Monday, August 30, 2010

The Museum School Asks Us to Create a Permanent Art Installation

The Museum School, a new charter school in Avondale Estates, has asked seven local artists to create an art installation for each of the classrooms. I am honored to take part in creating an inspiring and motivational environment for the students in one of the Kindergarten classrooms. I love that the school has made art such an important element of their students' education. If I hadn't had the chance to explore art in school, I would never have had the interest or passion to become a photographer. It's so important to give our kids exposure to many different disciplines and art is something that should never be put on the back-burner.

I thought it would be fun to show you step by step how I go from concept to the final installation. Since I have never done anything conceptual like this before, it will be a learning experience for me as well as you!

So step one is brainstorming, note-taking and budgeting.

I was given the school's mission statement. Each artist is to interpret the m
ission statement, find something they can identify with, and create something that explores that idea. Here's the mission statement:

Our mission is to inspire students, teachers and the community to collaborate to develop strong critical thinking, interpersonal and academic skills in our students, which will prepare them for real-world success.
After reading and re-reading this statement too many times to mention, the word that I keep coming back to is "interpersonal." This word is all about relationships - relationships between teachers and students, students and parents, teachers and parents, the community and students, and on and on. And I think the goal of any relationship is to be supportive and helpful, to be respectful and really to create a community of caring people. Well, I have to say that this concept is right up my alley of photographic expertise. I mean, every portrait session is all about relationships. I explore the facets of loving relationships between moms and daughters, brothers and sisters, and grandparents and grandchildren. All the laughter, the hugs, the tears and the consoling - these everyday moments say so much about the relationships we have with our family. So when I take this concept and expand it to a classroom, a school and a community, it's easy to make the jump because in an ideal world, it's just a larger version of our own loving families.

The question now, how do I explain and explore that relationship in a photograph?
interlocking hands, teacher helping a student read, parent's hand on her child's back or in a big congratulatory hug - this is a good start, but a little too predictable and not as out-of-the-box as I'd like. I put aside the brainstorming for a few days and pick it back up when I have an epiphany. (Of course, I was in bed when I had the epiphany. There's something about laying in bed at night or first thing in the morning. It always seems to be my most creative time.)

The ne
w concept is the image of the teacher leading the kids through a museum or across the street on a fieldtrip of sorts. I always remember that scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Ferris and his friends join in the long line of kids holding hands walking through the museum. I love that image because it's just so innocent and lovely. Each of the children must hold onto the hands of the child in front and behind them. If anyone loses contact, everyone behind them will then be separated from the group as well. They are counting on each other. And at the same time, the teacher is leading the group, setting an example and keeping a watchful eye on them to be sure no one gets lost. What a perfect depiction of interpersonal connections, support and community.

The parameters of the space I will have are pretty straightforward. A wall about 4x4 feet or 2x3 feet in one of the Kindergarten classrooms and my work will be permanently installed. That space is a great size because it gives me the option of a single photograph, or, as suggested by the "artist organizer" Jen Singh, multiple pieces. As soon as she mentioned that option, my mind immediately went to all the Wall Collections I create for my clients and which collection might work best. So, I'm thinking of creating one image which will be split between three fine art metal panels. Fine Art Metal will be the perfect medium for this space because it is nearly impossible to damage, can be hung from the ceiling or attached to the wall at one or four spots, and most importantly, it looks really contemporary, crisp, clean and beautiful. By spliting the image into 3 panels, each panel will take on a life of its own. Each panel will be a portion of the larger image and will work together to create the whole installation.

I don't have much of any which is.... ok, I think. I contacted Jen and asked if she could find one teacher and about
4-5 Kindergarten students to be my models = FREE. My time = FREE. Fine Art Metal prints = ? Not sure about this one yet. I plan to contact the vendor who creates the metal prints for me and see if they'll be willing to donate the pieces or at the very least discount the price of them. It is for a good cause!

The school is hosting an exhibition night to celebrate the art going into each classroom on October 7th. Everything must be hung by October 5th. So I have to get moving on this! I contact Jen and schedule the shoot for Tuesday, September 14th. This will give me time to come up with the final concept in my mind and some alternatives if it's just not happening. And it will give me a chance to edit, retouch and order the prints in time.

WHAT'S NEXT - finalizing plans, renting any necessary photographic equipment and photographing the kids!