I have often heard, “That’s great that you are doing real-world projects for your design classes, but how do you do that for fine arts?” I have to admit it has taken me a few years to find projects and experiences that help students relate their learning to a real-world experience. A few projects I have done in the past are:
- Simulating a real gallery juried exhibition, with the students jurying their peer work and hosting the show. (It is an incredible opportunity for synthesizing all they have learned.)
- Entering student pieces into adult shows, and it is a great encouragement to them to see their work selected.
- Painting or drawing on location.
- Using their own personal real-world experiences to help form thematic works under a big idea.
- Solo or group exhibitions of Senior work in galleries, coffee shops, or host home.
- Participating in a K-12th grade Art Expo. In addition to showing their work, high students are required to be a leader in the interactive art area. It is a great way for them to assist the Elementary children.
- Creating artwork for a non-profit organization.
- Murals for the school.
- Inviting guest artists and going on studio visits are always inspiring!
- Giving away art. One of the annual real-world experiences we do is a bit zany –right in the heart of winter, each student selects their best or favorite work of art created that year and we travel downtown. In the midst of rush hour we parade our fine works of art around in what I have now dubbed, “The Walking Gallery”. Students even get extra credit if they hand out some packaged “crackers and cheese” to a morning pedestrian! I changed things up a bit this year, and found it very successful -students spent two days creating a 5″x7″ work of art to give away. As we walked downtown we told the pedestrians, coffee baristas, security guards, businessmen and homeless street people that we were giving away free art. It was amazing to see so many shocked at the thought of giving away art. Out of the 24 students 2 were not able to give theirs away in the 35 minutes we walked downtown, so we hung them in a tree branch with a sticky note that said, “Free”. Here is a newspaper article on our experience.
Presenting Artwork to Local Artists and Galleries for Critique
Aside from the large group J-term experience I offer for students to visit art studios and design firms, I encourage students to present their work to local artists for feedback. One student whose work really reflected the spirit of Sanctuary Folk Art had the opportunity to talk about his work to Reb Roberts, artist and owner of the gallery. Here is a short video.
Portraits for Others
Our school is always in search of ways to connect the high school students to the elementary children. I decided that instead of self-portraits this year, students would use the grid system to create portraits of two elementary 1st grade classes. Both the older and younger students were very excited about the project. I also want to consider inner city school children portraits or veterans for future years.
Off-Campus Student Art Exhibitions
Any opportunity you can find to showcase Senior work would be a wonderful way to “send” them off to the real-world of art. We owned an art gallery so it was an obvious choice, but even if you do not, maybe someone you know does, or you can ask a gallery. Otherwise ask a coffee shop, small business owner, or even at your own home (which we have had students do with success too)! Have it be a solo show or small group show, have them hang their own work and title cards, make invitations and bring the desserts!