The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How does art help us understand the lives of people of different places? How does art preserve aspects of life?
VA:Cn10.1.2a Create works of art about events in home, school, or community life.
Caldwell Fine Arts supplied canvases, brushes, and paint to schools and gave them the prompt, “What was your Silver Lining in 2020?” Students from grades K-12 responded, expressing their varied experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
VA:Cn11.1.5a Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society. After the creation of the art, we asked students to respond to prompts related to their art, as well as the art their classmates created. Research shows that the way we think and talk about our memories actually shapes our long-term perspective of an event. We found that students did use this reflection to modify their beliefs by spending time creating art on silver linings.
VA:Pr5.1.8a Collaboratively prepare and present selected theme-based artwork for display, and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer. Caldwell Fine Arts provided poster templates, title card templates, and mounting supplies for schools to host their own in-house art show. The students filled out interpretive cards to display with their painting.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Students filled out online reflection forms related to the standards:
What was valuable to you about creating a work of art about events in your own life?
“What was valuable about creating a work of art about events in my life was being able to recall the enjoyable moments.”
Do you think looking at each other’s artwork helps students understand each other?
“I think that art is a vent for our inner-most feelings and looking at others’ art is like peeping into their soul.”
“It is a great way to see different views and to understand someone or try and connect with them in some way.”
Do you think it is important to leave behind an artistic record of our experiences in 2020?
“I feel like this is a way to express our emotions or frustrations with 2020 and to show what was our hope or light at the end of the tunnel.”
“It is just like a journal but in picture form. it is good to remember the positive things in 2020 because there was a lot of negatives that can over shadow the good, but good things still happen even in bad situations.”
The Silver Linings Art Show program stole my heart. When I offered the program via email to some of our teachers, I was blown away by the instant requests for materials. I thought that a couple art teachers would have a dozen or so students participate, but we had requests from art teachers, classroom teachers, and administrators covering every grade in public, private, and charter schools. 1171 participated in our school program, plus almost a hundred more children painted during our public program. The students painted on a wide variety of themes. Some drew their dog, or a favorite video game. Others drew sunsets that inspired them on hard days, or told about the comfort they found in their family members. One girl said, “This image is my brother and I. Once quarantine started I isolated myself in my room. I rarely left my room but my brother anyways came in. Just to spend time with me, even when I was and still at my lowest he knows how to make me smile.” We hope that this experience helped reframe this tough period, and that students will remember the positive about 2020.
This year provided so many opportunities. We are planning to include school art shows in our future arts programming because of the success of this year’s impromptu program. Many schools welcome an in-house activity they can complete on their own schedule. We’re excited to implement more of these opportunities in the future.
Another of our substitute events, the Music Video Project, allowed us to focus deeply on a small group of students. It was a tremendous opportunity for these students to record a piece of music written by one of their own classmates in a real studio, and have it recorded as a music video. As I reflect on this program, it may not have influenced a large number of students for the cost, but it is often worth it to have a deeply meaningful event for smaller groups, too. This is something else I’d like to keep as a takeaway from this COVID-19 year.
Another thing that surprised me is that virtual programs in the arts can work! Students were engaged with our virtual Breach of Peace plays and the virtual visits by Storyteller Jim Cogan. In the future, we hope to reach more students by having artists in one classroom or auditorium, with the possibility of broadcast to other locations. This is a new idea and one that may help us continue to serve the underserved areas of our state.
These challenging times allowed Caldwell Fine Arts to be inventive and move forward with new programs that will continue to inspire young people in the future.