August 9, 2018

Monster Dinner Party

Our cumulative project at PAFA's Summer Art Camp "Monster Mash" week was a Monster Dinner Party. 

Our party was of course inspired by Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party", which hopefully these 8 and 9 year olds will see someday when they're in Brooklyn. 
Made in response to the absence of women in celebrated history, her "epically feminist installation" sets a dinner party for 39 mythical and historic women. 

Our party on the other hand, celebrated nine mythical and magical beings, including a vampire, a snow dragon, the Phoenix, Nessie, a mermaid, and other friends. 

(Don't worry, we were of course careful about which monsters we sat next to each other, to avoid conflict). 

Kids began their process by researching their dinner invitee (using iPads or one of a million mythos/cryptozoological reference books I took out of the library), and we also watched a short video about Chicago's installation, and talked about why it was important to celebrate women - my kids seemed quick to understand her motivation (which was rad!) 

I was pretty stoked to see a lot of powerful female "monsters" get the invite to this party.

Informed by their research, they were encouraged to think about what colors, designs, and artifacts to include in their table dressing. Aquatic monsters (like Nessie and a mermaid) tended toward cool color schemes and inclusions of seashells.  Lava Monster and our Phoenix on the other hand celebrated those hot colors!

Some monsters got personalized menus to satiate their particular cravings: Rock Spaghetti, anyone?

The artists were encouraged to add detail at every turn and ultimately created personalized tablecloths, runners, place mats, flatware, vessels, and plates for their creatures, making for a true celebration of individuality. 

June 13, 2018

Silkscreening Settlement

I love to get opportunities to invite guest artists to our pre-K studio, and when they're a parent of s student? Even better. For our third such collaboration, we got to host printmaker Miriam Singer! Miriam makes awesomely detailed cityscapes, so we cooked up a plan to do some architectural serigraphs with a class at school.
Miriam burned a big screen from a photo of an architectural drawing of our school building which, lucky us, is old and beautiful. (This also means the internet never works and the walls are impossible to hang things on, some lose some.)

Miriam burned a big screen from a photo of an architectural drawing of our school building which, lucky us, is old and beautiful. (This also means the internet never works and the walls are impossible to hang things on, some lose some.)

She introduced PS3 to the tools used in silk screening - the screen, ink, and squeegee, and we set up a printing station. Each kid got to help ink the screen and pull the squeegee and we ended up with loads of (big!) prints of our building in different colors!

Because they dried quickly, kids were able to start decorating them during that same class period (and they kept decorating them for a week or two!) 

We experimented with water based crayons (my favorite! Noyo brand), chalk pastels, water colors, and colored pencils, and made a lot of individual work!

June 10, 2018

Project Projections

Attendees at PAFA's "Project Projections" explored projection photography techniques at Family Arts Academy this month. We began with a visit to  Ghost in the Machine: Video in the Realm of Objects in PAFA's Alumni Gallery. 

Families interacted with the video installations and projections and experienced the small dark space of the exhibit.

Back in the auditorium, we had lots of projectors set up - slide projectors with images from PAFA's collection, digital projectors with op art and Planet Earth scenes, and overhead projectors. We went lights out and started playing!
 (Side note: overhead projectors NEVER GET OLD, and I use them with tons and tons of projects). 

Kids and their grownups could interact with the machines, putting themselves into paintings, swimming with sharks, or making scenes with cutout shapes and colored gels. Others kept busy capturing the experience on camera phones!

S/o to the artists exhibiting in "Ghost in the Machine" and a very awesome immersion room wallpaper design exhibit at Cooper Hewitt, which everyone should go see!

May 28, 2018

Spirit Animal Prayer Candles

At PAFA's annual Spring Festival, families visiting the museum got to make animal themed art with a whole crew of cool visiting artists! 

At my table we made spirit animal prayer candles - kids (and brave adults) started by choosing an animal that spoke to them, and added al kinds of decoration to make them really special!

See more info on PAFA's rad programs here:

and if you'd like the document of animals to make your own it should be downloadable here!

March 28, 2018

Book It

As a response to some of their favorite "literature", my pre-K students have been collaboratively filling some blank books with their creations:

The youngest classes at our school are three and four years old, and they made a very simple "colors" book, and a more ambitious alphabet book respectively. 

For our colors book, we began each class by choosing two colors, and students helped mix paint colors, filling a single page with a single hue. (Each day we could do two side-by-side pages, allowing a whole day to dry). Later they added to the pages using tempera sticks and pastels. The cover was gesso'd and got a beautiful rainbow. We've already "read" this book a number of times - you'd be surprised at how intriguing a book with no words can be!

An older class took on the alphabet. We used a die cut machine to make letters, and the kids choose what would go on each page to represent the letter.. Their drawings were cut out and collaged on the corresponding page Some were really easy go-tos (like"Z for Zebra") while others were more...inventive (like "C for Caged Building").  The cover was decorated wth tissue paper letters carefully glued on. Similar to the color book, this alphabet book has already found a prime spot among our favorite reads.

March 27, 2018

Flora up Close

Inspired by a recent* comprehensive Chuck Close photography exhibit at PAFA, I designed a lesson for my pre-Kindergartners that would allow them to dip into old school photography. 

In Close's show, there were two enourmously large scale still lifes photomontages of flowers - which is where I drew my subject matter. Many of the photo collages that were in the exhibition were visibly held together with tape, which gave them an imperfect and purposeful feel - a connection I intentionally included in our version of this project. 

Our small friends have experimented with photography before, and we reviewed parts of a camera. We've also done some still life drawing, so were able to dip back into that experience - setting the scene, choosing what to include in our frame, etc.

Students took two or three instant photos of  live cut flowers, anxiously and excitedly watching them develop. For this endeavor, I used my tried and true favorite instant film - Fuji Instax Wide. The colors and price can't be beat! After a week of taking pictures (and trying to refresh my wiltering bouquets), all the kids IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL had snapped photos of our sunflowers, carnations, and daisies. Each kids work was collected in a labeled envelop for later.

The second week of this project was all about layout. The kids arranged their photos onto 12x12" cardstock, glued or taped them down, and then decorated with colored tape, metallic markers, or other ephemera they dreamed up. 

*btw this exhibit turned out to be somewhat controversial. After it was open, several credible sexual misconduct accusations came out against Chuck Close. PAFA handled the news in a very cool way, and instead of pulling the show, they scheduled exhibitions and open ended talks about power dynamics in art and the museum and art viewers responsibilities. 

March 26, 2018


What a treat to teach some Josef Albers color theory right in front of the real deal at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The five and six year old class listened to the (beautifully illustrated by Julia Breckenreid!) bio of Albers "An Eye for Color" by Natasha Wing, and discovered how colors interact with each other. I love seeing his work in gallery 174, surrounded by Robert Slutzky, Alma Thomas, and Geneviève Claisse, sleeping under a giant Sol LeWitt ceiling mural - there's a lot of "simple" side by side color explorations in that hallway. 

From the book, they learned that Albers often preferred to paint "straight from the tube", without mixing colors - investigating the pigments in their most pure form. 

Back in the studio, each student chose a shape and traced concentrically smaller versions of that shape within the original. Colors were thoughtfully picked form a selection of acrylics and the students carefully filled in their shapes with a flat brush (working on the edging skills!)

With a whole class working on this project, we were easily able to see how colors looked different depending on their neighbors: magenta looked more vibrant paired with silver, or green was dull next to red.