Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Laurel Highlands High School Art Program

I have had the benefit of teaching about 100 residencies in the past 12 years. I have been at affluent schools and in districts where the money spent on one child in an art program might be equivelant to a $1.50 a child for the year.

Despite the depressed economy of the Uniontown area this particular school district strives to give the best benefit of an art program for its students. From grade school to high school, these students are exposed to a variety of art forms and encouraged in high school to find their own "art voice."

Coming into this residency with Mike DeFazio as the art teacher, I found myself coming into their large art exhibit with the capability of helping in the classes while the exhibit was being hung. The amount of pride the students have in their work is evident not only by the quality of the work but also because nothing is ever vandalized or stolen while on display.

Friday night was the opening of the play Bye Bye Birdie as well as the public display of the works. The range of the art was quite impressive for high school students. Over the course of the past few years, Mr. DeFazio has spent extra hours and uses his own resources to make display fixtures, provides boards for the mosaic works and even custom mats student works.

This week aside from major tear down of the exhibit we started self portraits for the Art I students, a little metal work in the fourth period class, textured paintings and paint and wood sculptures. There is always an air of expectation and excitement as the students are willing to try something new and untried.

I always feel a positive connection with this school and the student body. Part of me has a certain amount of reluctance knowing that I will be leaving in a few days. I have learned new approaches to art and can see that the success of these students can NEVER be measured by a standardized test.......the true test is how and what these students will take from the classes offered and actually apply in their regular lives....for some the haven of this room offers solitude, acceptance and a chance to truly shine.

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