Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a project that ArtsBuild, a local arts agency here in Chattanooga, sponsored. I was one of 15 artists brought in to make work with area high school students. It was a great experience, and I was proud of the work that the two students who worked with me did. I was contacted just a week before the event and told we would have four hours to complete their work and mine and that the work would be exhibited at a concert event and later auctioned to help raise money for art supplies for local schools.
So what do you do that can be done in four hours? Four hours sounds like a long time. It is not. I mean, yes, if left on my own, I can execute a drawing in less than that amount of time, but to come up with something that I’m comfortable sharing? Then there was the issue of the student work. Think of it this way. You are a baker. If someone said you have four hours to make a cake from scratch, you could do that, right? But what if someone asked you to invent a new recipe and mentor two novice cooks in the process of baking three different versions of this cake in the same amount of time?
And then there was the exhibit. Exhibiting and auctioning kids’ work is a great idea in many ways. It puts the student in the role of a professional artist whose work is recognized and valued, but there is a kind of disappointment for the student in not getting to keep what they’ve made and are proud of. So I decided to do linocut printing with them. It’s not my specialty or anything, but it’s a fun process, probably not something they regularly get to do in their school art classes, and it produces multiple images so the student gets to keep something of their work. Because we were limited on time (and to keep costs down) we did a reductive print process (a friend calls it suicide block) where the artist works out a multiple color print using only one block. The resulting prints are limited since with each successive printing you destroy some of the block.
The kids did great the night of the event. My group ended up being among the last to get done. Or almost done. The kids’ work was done (pretty much) in the time allowed, but framing had to wait till the next day.
My work? As for that, I got caught up in facilitating what the kids were doing and most of my work had to be completed in a stressful rush the next day. But it did get done. The work was exhibited (and sent home with the artists). And then I slept.
Now I have to go back and clean up what’s left of my studio space after frantic printing and framing. It was stressful and exhausting. I hope I get to do this again soon. 🙂