–Interview by Elisia Brodeur– 

The first ES Art Show of the school year opened in St. Luke’s Gallery on Dec. 3rd and ran through January 10th. The show’s theme was “discovering the art studio process through the eyes of our ES students.” Rather than being a typical art show that displayed only final pieces of art, this show featured students’ projects at different stages of the studio process from six different art centers—drawing, fiber arts, collage, sculpture, painting, and ceramics.

The work of every elementary student, from PreK 3 through grade 5, was represented in the show. The 5th graders had the additional challenge of being tasked with helping to decide how to organize the show.

Ms. Robin helped guide the students through the creative process and challenged them to expand both their art knowledge and skills as they worked. The students did not save all of their “messy beginnings and explorations,” but all of the work, from the practice pieces through to the final but incomplete pieces, show “the students’ growth in their art skills and in each step of the creative process.”

To create any piece of art, the students work through a series of six steps, regardless of the subject matter or the differing art forms or the art center being used. First, the students brainstorm possible project ideas. They then do research to help them plan out their project. This is also the point at which students begin exploring the various materials and tools available and try out new techniques. This gives them the practice they need to gain both the confidence and skills necessary to successfully complete their work. After creating their project, students critique their work with two classmates and the teacher to help them make their artwork better. Revising includes making improvements to their work based on the critiques. This step also includes writing an artist statement that goes on display next to their artwork to help show some of the thinking behind the project. The students then share and reflect on their work by having it displayed in the art gallery for all to see and by participating in a museum walk with their art class, where they get to reflect on their own and others’ work.

The PreK and Kindergarten students work on different themes. For this show, for example, the Kindergartners worked on Tree Line Projects after they had studied and been inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings of trees. According to Ms. Robin, the intention was to give these students an opportunity to “create their own unique tree pictures using the drawing technique of repeating lines to create movement while exploring different materials in the drawing center, such as pencils, colored pencils, crayons, oil pastels, pens, and markers.”

The 1st through 5th grade students, meanwhile, were learning to become authentic artists by starting with an idea and progressing to a finished product. Because everyone works at different speeds and has different goals for their work, what ended up being on display were some completed projects but also some “works in progress.” Students were given the opportunity to use any of the art tools, materials, and resources while choosing the technique(s) and subject matter for their final work. The 1st graders chose from the drawing, painting, or sculpture art centers, and the 2nd graders chose from the painting, collage, or fiber arts centers. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders were able to choose from any of the six art centers: ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, fiber arts, or collage.

The entire show was an impressive display of our younger students’ art and a great way to see and understand the amount of work and practice that needs to take place before a piece of art is considered “final.” As with so many things in life, so much of the learning and experience is through the process. The end result is just part of the journey.

Special thanks to Ms. Robin and Mr. Owen for all of their work and extra time required to plan and present an art exhibition. If you didn’t get to attend the show, here are some samples of the students’ artwork. The next ES Art Show is coming up in April 1st–28th—mark your calendars!