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INDOOR SCULPTURE GARDEN
by Debi West
Have you ever thought about how cool it would be to have your students build an indoor sculpture garden? I remember a few years ago when our city of Suwanee, Georgia, started their very own “Sculpt-tour” (www.suwanee.com/whatsnew.sculptour.php) and
I would have loved to incorporate this community event into my 3D art curriculum, but at the time, it seemed daunting. I let it rest until a few years ago. when I realized my kids really could successfully turn this vision into reality!
MY INTRO 3D STUDENTS are required to create and present 3D master sculpture PowerPoints and teach each other about artists they are inspired by. They use a 3D artist research handout (available on A&A Online) that guides them about which artists to consider and a few important facts on each artist.
This is a fun way to teach art history in that students are researching and presenting and I’m not just standing up front lecturing for days. These presentations have been very successful through the years.
Several years ago, I had two very strong classes that took their presentations to the next level. The students dove into the research and imparted a lot of great knowledge to their peers (and me!). When they were done presenting, I asked them what they thought about creating their own indoor sculpture garden. They were intrigued!
As I explained my vision (sort of making up the lesson as I went), I told the kids they could work in groups (as they had done in their presentations) and each group would be required to create a life-sized sculpture in the style of their master artist. They were hooked! I reminded them that the lesson wasn’t about copying the work exactly, but springboarding off of specific elements found in the master artist’s works.
THAT FIRST YEAR, there weren’t many guidelines. Students could use any media they felt comfortable with, so there was a lot of choice involved. I reminded them that they needed to consider their armatures, since the final piece had to stand on its own and be at least 4 feet tall.
I told them it would be nice if I could tell who the master artist was before I read their research sign. They had three weeks of class time to plan, experiment and create their sculptures. They completely threw themselves into the project and created incredible sculptures. Then, we set them up in the main commons area of our school building, creating our very first “North Gwinnett High School Indoor Sculpture Garden!”
The last day of the assignment, we took group tours and each artist group explained their process and smiled with joy knowing they worked hard on something that was garnering a lot of attention in the school!
Of course, I posted images of my students in process work and their final sculptures on social media. After seeing the posts, Suwanee City Hall contacted me to ask about exhibiting 12 of these sculptures in their building over the summer! I said “YES!”
This lesson provided students with the freedom to take their creativity to new places; plus, it became a wonderful advocacy tool for our art program.
We completed a second year of this project and again, my students didn’t disappoint. Twelve of the sculptures were exhibited at City Hall over the summer. I know this lesson is a keeper!
Next up … Nevelson Inspired Recycled Collaborative Mural!
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Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Debi West recently retired from her job as department chair and art educator at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She owns and operates WESTpectations Educational Consulting. She and her husband now reside in Hilton Head, South Carolina.