GS Advanced Art & Portfolio Show 2015

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the opening of this annual show, however, I did get the chance to stop by to see the incredible work produced by some truly talented GS Art Students. I’m constantly amazed by the work that our students are producing and their talent level. I’m also constantly in awe of the high interest assignments and the guidance that are provided by the members of our Fine Arts staff – some really, really hard working teachers are working tirelessly to foster these talents.

After seeing last year’s show at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s temporary location, it was great to see it back to being housed in the newly renovated Museum’s Community Room. It was also pretty cool to NOT be at the opening show when I was viewing the pieces, as there were several members of the community there at the same time that I was who had no tie to the artists or the school. I must freely admit that I did a little bit of eavesdropping while I was there and it was great to hear the unbelievably positive comments and compliments directed toward our students. Several were, appropriately, in awe of the work.

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The following are but some of my favorites – and the phone photos and crops do not even come close to doing them justice.

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One of the interesting parts of the show, for me at least, is to read the artists’ statements. I’ve been fortunate to work with many of these students in the English classroom, but it’s great to see them put into words where they’re coming from, artistically. And while Sara certainly does a great job of explaining her motivations, I was struck by this portrait – I’m not sure that I’ve seen many that better capture what I see in a kid.

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And I had to share this one as well. I love when an artist is able to make a statement and I also love when she is able to poke a little fun at everything going on around her. I think that this artist did exactly that when she created this piece:

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Once again, bravo to all of the students and teachers who took part in this tremendous display of their talents!

 

 

Our students display courage on an every day basis…

(Stick with me on this one – it’s going to take a little bit to see that the title makes sense…)

As someone who grew up watching a lot of television in the 70s and 80s, my world was rocked when “Mork & Mindy” first appeared on ABC. Putting it the easiest way that I can, the show was just so different. And by different I don’t even mean that it was some show about some extraterrestrial who came to earth in an egg shaped vessel – it was just so different because Robin Williams was just bouncing off the walls nuts. If you watched the show then you know what I mean – you just couldn’t take your eyes off of him. He was all over the place and you never knew what was coming next – and I loved it. I can’t say as I really remember any specific episodes or the plot to any of them, but I really do just see in my head this Tasmanian Devil of a character all over the place. And it was just awesome.

Pam Dawber and Robin Williams

Pam Dawber and Robin Williams

And then, in typical form, I looked for him in everything. I actually enjoyed seeing him in “Popeye,” even though that one certainly hasn’t stood the test of time (give me a break, I was 8 or 9 at the time!) And then he was in some other things that didn’t really stand out until he portrayed Adrian Cronauer in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” and again, here he was playing this manic character. (By the way, I didn’t have to look up Cronauer’s name – Williams embedded that in my head – in a good way). It was in this role that I first saw that the guy could really act, though. While he was certainly funny, there were certain scenes where he just stole it by being serious. And these were the scenes that really stood out to me.

It was at this point, I’d say that his meteoric rise truly started (at least in my eyes – perhaps that’s not historically accurate – I’m not really sure). “Dead Poet’s Society” furthered my thoughts on his ability to play a serious role, even though he was still looked at as a comedic actor. And then, and I’m making a big jump here, time-wise, he was in “Good Will Hunting.” And it seemed as though everything changed for me. No longer did I even look at him for his comedic talents – I simply looked at him as this incredible actor. I think it was this scene that truly, truly did this for me:

And then, again, after jumping much further in time, he took his own life and I don’t know why it is, but it’s just really affected me. It’s not like I knew him by any means, I just wanted to, I guess. How could this man, who brought so much joy to so many, whether that be with his comedic or serious roles, be so distraught to do this? To this day, I get choked up when I see anything that he’s in. I can’t even think about seeing “Boulevard,” because I still don’t think I can get through it.

So here’s where I bring that title into play. I was walking into our faculty lounge yesterday for lunch and noticed a piece that had been hung on the wall near the door. It caught my attention, certainly, but I was so close to it that I didn’t really even take it all in. I came out of the lounge, so the piece was to my back now, and I didn’t even notice it as I went to get something to eat. And then I came back through, looking straight at the piece from a further distance and with some perspective. It was then that it truly, truly hit me.
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Now we have some unbelievably talented artists who have come through our school. Our art teachers do a fantastic job with them and have come up with some awesome assignments, while also fostering a sense of ownership of our school’s walls at the same time. That might not sound right, but it’s so cool to walk down the halls and see such great work that is student produced. I’m truly in awe of the talent – and that’s only magnified by the fact that I have none of it!

If you look close enough, you’ll notice that there’s no signature on it and no label, so I had no idea who created this piece. I tweeted out a pic and in no time found out who created this wonderful portrait. In just a few more minutes I found out that this was her first attempt at this type of work. Are you kidding me??? I’d kill (okay, not really) for this type of talent.

And then it hit me. And it hit me like a ton of stones landing solely on my chest, Giles Corey style. This subject was chosen purposely. You see, the young lady who created this has experienced the type of tragedy that nobody should have to face. And she’s done so with class and dignity.

This is a statement piece. There’s a clear purpose behind it and I truly hope that it helps to bring her peace. That’s probably not going to be tomorrow or next week or even this year. But someday she’ll look back and come to the realization that creating this — and putting herself out there while doing so — took an incredible amount of courage.

I’m truly, extremely proud of you, young lady.

 

2015 Caesar Raps

So that title is actually a misnomer. Are the raps from Julius Caesar? Sure they are – but the students are actually charged with updating Antony’s funereal speech in which he eulogizes his friend Caesar while charging the commoners with seeking revenge for Caesar’s death.

While some students dread the assignment (cough, cough, Melissa!), others look forward to it and shine. Beyond creating a rap or a song, what’s most important is demonstrating their ability to update Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English while “translating” Antony’s speech at the same time.

It’s great to see this final product — and it’s also great to see students get out of their comfort zones and push themselves!

 

Caesar Raps…

This is an oldie but a darn goodie from not too long ago. I’ve always liked the assignment – update to modern language either Antony’s or Brutus’ funereal speech from Julius Caesar – and do it in rap form.

For the most part, the kids do a great job with it; they have some fun and demonstrate that they get it at the same time. Admittedly, most of the students aren’t that talented when it comes to rapping, however!

So these are two of my favorites – you can definitely tell that they got into it – but pay attention, the content is king – and both really impressed me with their content!

(I mean, she deserves props just for that outfit!!!)

And for the second, these ladies decided to channel their inner JT to create “Bringing Caesar Back.” Just don’t try to cut them short!

And do you know what I love the most about these? I guarantee that this has stuck with them. I think they had some fun with it, but they got it, too, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

To just have an ounce of this talent…

To just have an ounce of this talent…

 

Last night I had the chance to check out the Advanced Art Portfolio Exhibition (I think I just made that title up, so please don’t hold that against me!) at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s temporary location. To say that I was blown away would be an absolute understatement.

I’ve been to plenty of Museums and I’ve seen a ton of great art, some famous and some not so famous. I love walking through a gallery and then just being crushed with a piece in front of me. It’s hard to explain what my taste is in art, but when I see it, I just know.

We have an extremely talented group of artists at our school and several had the opportunity to show off their work – some of it I had seen before, but some was completely new to me. It was also really cool to get the chance to read the artist’s statements – some really took the time to examine what has brought them to where they are now. In addition, we also have some incredibly dedicated teachers who’ve worked extremely hard to foster this student talent (thank you Kelley and Renee!)

I was absolutely stunned at how many pieces just stopped me in my tracks — almost rendering me breathless at times. These were just a few of my favorites from the show. Please keep in mind that these are pics from my phone and some were taken quickly with horrible angles – so don’t hold these against the artists!

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Just so much talent.

I’d also like to take a minute to thank the Westmoreland Museum of American Art for enabling our students this wonderful opportunity. By no means do they have to do this, but I can assure you that it’s appreciated.

If you aren’t aware, the Museum is currently undergoing major renovations – exciting things are happening for sure. It was also great to see a small section of the temporary location that is dedicated to this construction. I can’t wait to see the new building once completed.

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Imagine the possibilities…

We have a Senior Project requirement at Greensburg Salem and I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with it. I truly like that we have this requirement and feel that it’s a strong one at that. I know that many students get a ton out of their project, and for that reason, I think they’re great.

But then there are those students who simply go through the motions and have to be pushed and pulled and prodded to get through them whatsoever. (And I am very aware that this is part of my job with many!) In my opinion, however, the positives far outweigh the negatives – and I base this even more on talking with the seniors after they’re done, especially the ones who will provide an honest response concerning the whole process. And it’s the actual process itself that I feel is the most valuable aspect of the whole thing.

All of that blabbering brings me to this: we can do better. And here’s how: we can demand more – the students will rise to the expectations that we set, in fact, they’ll go way past them. They will amaze us if we push them and they will struggle though the process and they will have doubts and they will have ups and downs and they will learn about life. And they’ll have an incredible project at the end that they can be proud of. Isn’t that what we should want (and demand) out of each of these?

So where did this all come from you ask? Why are you writing about this now??? Well, my brother Tony, a Case Western grad, posted a video to Facebook today and I took the time to watch it. I hope that you do, too. It’s a relatively quick video and you might say to yourself no high school kid could do that. And I would tell you that you’re wrong. We just have to show them that we believe that they can do it and they will.

Or maybe they’ll fail after trying. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. We fail in life almost daily, don’t we? And that’s a lesson, too.

So check out the link by clicking on the picture – then click on the video – I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Remembering just how fortunate I am…

I talk to friends who don’t teach and always hear about them complaining about those they work with and I realize that I really am fortunate to work with some great people — people who are dedicated to not only helping others, but to becoming better at what they do at the same time.

Oh, and they’re funny. Really funny.

Exhibit A? If you have read my blog, then you know about my little rant about Mr. Ashton Kutcher telling us how important it is to learn to code. Well today, after getting some flak from the person who was responsible for putting said posters up, I later found this staring at me after closing my door for the day:

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Now, I will freely admit that I cracked up when I saw this. She got me – and she got me good. But, what I also noticed, since it was outside my door and I had a little more time to examine it, was what else it said:

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And now it makes total sense. Unless it really was just his good looks that got him to where he is. Hmm – come to think of it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought his acting to be all that good…

Good one, JoAnne!!!

I think I’ve said this before…

…but just in case, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiative drives me up an absolute wall. It’s not because I don’t think those subjects are critically important, because I do. It’s simply because there’s one little letter that’s missing: an A. Change that to STEAM and we’re all good. Show people that the Arts are just as important as those other subjects and I wouldn’t be blogging about it.

What, you may wonder, is the big deal? Well, if you don’t work in the field of Education, I can understand that question, partly because I’ve had discussions about the topic with friends who aren’t involved and have a differing perspective. I get it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to you – it makes sense to you – but as a teacher, let me tell you why it doesn’t make sense to me.

You see, in my opinion, NONE of those other subjects exist without a piece of the Arts attached to them – and vice versa as well. I joke with my students about me not using Math on a daily basis, but it’s a joke. Do I need Calculus or Algebra? Well, no. But that doesn’t mean I don’t value them – I just joke about them.*** In addition, I’m working in a pretty specialized field which doesn’t require it. (And that brings me to one of my all time favorite shirts…)

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Make no mistake about it, though, we need to make sure our students – both male and female – are exposed to ALL subjects, not just the STEM subjects (and not just the Arts for that matter).

And that brings me to what even brought this up. In our high school we currently have a bunch of posters that were put up concerning the need to learn how to code. I have no issues with the need to push this – heck, if you can’t see that this is a necessary skill for many – especially our young ladies – then you might not be able to foretell anything in our society. But seeing this poster made me a little stabby, so to speak…

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First, I have a hard time taking Kutcher seriously – even though he gave a great speech at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards Show. I just don’t see him as a master of coding. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps he’s at home in his free time learning how to do it, and if that’s the case, then I apologize. But we see celebrities pitching ideas all the time (I’m supposed to believe that Tiger Woods drives a Buick?), so that’s not even the biggest thing that bugs me about this.

Again, we see the Arts being shrifted – and in this case, by someone who’s made his living as a result of them. “…right next to biology, chemistry, or algebra.” – UGH! How about right next to Drama or English or Pottery or Digital Communications or Choir or Band or Creative Writing thrown in there alongside the others? And again, the last thing I want to do is de-stress the importance of biology, chemistry, or algebra, but c’mon!

Okay, rant over, I’ll keep this relatively short, besides, I’m probably just overreacting…

 

*** There’s something else I tell my students about those who are strong in the math and sciences, and that’s that they typically make a whole lot of money…

#onelittleword

New Year’s Resolutions. I’m sure we’ve all made them at some point, and I doubt that most of us have ever true maintained one for an entire year (I think the longest I ever went was a month – but man, I was in shape that month!)

But during this year’s holiday season, while trying to figure out what I wanted to resolve, I came across a tweet from Lisa Dabbs (@teachingwithsoul) which led me to her blog post entitled Ditch the Resolutions and Do the Word! (Careful readers will also notice that Lisa was influenced by Ali Edwards, who blogged about her #onelittleword for 2014 — just trying to give proper credit!)

Immediately, I was drawn to Lisa’s post due to this photo:

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I mean, c’mon now, how cool is that??? I was hooked – and immediately started to think about what my word needed to be for 2015. It was about a nanosecond after this that I started thinking about how I could use this with my students. I started twisting it all around and then finally realized (because I’m smart like that…) that there was no need to twist anything around. That’s the beauty of the whole thing – students don’t need different instructions to do this – the project is strong enough on its own that it lends itself to success by everyone, regardless of age.

So yesterday, our first day back after Winter Break, I introduced the project to them. We spoke of past failed resolutions. We laughed at how we all thought we’d do this or do that. And then I showed that thrive graphic and explained the project: Rather than a resolution, choose one word to keep you centered throughout the year. But choose wisely, because that’s your word for the whole year. While there were some puzzled faces, there were many more faces filled with excitement. They were hooked.

All students were required to do three things after choosing their word: tweet out their photo using the hashtag #onelittleword, email a copy of the photo so that I could show them off on this blog, and print out a copy so that I could show them off on our one little word wall.

I was actually amazed that there were only a few words that repeated (although you might see that somebody wasn’t quite sure how to spell perseverance!

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So, a little bit about the process. I envisioned the students using PhotoShop or another similar program to do this. For my Yearbook students, they didn’t have an option and had to use it (their projects are below). They use PhotoShop on a daily basis, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for them to do this. For my other students (Mass Media and English), I was simply expecting them to write their word on a piece of paper, maybe decorate it, have a friend take a photo and voila. What I love is that it took all of about a nanosecond for the students to realize that they could easily do this using SnapChat – great problem solving on their part!

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So there you have it. I really like what they’ve come up with and truly hope that it helps to guide them through their year – whether that be as a freshman / sophomore or a senior who’s closing in on graduation.

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Oh yeah, there’s that whole little thing about my word. I really spent some time on this and finally decided that this is the word that I’m focusing on the most this year. There are so many things that I want to do, so many places that I want to see – and that’s going to start in earnest, this year…

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