Here is an excerpt from my residency in the elementary classroom at the Montessori School of the Berkshires. For six months we came together to make art, explore identity, and design a character which became our collaborative butterfly sculpture. The experience was enriching and an honor to get to spend so much time with these 45 students.
I traveled to New Work City to check out the Armory Week festivities, and brought a few furry friends with me. I stumbled upon some really talented artists hard at work, and it was great to dive into the vibrant and immersive art weekend.
The Butterfly Project began with an invitation to participate in Mass MoCA's Art For Change Residency. The residency is part of Mass MoCA's four year long initiative to share focused arts education with elementary students of Northern Berkshire County. The initiative is built around four themes: Empathy, Optimism, Bravery and Problem Solving. The students visit the museum several times throughout the year and work with artists in residence to create art around the selected theme.
I was invited to be an artist in residence in the theme of Optimism, and I instantly knew what I wanted to create. The theme resonated with the symbolism of butterflies: delicate, vivid, transformative, and creating positive emotions. I remembered a technique my grandmother taught me when I was very young. Together she and I turned crayons in a pencil sharpener to make little crayon shavings which we melted onto wax paper. The effect was like stained glass. This is how we would create the wings.
Optimism also brought to me a vision of a disco ball helmet. I was inspired by the saying, "The light in me honors the light in you." The disco ball helmet would reflect that light in all directs and create a magical, bright and hopeful feeling.
I shared these concepts with the students participating in the residency with me and taught them the crayon melting technique. During their time at the museum the students made small butterflies to take home and together we made the large butterfly wings to be on display at the museum.
I had one year from the time of the invitation to the residency and in that time I became inspired to share this work with more students. It was time for me to shake my day job, and become a full time artist. I shared my vision with a couple local schools and they were eager to have me work with their students as well. I wanted to share with these students concepts about Identity and Empathy as well as Optimism through a tactile, large scale art making process.
The Butterfly Project reached almost 200 students from 6 different schools. Together, we made art and learned about what makes us who we are. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Here are some photos from the Art For Change Residency, and please visit Mass Moca before Memorial Day 2017 to see this work in person!
It is with mountains of gratitude that I can say, I am a recipient of The Martha Boschen Porter Award. I'd like to express my thanks to The Berkshire Taconic Foundation for their continued support of the arts in our region. With this award, I am able to give my undivided attention to working with children in creating a deeper understanding of our personal identities and strengthen our empathetic abilities. This award gives me the time and materials to develop tactile arts experiences, and for that, I am so grateful.