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Art Day at the Summer Institute

June 24, 2011

This week included one of my favorite days of the summer session — art day for the Summer Institute students. At the end of the summer, the students will have their personal narrative essays published together in an anthology. They also create illustrations to accompany the essays in the anthology. To do this, they go down to DVC’s art building and spend the morning receiving instruction from art teacher Arthur Scott King on how to put their thoughts and feelings onto the page as images.

Last year's anthology: a little beat up after moving to a new apartment, but still a good read

The purpose of the art project is two-fold. The first is the obvious reason, to illustrate their essays for the anthology. But the second reason is that the art project helps them to write better essays.

Most of the students go into the art project with very little idea of how to express their ideas. They haven’t even started drafting their essays yet, and they’ve only done a little bit of brainstorming. But the majority of them, when they start putting watercolor pencil to paper, blossom in ways I never expect. Ideas start pouring out that did not appear when they were sitting at desks, staring at sheets of lined paper. Emotions come forward that some of them were trying to hold back but that bring the impact of their stories into the light. This, I think, is the advantage of having them illustrate their stories before they even write them; putting their stories into visual form gives them so many more ideas for how to put their stories into words.

During the first week of the summer session, I don’t really have a clue who these people are yet. When they step into the art room, I get the chance to begin finding out. The goal of Summer Institute is not just to put 50 student essays into an anthology but to bring out the people behind those essays, to build them up and to help them build themselves up.

This article from Affinity Online goes into more detail about the process of the art project, including some explanation from both Arthur Scott King, the art teacher who helps us with this aspect of the program, and John Thomas, who teaches the English portion of the Summer Institute and who I really enjoy working with. I recommend checking out the photos to see the kind of paintings the students are creating as their illustrations.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2011 10:39 pm

    Illustrating an essay actually sounds like a lot of fun. I might try that sometime myself.
    Oh, and that art teached subbed for my art class at DVC a couple times. He’s awesome, though I don’t remember if he was going by Arthur or Scott at the time.

    • Anita M. King permalink*
      June 26, 2011 9:27 pm

      It’s really cool! I spent the entire time thinking about what I would put into my illustration (and what my essay would be about) if I were a student in this class.

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