In the past I’ve written about my interest in folk art and my integration of such naíve and raw aesthetic stylings into my own teaching program. This is something that has evolved steadily over time and I thought I’d use this opportunity to expound further on how the concepts and practices of folk art have become central to the work done in my classroom.
The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe provides the following definition of the term;
‘FOLK ART is the art of the everyday. FOLK ART is rooted in traditions that come from community and culture. FOLK ART expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. FOLK ART encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more.’
A community is in many respects defined by the way it presents itself visually, and Red Balloon is no exception to this. Every cohort of students at Red Balloon will gradually build its own shared aesthetics, resulting in a form of ‘folk art’ that is common to the young people. I often encourage my students to make large scale mixed-media group projects, working together to produce a single piece
For one such group project, my students and I took our cue from Laura Lohman’s outstanding blog Painter Paper in the Art Room. A group of my students set about creating a series of ‘folk art’ landscapes, one a rural scene and one a built up urban environment. The young people worked in paint, printmaking, collage, and three dimensional cardboard construction techniques to produce the large scale pieces shown below. First students established a sense of space by creating the landscape backdrops. They then worked in collage, oil pastel and felt tip to create characters. In doing so the students considered how they might represent and locate themselves within the environments they’d created. This was particularly interesting in the case of the urban landscape, where students variously chose to represent themselves as cars, planes, helicopters and clouds
Following on from these pieces, additional work was produced on the same theme. Some students interpreted the idea of ‘living space’ much more broadly and went on to produce a three dimensional ‘Earth in space’ model. To create this, students worked in cardboard, tempera paint, felt tip pen and crepe paper.
Another group collaborated on an A1 sized landscape of a mountainous region. Materials used for this piece were; oil pastel, cotton wool, tempera paint and tissue paper.
The work created was terrific and is now all on display around our learner centre. Perhaps most importantly, all the young people that worked on these pieces had a fantastic social experience as they worked together throughout a number of lessons and breaktimes.