Product or Process?

I’m looking back at the year so far, and wondering- where’s all the art?  I know every class is filled with art, and I know my kids have not been slacking off, so where are the piles of artworks?


Angelyn works on an adorable clay project, while Manny gets an earful.


What we remember

When I played softball as a kid, I knew I was never going to be a professional softball player.  I knew I wasn’t getting a scholarship.  I knew I wasn’t even going to try fast pitch.  I just loved playing.  I didn’t care what the score was, truthfully.  I certainly don’t look back fondly on the season we ‘won’ more than others.

No, I look back on the friendships I made, and remember the love I had for my first base position.  I remember the coaches who encouraged me, and I took with me an ability to catch, throw, and hit a ball.

What does that have to do with my art classes?

The answer is this- I enjoy the experiences we have as we learn about art as much as (more than) the finished products.  This isn’t necessarily a popular opinion to have come exhibit time, but it’s true.

Getting their money’s worth

I like to know that any student, regardless of talent or ability, can take something from each class.  This means that I’m sharing things about really cool artists, really cool artworks, making scientific connections, math connections, and showing clips of artists as they make their art.  Sometimes the artist comes into class and shows us his stuff in person!

Joe Pennino shows the kids how he gets into character for his role of Father Time at the Hotel of Horror.

I’m not just teaching them to mix colors- we’re watching videos about color blindness, and experiencing ‘after images‘.  We’re learning why we see a red spot after we start at a minty green one for a minute.  We’re learning about color trends in fashion and how game designers use color.  We’re talking about color psychology and being more aware of the colors in our surroundings.  We test our fine motor skills (as Jayden is below).


Jayden and Ryan test their fine motor skills with a fun partner activity

We play games, we experiment and throw it out.  We dance.  But we’re experiencing art in a way that gives each student a full, rounded, broad picture of what art is and how it can be experienced in our everyday lives.

Figure that I see each kid for an hour and a half a week (sometimes less), and I pack all this other stuff into their art time….and it’s not hard to see why these kids are making less art than you might expect to see.  They do make art- I promise!  But it takes us longer to get it done, and it’s not always the most important part of what we do.   So I look at the projects they have, and they don’t always show the depth and breadth of what we learned.  To an outsider who doesn’t know what we do, I’d be wondering where all the art is.

Making the grade

There’s one thing that I realize now that I need to work on.  I need to be assessing kids during all these mini-experiences more often.  They should be getting credit for all the knowledge they’re soaking up (or so I hope).  Their grades are made of sketchbook assignments, practice work, and long term projects.  Where is the evidence that they have been a great student and an enthusiastic participant in all of these experiences?

Also, they need to be sharing more of what they’re experiencing.  It’s not always about a pretty picture.  It’s about learning, being curious, being excited, and wanting to do MORE!  How can we share this?  It’s on my mind, and hopefully, you’ll start to see more from the kids about this in months to come.

Looking ahead

I’m a work in progress.  Aren’t we all? So my classes- how they’re structured, what we do, what the outcomes are- are evolving.  Whatever may come, I hope it will always be less about what it looks like, and more about how we got there.


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