love front porch

I show my high school students a video at the beginning of our art class each day. The Artist of the Day video allows me to take the kids on a quick art adventure outside our classroom walls. Last week, I found this video by artist Vanessa German in Homewood, PA. She takes her art making out on her front porch and builds community with the children and adults that live in her neighborhood. An advocate of love and art, we were powerfully inspired by Vanessa’s art and her mission. I want to spread her vision and the courage that she has – each one of us has the power to spread love and make the world a better place.  You can find out more about her art and her project at her website:


San Antonio’s Chalk it Up Art Festival

Chalk it up 1

San Antonio has hosted a community art event called Chalk it Up for 9 years.  Organized by artpace in this colorful, friendly, festive city, it has all of the great aspects of community – creative energy and a gathering of people to share the experience.  Because the art is temporary, the event is more like a happening.

chalk_STJ_8510(Work by Stevens High School Art Club in Chalk it Up 2011)

One of my colleagues in our art education graduate program is an art teacher in San Antonio, Ambra Whitehurst and has had her Stevens High School Art Club participate in the event.  I sent her a few questions I had about the experience (thanks Ambra!) – her responses are in blue:

How many and which students have participated in this event (Art Club, a certain class)?  I always start the chalk crew up in art club and then if there are any other talented students in my classes, I will personally invite them to join us.

Do you have to get special school permission for your students to participate in this?  I usually send home a flier.  The students are responsible to find a ride downtown.  Some of the parents even stay, hangout and watch.

Did they preplan the imagery they were going to create?  If so, how did they go about doing that?  The ideas are discussed as a group and then a photo is taken.  The drawing always turns out looking more dimensional if drawn from a photo.

How long did it take for the students to create their chalk art and how large of an area did they have to work in?  They started their creation about 9 a.m. and finished about 1 p.m., working in a 10′ x 10′ area.

Are members of the community strolling around during the creation of the work, or do they come in after the work is completed?  The event is open to the public at 10 a.m., so they get to watch as the art is created.

Do the community members interact with the students?  If so, what kind of things did they talk about?  Sometimes they ask questions, but for the most part they see that the students are intensely creating their art and they leave them alone.

I know this is a recurring event in San Antonio.  Can you tell me if the students look forward to it for the next year?  In other words, does this recurring event create a sense of commitment and excitement for the students?  Yes, they do look forward to participating every year.  They feel a sense of belonging and excitement to come up with a new work every year.

Do they give prizes?  Chalk it Up only gives participation certificates.  The students ask every year why they do not give other awards.  They would like to know how well they did compared to other schools.

chalkitup2012-6068 (Work by the Art Club in Chalk it Up 2012 – an election year!  How appropriate and what a great inspiration to the community to participate in our democratic privileges!)


Ah – the competitive spirit!  Sounds like this activity is a wonderful thing for students to participate in.  I love the idea of it and would love to see if something could be created in my own neighborhood.  Because, after this project this semester, looking and thinking about community and art education, community is really at the heart of art.
Authored by:  Christine Miller


Artivist Mario Torero



When I think of community art, the first artist that comes to mind is Mario Torero.  Mario Torero is considered an “Artivist” who has helped change areas in San Diego and teach youth about the impact of art and how it can help create communities.  I first came cross Mario Torero, while attending University of North Texas and was instantly impacted by him and his art.  I actually was able to communicate with this remarkable artist a few years ago and he even offered to come to my school to speak to my class.

Mario has traveled across the world, creating murals and works of art to beautify these communities.  He volunteers in his community by teaching painting lessons to the youth and elder.  His most famous project is the Chicano Park, which has been his ongoing project for the past 40 years.  Chicano Park contains many murals and works of art that have brought the San Diego community together.  You can view these beautiful works of art on FuerzaMundo and read more about his life and career.

So how can you make an impact in your community or school like Mario Torero?  Does it have to be a mural?   What message would you want to convey?

Authored by:  Andrea Hair

The Lack of ‘Community’ in the Art Classroom and it’s Consequences

One thing about teaching art, you can never know what’s about to happen.  And so it began towards the end of 2nd period one day when I glanced over at one of my sculptures I had in the classroom, only to see that someone had applied paint to it – deliberately.  I went bonkers – I blew a fuse – I was so angry, I wanted to spit.  I paced up and down in my classroom and vented to my poor Art I students about the unacceptability of vandalism in the art room.

How could any of my students do such a thing?  The problem was, I knew this had been happening, but just hadn’t felt it like I did when it happened to my own work.  My brain was racing, as it boiled over just like the lava lamp in my room.  Tears threatened to spill out.  Where had I failed? From day one, I had communicated my expectations about respect of others and their work.  I took pains to provide labeled storage space so people knew where to put their work.  I reiterated as we moved along in our projects about not messing with other’s art work.  But, I had to face the facts, it still was happening.  As my mind raced around, trying to narrow down who might have done this, I came to one conclusion – it had to be my sculpture classes.  I teach 5 preps each day to 9th & 10th grade students.  My room is very large – 60′ x 30′.  I have half of the room devoted to sculpture and the other half to the 2D classes.  I helps with clean up and project negotiation.  4 of my classes are never in the sculpture space.  Only the sculpture students have been working with paint.  It had to be them.

When they rolled in that day – I let them have it.  They protested.  It wasn’t them.  I explained my CSI rationale for suspecting them.  So I asked both classes, “How many of you have had your monster projects vandalized in some way?”  30-40% of both classes raised their hands.  I knew of some of the transgressions, but I did not realize so many had experienced what I had that day.  The sculpture students were the ones vandalizing their own projects!  No one had reacted like I did – I guess they just sucked it up and moved on.  Perhaps they are so used to kids messing with things, they just resigned themselves to the inevitability of it all.  But I could not let this go without addressing it.

I told them I could not move forward with them until we resolved this problem.  I also told them I was at a loss about what to do about it.  I reviewed with them the expectations I had made clear and the procedures and space management plans I had in place.  We had to address this as a group.  I realized that there was one vital element missing in our classes – the commitment to each other and the formation of a real community.  Oh, we had a class every day, but each class divided themselves up into cliques and went about their merry way.  Certainly the vandals were attacking work outside their own group; they had no loyalty to those other students – there were hostilities being acted out carelessly or deliberately.  I struggled with a solution – I had to act fast and decisively, but I had no idea how to approach the problem.  I remembered a video our counselor’s had us show our homerooms:  “Challenge Based Learning in a High School Classroom”.  Well, I had a big challenge in my classroom, so I decided to model my next steps on this process.  I showed the video to both classes and informed them that we would use this model in our approach to solutions.

I told my students that I needed their help in solving this problem.  This was a problem we all had together, and we had to approach it as a group effort in coming up with solutions.  We used the board to brainstorm the topics that needed to be addressed.  We came up with 6 areas and from those topics I divided them into groups of 3-4 students.  Each group was to use the laptops (if they wanted to do some research), or brainstorm questions and/or responses to their topics and give a class presentation about what they came up with.  These were the six topics to be considered (and some of their responses/solutions):

  1. Why does vandalism happen (they’re jealous of somebody else’s work; they’re just plain disrespectful; peer pressure) and how can you stop it? (anonymous reporting of violations; lock classroom doors; teacher give rewards when behaviors are good for a certain time; teacher contacts parents of offender).
  2. What classroom rules do we need to have in place that aren’t already expected. ( Be nice to other classmates, unless they’re mean to you [there weren’t any other rules they suggested that weren’t already expectations in my class]).
  3. What consequences should be applied to those who vandalize work.  What if you know who did it?  What if you don’t know who did it? (Detention; put cameras in the room; have offender write an essay on why they won’t vandalize again; be harder towards us over all [throughout all of my teaching career, I always have thought I am too nice, even though I keep striving to be more strict).
  4. How does the we have the storage areas set up need to be modified or changed? (provide additional groups space if people don’t have room; lock cabinets).
  5. How can you protect art supplies and tools from being ruined (like my paintbrushes that have been destroyed despite teaching them how to care for them.) Reasons:  (not enough time to clean so people just leave it and go; people think that the teacher won’t know it’s them; they don’t care)  Solutions: (teacher numbers tools and hands out according to number on roster; make turning in clean tools a daily grade; make them bring their own supplies).
  6. How can you foster trust after it’s been broken? (The concept of trust is both complex and hard to comprehend meaning different things to different people.  A quality as such is hard to regain, because trust is something we extend to others as well as we expect to receive [wow!]; to regain trust with peers you must confront the fundamental points of your friendship/relationship).

Well, the presentations happened and we all talked about it.  I was impressed with much of what they came up with.  I have calmed down and we have started another project that is also calmer and less active.  I think we can make it until the winter break. Through this process I have realized some things that I do need to change:

  • Even though they are in high school, I still have to provide A LOT of structure and have A LOT of procedures in place. Many of them (though not all) are not responsible enough or mature enough to not mistreat tools, supplies or other’s work.  Numbering everything, doling it out and picking it up is necessary.
  • I have to keep a closer eye on everything that goes on in the classroom.  It seems like an impossible job – so many people moving about and working is difficult to keep tabs on.  I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, but I have to keep working at keeping better tabs on everything.
  • Encourage the use of anonymous reporting.  It works.  We have had a larger number of drug issues being dealt with on our campus this year and my principal owes it to the “hot line” our students have access to to inform our campus police about when things are going down.  It’s working.  It could also work in the art room.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat expectations and rules.  Let them know you are serious.  Handle small infractions immediately.  Call home.  Calling a parent when you have the student in class works wonders.  You offer the parent the opportunity to talk to their child right there on the spot.  Not only does it make a huge impact on the student, the other students in the class see what you are willing to do and it might help keep them in line as well.
  • Next year – (this is a big one) build community from day one.  Explore strategies to encourage the students to bond as a group – ice breakers in the first days would be fun.
  • What other activities could be used to encourage community early on?  How can we get our diverse students to come together in more positive ways?  What other procedures can teachers use to cut down on these kinds of things happening?  How might you have handled the situation if it happened in your classroom?  

Authored by:  Christine Miller

The Laundromat Project

I recently came across a New York-based organization that completely inspired and amazed me with its very unique project.  It’s called The Laundromat Project.  And, just as the name suggests, their mission is for neighborhood residents to Wash Clothes…Make Art…and Build Community.  This organization is amazing because it takes art directly to the community in a place where it’s accessible to everyone…the local laudromat.  And, by doing so, it also helps to strengthen community bonds by giving an opportunity for neighborhood residents to communicate, work, and learn together through the art making process.

The Laundromat Project has 2 main programs.  Create Change is their “public art residency program developed to connect communities and artists in meaningful ways”.  The Works in Progress program “focuses on community-centered art education through hands-on workshops and public programs at local laudromats and other community spaces”.  Both programs offer free, hands-on art opportunities in New York neighborhoods where the resident and workshop artists/teachers live and work, creating a deeper investment in the neighborhoods they service.  There is also a social justice aspect to their work as it is a “commitment and concern for communities that would not otherwise have access to these types of experiences”, says Rise Wilson, founder of The Laundromat Project.

Take a look at this short video narrated by the founder and see the incredible work this project is accomplishing!

Do you think a community-based project like this would work in our DFW community?  Why or why not?  Are there other community places that you could see this type of project being successful other than local laundromats?  

Authored by:  Jennifer Torres

Art House Co-op’s Sketchbook Project

Now I know I have written about global journal projects before, but I discovered the Sketchbook Project this week.  I thought about trying to find another community based art project, but then I thought “why should I keep this genius idea to myself?  I wish somebody had shared this project with me sooner, and then my students and myself would have been able to participate in it this year.”  So here I am, sharing this amazing sketchbook project with all of you.

The Sketchbook Project was started by the Art House Co-op, which is based in Brooklyn.  Basically, how it works is you sign up for it, pay the $25 fee, and then the Art House sends you a sketchbook.  You fill out the whole sketchbook and then mail it back to them.  After this, your sketchbook goes on a North American tour for everybody to see.  You will receive e-mails, texts, and letters updating you on where your sketchbook is and what viewers think.  How awesome is that!?  It doesn’t end here though.  The final destination of your sketchbook is at the Brooklyn Art Library, where it will be archived with all the other amazing sketchbooks.  You, your friends, your family, anybody can check out your sketchbook from the Brooklyn Art Library.  Wouldn’t this be a great fields trip for an art class?  You also have the option of digitizing your sketchbook, for a small fee.  Art House Co-op will professionally photograph your sketchbook and archive it online for you to see at your convenience.  Oh the beauty of technology!

So you’re wondering “how can I incorporate this into my classroom?”  Well, I came up with a couple of ideas.  For my school, it would me more economically feasible for me to buy a sketchbook for each class and then use it as a collaborative project.  I would assign the book to one student each week, and this way everybody could participate.  I think this would help create a sense of community within my classroom, since every student would be able to make their mark.  Another option would be more viable for upper level classes.  Each student would sign up for the Sketchbook Project, and you could assign a sketchbook assignment for each week that they must complete for a grade.  Of course they would be allowed to create more pages in their sketchbook, which is always encouraged in an art classroom.  You could even have a mini sketchbook viewing for your school, before you send them off to the Art House.  What do you think?

Authored by: Andrea Hair

Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange

When I think of community, I think of the various cultures that make up the community.  Which is why I think incorporating global community and culture into your classroom is so important.  I feel art has the power to breakdown many barriers and unite people from various backgrounds together.  I found a wonderful site, Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange, that invites children from America and Iraq to participate in art projects together. The Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange was created by Claudia Lefko, an educator and activist who wishes to have children use “art as a vehicle to engage them in the universal struggle to create a better, more sustainable and just world.”

How is this done?  Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange is participated in the Art Miles Mural Project, which is a worldwide mural project that promotes global peace and harmony through art.  The Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange has had American and Iraqi Children work together to create a series of murals under the working title “How will they know us?”  These murals ended up in Egypt in September 2010.

How can my students participate?  Luckily the Art Miles Mural Project is still going on strong.  This is such a great opportunity for you students to work together in their community and to contribute to our global community.  The Art Miles Mural Project provides you with instructions on their How to do a Mural page.  The step-by-step information is at the bottom of the page and can be easy to miss.  They encourage you to send any photos, stories, and videos that document the students’ experience of creating the mural.

Why should we participate?  How is this beneficial?  I think this is a great tool to use in your classroom to teach your students about peace, unity, and community.  By participating in this project you are teaching your students to be active members of their community, and that art has the power to bring people together and breakdown barriers.  This site also allows you to view art from other countries and connect with other cultures.  What do you think?

Authored by: Andrea Hair