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What is Art? 2017
P.S 49: Thirty-five students in the Bronx Children’s Museum’s Dream Big After School Program at P.S. 49 examined their own feelings about “home” and translated that concept to both individual and collaborative artwork. Students studied the artwork of Romare Bearden as inspiration for a mixed-media installation exploring the themes of home, community and the Bronx. Led by Bronx Children’s Museum Teaching Artist Estelle Maisonett, and overseen by Bronx Children’s Museum Program Director, Natalie Wood, students used techniques in print-making and collage to create a mixed-media installation exploring what their home means to them.
Inspired by Romare Bearden’s “The Block”, students created images of their street, local shops, playgrounds, and themselves to depict their daily life. Focusing on the exploration of materials and techniques students created rubbings from found objects, mono-prints of local signs, and collages of their daily life in the Bronx to create a personal narrative about their home. “Neighborhood Wonderland” explored the magical and creative qualities of children in the Bronx and what exemplifies home to them.
The installation was displayed as part of our What is Art? program at the Andrew Freedman Home during New York Armory Arts Week in collaboration with the Bronx Arts Alliance’s show “The Bronx Speaks: Our Home.”
What is Art? was offered at two locations in 2016:
Masa: The Bronx Children's Museum collaborated with Masa to celebrate the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos through a family art project. Families worked with Bronx Children's Museum teaching artists and staff for weeks exploring Mexican heritage and culture through the arts. The result was a colorful and expressive mural honoring the rich culture and traditions of Mexico around this particular holiday, which seeks to remember, honor, and celebrate those who have passed away.
The class had the honor of sharing the mural and their experiences with Consul General Diego Gomez Pickering. Families shared personal stories, their experience collaborating as a group, and what it meant to pass along their rich cultural traditions to their children.
Through the hands-on projects provided by the Bronx Children’s Museum teaching artist, we saw parents open up conversations with their children about their family histories. One parent shared with her grandchildren about the foods her own father liked to eat in Mexico; another parent told her son about the many family members he has in Oaxaca but has not had a chance to meet. Many parents shared with their children the Día de Muertos traditions in their towns in Mexico. Because the Bronx Children’s Museum designed the course to incorporate other elements like food, this also encouraged families to share with their children specifically around cultural food and music.
The intergenerational approach of the mural project also helped parents and children learn to work together as families, and to embrace exploring their creativity as a family. We saw parents encourage their children’s creativity through the hands-on, exploratory arts activities provided each week. Because Bronx Children’s Museum staff reinforced that there are no mistakes in art, we saw families become more open to creative exploration and collaboration. One parent who was initially hesitant – he said his boys did not like to draw because they were not good at it – was ultimately drawn into the program. By exploring and creating together as a family, they let go of the idea that they “couldn’t draw” and worked together as a family to contribute to the beautiful mural.
Not only that, one of the most exciting components of this project was the focus on exposing families to new artistic techniques. Parents reflected that they did not know they could paint or design “that way” prior to learning and exploring some of the techniques taught in the class, like using wax paper to make a stencil or print-making. It was also a great opportunity (especially for the little ones) to explore and create with different materials that help develop sensory and fine motor skills, such as using different brush sizes, learning how to control them, and designing with different kinds of paints.
At Masa's request, Bronx Children’s Museum was able to engage a Spanish-speaking teaching artist and staff members, which greatly benefited parents and children alike. By conducting the class in Spanish, parents were able to fully engage, learning more about Mexican art and culture in a language they could understand. Facilitating the class in Spanish also pushed children to practice using their Spanish in new ways, engaging in conversations and questions focused around art with parents and staff alike. One parent who tends to speak with her children in English began speaking more in Spanish around her daughters during the course.
Overall, the collaboration with the Bronx Children's Museum to carry out the Mexican Family Mural Project at Masa created opportunities for families to explore Mexican culture together and create a beautiful mural. When the families presented the mural, it was clear they were incredibly proud of their work – and Masa staff are proud too! We are so glad we were able to integrate this opportunity for sharing cultural traditions through art into Masa’s programming this year.
"Me siento mas conectada a mi cultura Mexicana, esta fue una bonita oportunidad par conocer a otras familias. Es nuestra primera vez participando en un programa de arte y se los recomiendo a otras familias." -Familia Morales
"I feel more connected to my Mexican culture and this was a nice opportunity to meet other families. It's our first time participating in an art program and I would recommend it to other families." -Morales Family
"Estoy muy contento por compartir esta experiencia con mi hijo. Yo vine muy chico a los Estados Unidos y la verdad que no practicaba ofrendas para el Día de los Muertos. En la casa hicimos un pequeño altar para compartir con la familia. Si les recomendaría este programa a otras familias y amigos." -Familia Cruz
"I am very happy to share this experience with my son. I came at an early age to the United States and to be honest I never really practiced Dia de los Muertos. At home we made a small altar to share with the family. Yes, I would recommend this program to other families and friends." -Cruz Family
"Me gusto todas las experiencias que me han mostrado para hacer arte. Dedique la ofrenda para mi papa, hermano y tío. Estoy agradecida con ustedes y la instructora por que mis hijas han aprendido mucho sobre la cultura de mi país. Aprendi mucho." -Familia Flores
"I enjoyed all the techniques that were taught to make art. I dedicated the "ofrenda" to my father, brother and uncle. I'm grateful to the staff and the instructor for teaching my daughters about my country's culture. I learned a lot." -Flores Family
"Me gusto mucho el programa, aprendi muchas formas de hacer arte, mi favorito fue hacer el papel picado. la ofrenda fue para mis padres y los padres de mi esposo." -Patricia R.
"I liked the program a lot, I learned many ways to make art. My favorite was cutting the paper for stenciling. The "ofrenda" was for my parents and my husband's parents." -Patricia R.
"Para mi el curso fue muy interesante y bonito, he aprendido mucho trabajando con mi hijo. Yo le dedique la ofrenda a mi papa y mi proyecto favorito fue cuando pintamos ls flores." -Maria A.
"For me the class was very interesting and nice, I've learned a lot by working with my son. I dedicated the "ofrenda" to my father and my favorite project was when we painted the flowers." -Maria A.