Dearborn Elementary Charter Academy

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Carol E. Mitchell TITLE: Art Specialist
21115 Devonshire St.  # 362
Chatsworth, California 91311
818 709 1716
[email protected]

For the past twenty five years I have been employed by Los Angeles Unified School District as an Art Specialist.  I have worked at various elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley lecturing on art appreciation and the contributions different artists have made to Western civilization. Although I have taught Art History at the college level, my heart belongs to the elementary students.

I have developed a two-year program that is designed specifically for grade-school students. It combines art history, cultural history, art appreciation and art production into an age-appropriate school level art curriculum. Each lesson begins with information about a particular artist and images of his or her work. I also include the historical background that influenced the artist. Different artists are selected for each grade level, which represents artistic works from prehistoric through modern art. In addition, these artists represent a variety of cultures including European, Japanese, Chicano, Mexican, African-American and Native American. We discuss the artwork as well as the cultural aspects related to the work. I have found art to be a very non-threatening way of discussing cultural differences to promote understanding and tolerance among LAUSD’s multi-cultural student body. We also discuss how the artist uses color, composition, scale and texture to communicate ideas to the viewer.  Various styles of art, such as Realism, Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Primitivism and Abstract Expressionism, are shown and discussed so that the students understand the terms and are able to use them and identify them correctly. We also look at and discuss the difference between artwork that is representational, abstract and nonrepresentational. We discuss how different cultures perceive and use art to communicate ideas and values as well as the difference between public and private art.

 I have found that without the student’s visual senses being challenged by a glimpse of a Titian, a Frida Kahlo or an Andy Warhol, they tend to produce bland stabs at still life or portraiture. Therefore, the following week there is  a brief review and then an art lesson in which all students produce a piece of artwork that takes into consideration one of the techniques the previously discussed artist used. The art projects use materials that are allowed and available at the elementary school level. Throughout the two-year program, the students are given the opportunity to use many different media including tempera, colored pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels, felt-tip pens, and clay. I discuss some of the basic elements of a work of art in each art lesson. One of the art lessons is the color wheel. The students use an analogous color scheme to create an artwork. In the following weeks the art project teaches the proper proportions of the human figure as well as the human face. The students learn how to transform a two-dimensional shape into what appears to be a three-dimensional shape by the use of shading as well as one point perspective. Some of the other art lessons involve the proper use of oil and chalk pastels as well as different techniques that can be used with crayons, felt tips and cutting paper. I also show students how to balance a composition within a triangular form and the Japanese art of origami.

The objectives of my program are:

To give each student an exposure to the works of great artists.
To develop an appreciation for their own creativity through full participation.
To give each student the experience of working with different (school approved) media.
To develop a full vocabulary of art terms the students understand and can use.

My program is a four-pronged approach to teaching art appreciation, art history, cultural history and art.

And lastly, I like to provide the fourth grade students with a guided tour of the Norton Simon Museum. I am very fortunate in that I have the full support of the fourth grade teachers at Dearborn Elementary School. They have graciously agreed to use one of the field trip buses they are allotted each year to transport the full grade level to the museum.  With this in mind, I have coordinated my program with the artists exhibited at this museum so that the students can fully appreciate the artwork and the artists who have produced these masterpieces.