The Never Ending Dinner Party—Providing Art as Experience
Gretel Huglin Ridge
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Perhaps you know the feeling; guests are coming and you want to create the ultimate evening, an experience they won’t forget! You set the table, careful to make everything feel casual yet choreographed with care, an array of color, texture, and possibility. The playlist creates the mood and your enthusiasm and warmth make every guest feel welcomed. The night is pungent with potential-conversation, intimate connection, and an appreciation of sensation. Flavor, smells, ambiance, and mood create a true experience for your guests; hopeful the guest takes away an experience that lasts longer then the night.
This is not unlike presenting an art project in the Upper School Art room. As the Julie McCoy of this art ship, I strive to create an atmosphere of creativity and possibility. My go-tos are making “place settings” with enticing tools, supplies, and ideas that are open ended enough to allow for personal interpretation. Because we have an exceptional library and librarian, the room has copious illustrations and art history to reference. Add to that pertinent and inspiring music. For example, as we travel around the world in 6th grade and students land in Africa they are introduced to Fela Kuti and Ali Farka Toure’ as they hand dye with indigo or basket weave to African myths and stories told by Nelson Mandela. The 7th grade focuses on careers in the arts and listen to podcasts such as 99% Invisible to inform them of the connection to design in all things and 8th grade examines self through the stories on This American Life. Listening to podcasts is comforting and is also a focusing device. Ask any of your kids about the freaky LORE podcasts! Listening serves double time as kids get engrossed in the project at hand and make connections to their making in the world. I strive for: “What? Art class is over?!”
If successful in this endeavor, my students will enjoy this experience, share it with others, and connect some dots! Making cross curriculum connections are key in creating learning experiences. I hope to continue providing the never-ending dinner party where student can push boundaries, ask questions, and be exposed to many ideas.