That lesson resulted in this handy new filing system I implemented back in September. All finished artwork needs to have a homeroom number written on the back in order to receive full credit. When my graded work pile gets too big for me to look at and I have the time, I spread out off the folders on my classroom tables and file everything by homeroom. I pull exemplary work as I go, put it on the "art show" shelf, and check the student's name off in my grade book. Work that is extra extra awesome goes on another shelf, which helps me narrow down choices for our big huge regional art show, which I now coordinate, display in the school committee room, the principal's office, and for awards at end of year. Those names are checked off in my book too. Leading up to Arts Night, I can take a quick scan through my book, and if a name here or there never got checked off, I open up that student's homeroom folder and choose something. In June, I will just drop off the folders in each homeroom and be done with it. Easy peasy. So far. I'll get back to you when the year is done.
So back to last night's Art's Night.. I was so disappointed after last year's poor turnout after all that hard work, that I brainstormed and brainstormed how on earth I could increase attendance this year and get more people to show up. When the application for school use didn't go through until 2 days before the actual day of the event, I couldn't even announce a date for the thing until the day before (yes, you read that right - an announcement was literally made that went something along the lines of "oh, by the way - we just decided we're going to have Arts Night tomorrow - hope you can make it!") I was certain that I would be standing in the lobby alone, looking at the accumulation of a year's worth of art, but I was blown away by how many people made it this year. It was a one hour show, with short performances by the band and jazz band, an intermission to view "the art gallery", and hors d'oeuvres served by Student Council volunteers. It started at 6pm. At 5:57, as I was hanging the last painting (yeah, I live on the edge and cut it close), I literally could not move because I was surrounded by people.
So what gives?
In promoting a new product of any kind, the best advertisement is word of mouth. But it doesn't hurt to have a gimmick.
Last year's Arts Night featured a mural sized photorealistic portrait of our principal, created by the 8th grade class. I came up with it on the fly as a group activity to use for my first ever teacher evaluation. After weeks of studying line, value, and space, we did a unit on Chuck Close and his use of the grid method. I wanted students to work on self portraits, but knew that they would be intimidated and overwhelmed by the whole concept. So I had them cut up a photo of the principal into teeny tiny squares (they liked that part a little too much), and each student had one square to draw. Broken up into manageable parts, they each only needed to be concerned with line, value, shape and form of one abstract little piece, not the mammoth undertaking of "how do I draw a nose?!?!". Finished squares were glued to my giant grid, and with each new class, we added new squares. When the grid was filled, students worked from the photo to smooth out any uneven transitions from square to square, and the result was an incredibly realistic larger than life drawing of the principal. It created a bit of a buzz around the building, and was a huge hit at the art show.
This year, we had a 4 foot tall alien. Two 6th grade boys started this as part of a 5 day paper mache lesson last year, and I must have had a momentary bout of insanity when I agreed to let these two kids make their sculpture whatever size they wanted. The rotation ended soon thereafter, but they returned during studies, lunches, after school, etc., working out how to build this structure. I was not prepared for the amount of physics involved in creating a 5 foot tall creature out of household trash, newspaper, and glue. One student came back this year and kept going with it, adding an elevated plaster base and painted it. Each new crop of students wanted to know what the deal was with the alien in the corner and what I was going to do with it. I would tell them briefly that it was a 2 year venture by a couple of students and that I was saving it to show at this year's Arts Night. Between that and all the hoopla surrounding Art in the Valley, which I hosted here earlier in the month, people must have been curious to see what has transpired in the art room now.
So, what will be the big draw next year? I have no idea, but I'm certainly going to take one very long nap before even considering it.