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Posts Tagged ‘creative’

Photo: Max Tapogna
As a way to overcome resource challenges, Lisa Adams has taught students at her Portland, Oregon, elementary school how to make their own instruments.

I’ve been learning recently, both from my daughter-in-law and online, that parents frustrated with the imperfections of pandemic school are complaining about the problems to teachers even though it’s mostly not something teachers can control.

Meanwhile, teachers adapt. They’ve been going beyond the extra mile to make everything work. An ESL teacher I work with often spends long, unpaid hours solving technical problems, and my husband’s orchestra-teacher niece in North Carolina rarely finishes her day before 10:30 pm.

Max Tapogna writes at Oregon Artswatch about what arts teachers in his state are doing with limited resources for remote instruction.

“One by one, students pop into the classroom, each in a respective Zoom window. Trisha Todd, a drama teacher at Portland’s Grant High School, waits a few minutes until everyone in her Beginning Theatre class has arrived. Todd is teaching from her office at Grant, which is full of theater tchotchkes: a turquoise folding screen, a poster for Sarah Ruhl’s play Orlando, and what looks like poor Yorick’s skull. Todd’s students, however, are scattered around the city. …

“Class begins, inconspicuously, with a warmup. First some stretching. Then Todd asks the students to go around and share the musical artists they’ve been listening to recently. More than one student mentions Billie Eilish; another says he’s been blasting a lot of classic rock.

“ ‘I’m doing whatever I can to keep them engaged,’ Todd says. ‘We’re just hoping to keep them with us until they get back.’ …

“When classrooms were shuttered due to the coronavirus. Arts educators, especially those with subjects in the performing arts, were forced to grapple with ways to reach students from a distance.

“ ‘It was really hard,’ says Lisa Adams, a music teacher at Duniway Elementary School. … ‘Participation was not required. There wasn’t a unified way that every school was handling it.’

“ ‘Spring was very doomy gloomy,’ says Laura Arthur, a music teacher on special assignment for the district. ‘I feel like the fall is the second, third stage of grief. We’ve reached acceptance and solutions.’ …

“Mary Renaur, a visual arts teacher at Mt. Tabor Middle School … created online tutorials on how to make art supplies at home, like glue and paint, from materials that could be found in a kitchen or recycling bin. …

“Similarly, Adams has taught her students at Duniway to craft their own instruments from household objects, like a ‘guitar’ made from a berry container and rubber bands. One student, Adams says, filled a paper towel tube with beans and fixed tape to the edges. …

“Of course, the technology comes with its complications. On the day I spoke with Renaur, she described how a student’s Chromebook unexpectedly had stopped working.

When she learned the computer wasn’t working, Renaur hopped in her car and drove to school, picked up a new computer, dropped it off at the student’s home, and drove back to her house in time for her next class.

“ ‘Between classes, I had forty-five minutes,’ Renaur says. …

“Other adjustments have been less stressful. Chris Meade, who teaches drama and music at Lent K-8, says, ‘I did a whole assignment on taking silly selfies just to get students used to using a camera.’

“At the beginning of the school year, Meade surveyed his students to get a sense of their preferences for learning music virtually. ‘The majority of my kids were really uncomfortable singing by themselves into a computer,’ Meade says. …

“Instead, Meade shifted his focus to emphasizing music appreciation and literacy. This fall, for example, students are learning about the various musics of Latin America. District-wide, arts classes are now structured around themes like emotional resilience and racial equity. That change, Meade says, has been welcome.

“He says, ‘It’s nice to [explore] all these other aspects of music that kind of get glossed over during the regular school year.’

“For theater, Todd says her goal is less forcing her old curriculum into a new format than tailoring her subject to online learning. ‘We can look at history, we can look at Shakespeare, we can look at the Greeks,’ Todd says. ‘We could just read plays for a semester.’

“Instead of directing a fall play, Todd is organizing a 24-hour devised theater piece. The festival will showcase a play written, directed, and acted entirely by students. ‘It’s supposed to happen really quickly,’ says Todd. ‘You go with your instinct. You don’t have set limitations. You create them.’ ”

Read at Oregon Artswatch, here, how the typical isolation of arts teachers has been altered by pandemic isolation, which in at least one district has led to a collaborative way of working that will likely outlast lockdowns.

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I have often noticed how absorbed and peaceful an ordinarily boisterous child can be when doing artwork. I myself feel happy when I have accomplished something creative —  even a little bit creative.

It’s nice to know but will surprise no one that research supports the idea that being creative makes people feel good.

Here’s a report from the BBC.

“Whatever gets your creative juices flowing will boost your mood, according to new research.

“Almost 50,000 people took part in the BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test. It suggested that being creative can help avoid stress, free up mind space and improve self-development, which helps build self-esteem.

“The findings also said there are emotional benefits from taking part in even a single session of creativity. But there are cumulative benefits from regular engagement in arts activities and trying new pursuits is particularly good for our emotions and well-being. …

“76% of participants used creative activities as a ‘distraction tool’ to block out stress and anxiety; 69% used them as a ‘self-development tool’ to build up self-esteem and inner strength; 53% used them as a ‘contemplation tool’ to get the headspace to reflect on problems and emotions.

“The survey also revealed that the most benefit comes from taking part in live creative activities that involve face-to-face social interaction, like singing in a choir or taking part in a group painting class. …

“Dr Daisy Fancourt, a senior research fellow at UCL [said], ‘You don’t actually have to take part for a long time for it to have benefits. … Also, we find that for somebody who’s been doing the same activity for more than 10 years, it actually starts to have less of an effect. So there’s a definite benefit to novelty.

” ‘And we also found that talent doesn’t affect this relationship. It’s not about being good at it — it’s genuinely the taking part that counts.’ ”

Of the top ten creative choices reported, singing comes in first. Read the others at the BBC, here.

I loved the part about getting headspace. That makes so much sense to me. If you are going around in circles with a problem, do something creative for a while. When you come back to the problem, you will be able to see new possibilities.

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Photo: Breeder gallery
The Breeder gallery in Athens has helped bring international attention to contemporary Greek artists. With all sorts of people thinking more creatively in the economic crisis, Greece is showing signs of revitalization.

My high school classmate Pat posted lovely vacation pictures this spring that reminded me of a long-ago tour of the wonders of ancient Greek art. Those wonders are still there to enjoy, and now, it seems, contemporary artists are adding a modern vibe that is bringing energy back to a country that was recently in danger of collapse.

Charly Wilder reports at the New York Times, “There are places we live and places we visit, and then there are the other places. Places we return to, where we put down roots, but not strong enough roots to hold us — places that change us, that we haunt and are haunted by. Nowhere embodies this for me more than Athens, a city I’ve watched shift and evolve, endure crisis and chaos and economic collapse, and yet emerge from the wreckage as one of the continent’s most vibrant and significant cultural capitals, more popular than ever as a tourist destination….

“Neighborhoods that were rundown and neglected have become seed beds for the arts, like Metaxougio, which not long ago was best known for its junk stores and Asian groceries, but now hosts the thriving multispace Bios and one of the city’s most important contemporary galleries, The Breeder, which has helped bring international attention to Greek talent like the painter Sofia Stevi and Stelios Faitakis, a street artist whose murals evoke Albrecht Dürer and Diego Rivera. …

” ‘It’s been interesting and hellish,’ said Theodosis Michos. … Back in 2006, he was a staff writer for Esquire Greece, but like almost all the Greeks I know, the crisis left Theodosis out of work. …

“‘We all got fired or we quit because we weren’t getting paid,’ he said. And yet in 2013, arguably the lowest point of the crisis, Theodosis was part of a collective that launched Popaganda, an online magazine that covers culture and city life through an Athenian lens. ‘The first thing we did to resist the crisis psychologically was to tell ourselves again and again: O.K., we are artists, we are writers, this is the best time for us, because when artists have nothing, they can do anything,’ he said, adding that this isn’t actually true. ‘We told ourselves this so many times, that we started to believe it.’ …

” ‘It’s like the whole world is coming on vacation to Greece [now],” said Fotis Vallatos, the travel editor of Blue Magazine, the in-flight publication of Greece’s largest airline, Aegean Airlines. …

“As tourism has increased, Aegean Airlines expanded from 18 mostly Greek destinations in 2001 to 145 all over the world today. Fotis is now often on the road, exploring those destinations and the many inventive restaurants and visitor attractions that have emerged in Greece since the crisis, from a wave of young chefs using Nordic, French and East Asian cooking techniques on local ingredients, to a multitude of ‘second-act producers,’ people left unemployed or underemployed who returned to the villages where they grew up and began to sell homemade, organic, artisanal Greek products — to phenomenal results.

“ ‘I think everybody became more creative after the crisis, more cooperative,’ he said.”

Read more about this renaissance at the New York Times, here.

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The world needs more thinkers who are as creative and bold as Patrice Banks of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. She combined two very different skill sets into one business and made it work.

Bobby Allyn reports at radio WHYY NewsWorks, “Wearing a backwards red ball cap, skinny jeans and high-heel boots, Patrice Banks is doing her thing at the Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby.

” ‘That vroom, vroom noise you hear at a shop is called an impact gun,’ said Banks as she worked on a small blue coupe on a car lift in her garage. ‘It’s connected to compressed air, and so what that does is it removes bolts and nuts and stuff.’

“Spreading the mechanical gospel is in Banks’ blood. Her female-focused auto-shop has just opened up with the goal of empowering women to pop their hoods and get under their cars. It’s Banks’ brainchild, and she hopes the business is the start of a movement.

“Banks quit her day job as a materials engineer at DuPont to become an auto mechanic. … She was sick of being taken advantage of at local repair shops, and wanted to do something about it.

” ‘I felt like an auto-airhead. I hated all my experiences going in for an oil change, being upsold all the time for an air filter,’ she said. ‘Any time a dashboard light came on, I panicked.’

“Girls Auto Clinic is a two-in-one business: an auto repair shop and salon. While you get your car fixed by Banks and her other female mechanics, you can also get a mani, pedi or a blowout.

” ‘That’s what I wanted it to be like, a clubhouse for women, where you can just come and hang out and be around some other dope chicks,’ she explained. …

“Banks wants to take her Girls Auto Clinic concept nationwide. And she says some of her mechanics could be the ones opening up new locations.” More here.

Because combining two ideas appeals to me even more than teaching women to fix cars, I hope the new shops will be as creative. Just think of all the things that could be offered women while other women are repairing their cars: classes, baby playgroups, libraries, small business consultations — the sky’s the limit.

(Grateful to Scott for posting the Patrice Banks story on Facebook.)

Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
The Girls Auto Clinic Repair Center
Patrice Banks stands on the roof of the Girls Auto Clinic and Clutch Beauty Bar. She plans to build a roof deck for customers to enjoy.

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Walkability greatly improves the quality of life in a town or city, a precept our country lost track of for many years. I grew up in exurbia, where there were no sidewalks. And although I loved walks in the woods, I always felt a little gypped by the ads in comic books starting, “Be the first on your block …” What was a block? As an adult, I have lived only where there are sidewalks.

One of the most engaging recent developments of today’s walkability movement is Walk[YourCity], which enables you or anyone else to make professional-looking signs to interesting places in walking distance. (I love the stealth aspect of posting them.)

Suzanne and I began noticing signs in Providence a couple months ago, but it was only recently that some folks behind the effort blogged about it.

“Providence, RI, is playing host to two Walk [Your City] campaigns — both intended to activate public space and promote active transport.

PopUp Providence is a placemaking project that ‘introduces interactive, artistic and cultural displays and interventions throughout the City’s 25 neighborhoods.’ W[YC] signage has been incorporated … Other first-season PopUp Providence projects include a pop-up music studio offering teaching and performance spaces, and a parklet adding seating to the streetscape. …

“Providence’s Planning Department mentioned W[YC] to folks from the I-195 Redevelopment District, who thought the signs would be a great way to direct folks to their interim use art installations — soon to include 12 creative installations throughout the I-195 downtown parcels.”

More at the Walk[YourCity] blog, here. (And may I just note that Providence has exactly the kind of creative, entrepreneurial climate that would lead people to embrace something like this.)

Photos: Emily Kish and Kate Holguin

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Photo: Jake Naughton/The New York Times
Ayun Halliday creating a new issue of “The East Village Inky”  as part of the MTA Zine Residency

Remember the Amtrak Artist Residency? Here’s what might be called a “stealth residency,” organized by a librarian in New York and taking place on the New York subway system.

Colin Moynihan writes at the NY Times, “Thirteen people formed a sort of mobile salon just after noon on Friday, boarding an F Train in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn with the aim of riding for hours through three boroughs while writing and illustrating zines — self-published, photocopied periodicals usually made by hand. …

“The two-day event, called the MTA Zine Residency, had been organized by a librarian and an archivist at the Barnard College library, which they said has the largest circulating collection of zines in an academic library. …

“Despite the initials in its name, the event was organized without the knowledge or collaboration of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subway system. The peaceful takeover of the subway car reflected the do-it-yourself spirit that is a basic prerequisite to zine making, said the other organizer, the archivist Shannon O’Neill. …

“ ‘Remember the promise and betrayal of the #AmtrakResidency?’ the organizers of the subway project wrote, while announcing their own subway and ferry trips. ‘We won’t pay for your MetroCard, but we also won’t demand to own your stuff!’ …

“Transit officials had no objection to the activities. ‘As long as they abide by our rules of conduct, we certainly welcome them in the subway system to nurture creative self-expression,’ said a spokesman, Kevin Ortiz.”

More here.

I’m thinking of several artistic readers of this blog when I say you may want to get on board this train the next time it comes around.

Photo: Jake Naughton/The New York Times 
Composing zines on the F train on Friday during the MTA Zine Residency. 

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Even when I take my walk in the house on a bad day in winter, I find that walking helps me think. My pace indoors or out is not very energetic, but I like that all sorts of ideas and memories pop into my head as I walk.

At the NY Times blog called “Well,” Gretchen Reynolds describes new research that ties walking to creativity.

“A brief stroll, even around your office, can significantly increase creativity, according to a handy new study. Most of us have heard by now that exercise, including walking, generally improves thinking skills, both immediately and in the longer term. …

“Similarly, exercise has long been linked anecdotally to creativity. For millenniums, writers and artists have said that they develop their best ideas during a walk …

“Researchers at Stanford University recently decided to test that possibility, inspired, in part, by their own strolls. ‘My adviser and I would go for walks’ to discuss thesis topics, said Marily Oppezzo, at the time a graduate student at Stanford. ‘And one day I thought: “Well, what about this? What about walking and whether it really has an effect on creativity?” ‘

“With the enthusiastic support of her adviser, Daniel Schwartz, a professor in the Stanford Graduate School of Education, Dr. Oppezzo [gathered] her volunteers in a deliberately dull, unadorned room equipped with only a desk and (somewhat unusually) a treadmill, Dr. Oppezzo asked the students to sit and complete tests of creativity … Then the participants walked on the treadmill, at an easy, self-selected pace that felt comfortable. The treadmill faced a blank wall. While walking, each student repeated the creativity tests, which required about eight minutes.

“For almost every student, creativity increased substantially when they walked.”

The study was published this month in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

 More here, where Reynolds notes that there was no difference when the volunteers walked outdoors instead of on a treadmill.

Embed from Getty Images

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No matter how much you like your routine or how pleasant your surroundings, sometimes you just have to get up and go out. Today I needed a change of scene so, in spite of the freezing temperatures and high wind, I went to look at some art.

The Design Museum is not far from my office, and the folks there come up with lots of good projects. I blogged here about their Street Seats, an array of public benches designed by creative people from around the world.

This being Design Week in Boston, I decided to check out the exhibit space they are using in a new apartment building called 315 on A, a lovely renovation of an 18th century warehouse for coffee.

The new exhibit is called Green Patriot Posters and features handsome posters from professionals as well as the pretty impressive results of a school poster contest on the conservation theme.

Many of the posters explicitly reference WW II posters. You know: “Loose lips sink ships” and all that. Here, the posters urge viewers to pursue a more sustainable way of life and fight global warming. More.

Be sure to check the poster over the left shoulder of the woman speaker in this video. That was my favorite in the show because it made me laugh out loud. I think you can see a Paul Bunyan figure with an ax. He is looking at the tree he was going to cut with an uncertain expression as the tree is growing out of his foot.

 

 

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