Monday, June 10, 2013

Working with an Installation

Our older preschool classroom had a wonderful opportunity to work with the artist Zoë Blatt, a student in the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and one of three current artists in residence at Project Zero down the road. Zoë created a beautiful installation for the children to interact with. With its combination of flowing threads, colorful blocks, woven nests, and flowering shapes, the children all found something wondrous to explore.

The children came in three small groups, and I was struck by how differently each group worked with the materials at hand. The first group was particularly interested in the hanging yarn - some combination of children was always walking through the pieces, exclaiming at how soft and funny they felt.

The second group nearly all became involved in building an elaborate creation using the blocks, woven nests, eggs, and twirly shapes they called "octopuses" and "spiders." Ian said, "The eggs are all people.... this [nest] is a house hat - it looks like a real hat." 

The third group were particularly interested in the eggs and nests. They noticed that the eggs felt strange to the touch - not like a real egg. Gaia dedided, "I'm gonna take the nest... I'm gonna put it in the tree." When some of the eggs fell out, a game was sparked. "Oh no," Gaia said, laughing as she and her friends gathered up more eggs into the nests, "The eggs are gonna break! I'm gonna hide it. I'm gonna hide it somewhere in a tree." 

The next day, Zoë joined six of the children in the Studio, where they had access to the same materials she had used. Zoë's provocation was for the children to create something they wished to add to the installation.

Ariv and Ian each decided to make a rainbow attached to the top of a stick. The rainbows were made of pipe cleaners curved and taped together.

Ian: This is for spin. I'm gonna put this rainbow on the tree so someone cant touch and spin it. 
Ariv: This is my rainbow and there's a button and pipecleaners. The button makes the rainbow even better. 

Susan and L. both worked on different climbing structures. L. first drew and colored a plan of a slide, then taped down pipe cleaners over her drawing, using the same colors of tape that she had colored with. Susan's popsicle-stick, tape, and pipe cleaner creation included many sides for climbing on and a pole to slide down.

A. decided to make a nest, taking a moment to examine a photo of the nests Zoë had made before beginning. "Hey, those nests are made out of string! I can do that. The pom poms can be the eggs." 

B. found that carrying out his plan to make a block was tricky to accomplish, given that so many of the materials available were malleable things like string and tape. At last, he used paper and popsicle sticks to create a "block-shaped" rectangle that he could hold up.

These creations will be added to the installation, which has been relocated to Project Zero. We are hoping to organize a field trip for the preschoolers to visit the new site and see their pieces on display.

This was such an exciting experience, not only for the children, but also for me. As an alumni of the Arts in Education program, I was happy to be able to help Zoë to set up and carry out her installation project. Much in the way that the children were pleased and enlivened by the opportunity to share their work at the end of their Studio visit, I was also proud to be able to share a bit of my work here at PTCC with Zoë and other people involved at Project Zero, including my former professor, Shari Tishman, who joined us in the Studio.

Part of what makes moments like this - work that brings us into contact with our greater community - so important is that they allow us all the chance to share parts of ourselves - our questions, our ideas, our art, our jobs - that are important to us. We offer them up to people who we may not know very well at all, and we ask them to honor, respect, and answer. It is a very powerful feeling, to commence such a relationship. I am so curious to see what will happen when we take the next step and the children see their work displayed in a slightly more public place.

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