As a wake-up activity, we played “Wizard, Elf, Dragon” – a character-driven full-body version of “Paper, Scissors, Rock.”
This week we had already explored origin myths from the past and the experience of new beginnings and of living in various kinds of borderlands in the present. Now it was time to investigate ways to support our students in creating positive futures. To this end, Jon Baricovich presented a compelling slide show about stereotypes of Latinx cultures and history juxtaposed with images of amazing scientific, political, and social innovations created by indigenous peoples of the Americas. These contrasting images served as a basis for posing these provocative questions:
Jon then shared images from the growing body of Latinx visual artists and writers who draw on science fiction tropes to represent alternative and positive futures that grow out of Latinx cultural aesthetics, histories, and traditions.
Fanny Melendez then shared with us images of imagined worlds drawing on the surrealist painting movement in Mexico.
How can we create museum experiences for young people that are interactive, engaging, high touch, and connective? How can students engage artwork in a museum without a docent to tell them what to think?
We moved into the National Museum of Mexican Art galleries to give close attention to the grand mural The Ancient Memories of Mayahuel’s People Still Breathe by Mario Castillo (1996)
Some of us had been to the museum many times, and thought we knew this painting well, but the social nature of our layered 1 – 10 observations and sharing revealed new riches to us in this iconic mural. This is a powerful, interactive literacy development activity that is inclusive of all learners.
We were joined by the amazing Cesáreo Moreno, the Chief Curator and Visual Arts Director at the National Museum of Mexican Art, who shared with us the painter’s extraordinary origin story as the first painter of a major public street mural integrating contemporary art practice with ancient Mexican imagery, launching an entire Mexican-American-Chicano mural movement.
All the institute participants received a copy of the lovely children’s book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (available in English and in Spanish), a book that echoes all the themes of the institute, and we performed the text as a concert reading, with the entire room reading aloud the ending “somos historías.”
Cynthia introduced us to a strategy called “Verb-Noun-Verb” that helps generate poetic language. The process starts with making 3 lists – a verb list, a noun list, and another verb list, and experimenting with how words selected from the three lists can create surprising combinations and spark interesting, unexpected ideas for what you may become.
Here are a few examples:
This writing can conclude with “But right now ..” lines modeled after the language in DREAMERS.
How do we translate poetic writing into poetic artwork?
Cynthia, Tommaso, and Fannie guided us in translating our poetic writing into surrealist memory boxes, drawing on the tradition of nichos (Catholic religious imagery arranged in shadow boxes) and the evocative constructions of the artist Joseph Cornell.
We read over our How I Became Origin Stories, and our Someday I will Become poems to decide on what narrative to represent in our boxes. We chose boxes, background paper, and objects for our artworks.
“Beauty should be shared for it enhances our joys. To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime.” ― Joseph Cornell
Nicho art originated as a popular adaptation of the Roman Catholic retablo tradition of painting patron saints on wood or tin. Within the box there is a key object or central figure for whose honor or memory the nicho has been created. Nichos are decorated with all variety of images and objects from religious and popular culture.
“Shadow boxes become poetic theater or settings wherein are metamorphosed the elements of a childhood pastime.” ― Joseph Cornell
We brought and printed photographs that were meaningful to us.
We also brought in objects of personal meaning to include in our boxes, and produced works of great tenderness, mystery, and beauty.