Fostering Well-being through the Arts
This summer, Creative Art Works is offering workshops for children, pre-teens, and teens, at the Children's Center, an ACS short-term housing facility in Manhattan for children awaiting foster care placement. The temporary nature of residency at Children's Center means that young people may only be able to participate in a handful of classes, and their experience and skills vary greatly, it's a challenging environment, but we have the right people for the job.
CAW Teaching Artist Megan Tuttle holds both a BA and master's in art therapy. She worked in hospital settings before transitioning to education. Meghan's background and training, combined with her compassionate and patient personality make her a great fit at Children's Center. She is assisted by Vickie DeJesus and Nora Chellew, valued members of CAW's team of artists and educators. We asked Megan to share some of their experiences with us.
For this lesson, participants are asked to create an imaginary portrait using color to establish a mood, either positive or negative. This lesson provides an easy entry point so participants do not feel intimidated about drawing a representational portrait. The lesson begins with an introduction to the portraits of Amy Sherald, Favianna Rodriguez, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean Dubuffet, and others. The range of artistic inspirations encourages participants to exercise their creative freedom.
This project welcomes students into an environment that is open to their ideas, artistic expressions, and to themselves as individuals. It meets them where they are, allowing them to use the skills they already possess and to exercise choice in a deliberate and expressive manner.
Beautiful just like me
Working with torn paper is great for preschoolers and early learners. It relies on gross motor skills and, without scissors being a barrier to art-making, it develops their independence. In this collage landscapes lesson, participants were asked to create a collage that explores foreground, middle ground, and background using a combination of color paper, specialty papers, and nature images. They looked at works by Mickalene Thomas for inspiration.
This lesson aims to develop early learners’ abilities to manipulate torn shapes, to represent real or imaginary subjects, to tear shapes in a variety of sizes, to evenly apply glue, and to develop a basic understanding of overlapping.
All of CAW’s lesson plans are developed within the context of Creative Youth Development. A key aspect of CYD is giving youth an opportunity to explore their authentic voice.
Lessons are written to invite authentic voice by making the content of the work relevant to the student’s life experience and interests, introducing students to artists from a range of cultural backgrounds and time periods, and through experimentation and developing experience with artists materials and techniques.
Providing youth opportunities to express themselves is important because it communicates a young person's truths, insights, and experiences through the creation of original artwork – it is unique to each artist.
Creating a safe space
Providing a physically and emotionally safe environment is another key aspect of CYD. When students feel safe emotionally in the art classroom, they develop trust with classmates, fellow residents and the Teaching Artists. They learn to trust themselves too. They can be vulnerable and share the things that are most important to them – things that might not be expressed anywhere else.
To support a safe environment, our lesson plans include context-specific and culturally relevant reflective questions. While in a general education setting, we might ask a question like, “What might you do differently next time?” In a transitory setting like Children’s Center, we might ask “What did you do today that made you feel proud of your work?”