and strange questions; meeting each other’s pets; looking at old childhood pictures of each other; wishing each other happy birthday; celebrating each other’s successes; expressing support for each other through losses, and playing online games together.

The CAPE Visual Arts Club gave Carlos and his classmates to reflect on the inquiry question: how can art help us feel less isolated?

Lone Builds, A Digital Drawing

Carlos reflected on the question and created the digital drawing Lone Builds. He also wrote an artist statement as part of his assignment to communicate how his artwork related to the inquiry question:

“While bringing this virtual piece together, I thought about the feeling of “loneliness,” and how what we see can either emphasize or resonate it back to us. In the drawing, I envisioned a gloomy scenery transmitting lonely characteristics, which I think did, especially the rain I included. What the past year has been for us all is a complete juxtaposition of what the art was trying to convey, as we’ve been required to remain in isolation for certain moments. One can look back on a drawing if you wish, while what happened to us will only be a memory left.” – Carlos

Lone Builds by Carlos, 2021. Digital drawing.

Looking back:

When looking back at this project, our teacher and teaching artist team had the following to share with us:

“The club struggled to have members for most of the school year. Jojo and Edwin were the backbones of the program, often the only teens showing up each week. They created a strong foundation of mutual respect and support, declaring each other best friends despite never meeting in person and relying on Google Translate to communicate. When Ms. Cuevas stepped into co-teach, she recruited some of her algebra students who were profound, poetic, and driven to create, just like Jojo and Edwin!

We also attempted drawing while playing the game Among Us – alternating drawing without looking at the paper and drawing with our non-dominant hand. After about a month of getting to know each other in this larger group, we then focused on our final projects.

Navigating the Spanish/English translation process, and connecting through Latinx cultures, were a significant part of the cultural capital in our club. Most, if not all, of the teens in our program, were of Latinx heritage, and there was a consistent communal effort of making sure one of our students understood what was going on, as he’s learning English. In general, a sharing of knowledge of Mexican, El Salvadorean, Cuban, and Puerto Rican musicians, celebration traditions, and cuisine were important parts of connection within the group – especially music artists. Often students would be happily surprised that another student also listened to a certain musician.”

The students had fun creating, reflecting, and connecting virtually. What was your favorite part of this classroom story?  Let us know in the comments below.

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