Artists transform ‘prison-like school’

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wynwood miami artist
Before and after for a Miami middle school in the newly artsy Wynwood neighborhood. 

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, once known for empty warehouses, drugs and gang violence, is now a mecca for artists, reports Eleanor Goldberg in the Huffington Post. Jose de Diego Middle School, where 96 percent of students live below the poverty line, no longer looks like a stark white “prison.”

This year, Principal April Thompson-Williams persuaded the district to fund an art teacher for the first time in years. And she worked with local arts groups to get the school painted for free.

“Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the amount of wall space,” said Robert de los Rius, owner of WynwoodMap.com, “just amazing canvas for art.” He organized the painting: 73 artists from Miami and around the world participated.

He also launched a fundraiser to develop an arts program called the “RAW Project” –- Reimagining the Arts in Wynwood.

“This is a critical time where kids choose who they want to be, what they want to be and what they want to get into,” Diana Contreras, a Miami artist who participated in the project, told HuffPost. “And they need a way to express themselves.”

Students feel calmer and safer in the new environment, Thompson-Williams said. The middle school is losing fewer students to charters.

Core-ish art teaching

Teachers can integrate the arts into Common Core classrooms, according to a video series by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Teaching Channel.

Here’s one on finding “evidence” in a painting to support an argument or “claim,” a very Core-ish endeavor.

Better parenting in 2015

Modern parenting is impossible, writes Jordan Shapiro in Forbes.

 . . .  the ideal parent is exhaustively selfless and giving, but also stern and principled. A good parent always puts the child first but somehow miraculously avoids creating a spoiled brat who thinks s/he is the center of the familial universe.

The father of two elementary-school-aged boys, he’s come up with 5 Ways To Be A Better Parent Next Year.

This year, I want to teach my kids about money. Not just financial literacy, but the socio-economic realities of the world. I want them to begin to think about how their own personal wealth (likely measured in their minds as quantity of video games and toys) impacts the world as a whole.

He also plans more family adventures — real life can be as exciting as a quality video game — and more exposure to art.

Educated in Quaker schools, Shapiro experienced the silent meditation of Quaker meetings. He worries that his boys can’t sit still — certainly not silently.

. . . the ability to intentionally disconnect for 40 minutes seems especially important in a world of smart phones and social networks. I have no objection to our modern virtual experience provided it becomes a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, tangible experience in physical space. Meeting for worship seems to be a good way to practice disconnection and presence.

He hopes to take his children “to the local Quaker meeting house in order to teach them the skills required for being present, quiet, and silent.”

UI president apologizes for public art

A public art piece created by University of Iowa faculty member Serhat Tanyolacar stood on the UI Pentacrest for less than four hours before it was removed. (Mitchell Schmidt/The Gazette)

Today’s college students are delicate souls. When University of Iowa students saw a Klan-costumed sculpture in the “Pentacrest,” they didn’t look at the newspaper stories about race riots and killings printed on it. They didn’t consider whether it might be anti-Klan. They were too distressed.

It was removed within hours. Not “soon enough,” said President Sally Mason in an apology for letting a professor display his art.

“For failing to meet our goal of providing a respectful, all-inclusive, educational environment, the university apologizes,” she wrote.

Mason, who was out of town Friday, said in her message that she plans to meet with concerned students Wednesday to “prepare a detailed plan of action” that will include input from those affected by the incident. The plan will look at how the university can “better meet its responsibility to ensure that all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are respected and safe.”

Mason also shared plans to move quickly in forming a committee of students and community members to advise her on options for strengthening cultural competency training and reviewing implicit bias training.

The university will provide counseling for the traumatized.

Serhat Tanyolacar, 38, a UI faculty member raised in Turkey, apologized “for the pain and suffering I caused to the African American community” and begged for forgiveness. He’d hoped to “facilitate a dialogue” on the history of racism. Instead, he used his eight-year-old “mixed-race” son to defend himself from charges of racism. (Does he get free counseling?)

Artist Serhat Tanyolacar

Artist Serhat Tanyolacar

Removing the artwork likely was “viewpoint-based discrimination,” said David Ryfe, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in the Daily Iowan.  Still, Ryfe said, “If it was up to me, and me alone, I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech.”

On his blog, Ryfe says he doesn’t want to ban “artistic expression.” He supports a ban on “hate speech” — “defined as speech uttered with the intention of demeaning and/or intimidating a category of persons (based on race, sexuality, gender, and so on), especially categories of people that have been historically marginalized/threatened.”

The journalism professor hasn’t worked as a journalist, ever.

Sensitivities also are delicate at Smith, where President Kathleen McCartney apologized for a pro-protest email that said: “We are united in our insistence that all lives matter.” It went on to say the grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have “led to a shared fury … We gather in vigil, we raise our voices in protest.” Not good enough.

“Too many of today’s students want freedom from speech rather than freedom of speech,” Greg Lukianoff, President of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Fox News. “It’s hard to challenge minds while walking on eggshells,” he said.

Love, art and fear in Florence

In John L’Heureux’s The Medici Boy, a failed monk and failed artist narrates the story of the Renaissance artist Donatello and his passion for the vain and “whorish” Agnolo, who becomes the model for his bronze David.

Enemies of Donatello’s Medici patrons try to destroy the artist using Florence’s laws against homosexuality. Penalties start with fines, exile or public torture and burning alive — or dead, for those who confess. Yet sex between men and adolescent boys was so common the Germans called it florenzen, and the French called it “the Florentine vice.”

The narrator, Luca, struggles with love, jealousy and fear. Will Donatello burn in the public square? Will Luca burn in hell?

L’Heureux was my creative writing professor many years ago. We didn’t waste time to unleash our creativity. We wrote stuff.

 

High hopes, long odds

A fine arts major, Vladimir de Jesus hopes to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and teach studio art and art history. In six semesters at New York City’s La Guardia Community College, he’s earned 27 credits of the 60 he needs to transfer — and he’s flunked remedial math three times.

STEM split: Women choose bio, but not physics

Two-thirds of Princeton’s molecular biology majors are female, but 76.2 percent of physics majors are male, reports The Daily Princetonian.

The most female-dominated majors for the class of ’16 are art and archaeology at 92.9 percent, psychology at 87.3 percent and comparative literature at 81.3 percent.

The most male-dominated majors are mathematics at 86.7 percent, philosophy at 77.8 percent and computer science at 77.3 percent. History, politics, sociology, classics, music — and astrophysics — are roughly even.

Pi art

Today is Pi Day. Here’s one example of pi transformed into art via The Guardian, which has more.
Pi random walk

Francisco Aragón and his colleages converted pi into base 4, meaning that it is written using only the digits 0, 1, 2 and 3, and with these digits representing north, south, east and west, tracked a random walk of pi for 100 billion digits. 

Looking at ‘Girl Before a Mirror’

Young people can appreciate Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror at different levels, says a MoMA art educator.

Study art for art’s sake

Why study art? It’s not a way to boost math and reading scores, much less to prepare students for the 21st century workforce, writes Jay Greene. We’re trying to educate civilized human beings.

As he researches the effect of field trips to art museums on student learning, Greene encounters arts educators eager to climb on the economic utility bandwagon. Afraid art will be seen as a frill, they feel compelled to argue it’s a form of job training.

Most of what students learn in math and reading also has no economic utility.  Relatively few students will ever use algebra, let alone calculus, in their jobs.  Even fewer students will use literature or poetry in the workplace. When will students “use” history?  We don’t teach those subjects because they provide work-related skills. We teach algebra, calculus, literature, poetry, and history for the same reasons we should be teaching art — they help us understand ourselves, our cultural heritage, and the world we live in.  We teach them because they are beautiful and important in and of themselves.

Policymakers, pundits and others suffering from PLDD (petty little dictator disorder) use economic utility to club their critics into submission, Greene writes. Even math and reading must prove to be economically useful.

You have folks like Tony Wagner and the 21st Century Skills movement suggesting that we cut algebra because students won’t ‘need’ it.  Instead, students would be better off learning communication skills, like how to prepare an awesome Power Point (TM).  And you have Common Core cutting literature in English in favor of “informational texts.”

If the purpose of school is workforce prep, then let’s do away with it and set up apprenticeships, Greene writes.

His study asked 4,000 students to write short essays in response to Bo Bartlett’s painting, The Box.  “It may be harder to code and analyze essays about paintings than to run another value-added regression on the math and reading scores that the centralized authorities have collected for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.”

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