Ian Sands has taken a new position at South Brunswick HS Check out it out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sneak Peek: Units on the Portal

A few weeks ago, we announced that the crack team of art educators here at Apex have been working on what we are calling "not your momma's art teacher's units".

Each unit we are developing is based, not solely on making art but on being an artist. We took a long look at what artist do, created a list of possible artist behaviors, and scrubbed the list down to our top seven.

These include Artists Observe, Artists Steal, Artists Communicate, Artists Collaborate, Artists Curate and Artists Solve Problems. A sneak peek of what these units might entail are now available through the Portal!

Pretty exciting stuff!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

NCMA Teen Inspired Think Tank

Kimberly Sudkamp and Michelle Harrell present collected notes to the group

Melissa Purtee, Kimberly Sudkamp, and Ian Sands spent the last two days taking part in a think tank with the quest of re-imagine the NCMA's Teens Inspired program. 

The think tank encapsulated two ideas. First, brainstorming ways to transform the Teens Inspired exhibit into a more student centered approach. Second, developing ideas for connecting two schools using the NC Museum of Art as a hub.

Jack Watson explains his group's proposal

Other educators involved in the think tank included Art 21 Fellow and Chapel Hill High School art teacher Jack Watson, mixed-media fiber artists and East Wake art teacher Megan Bostic and choiced-based art educator and coauthor of the Journal Junkies Workshop Eric Scott to name a few.

The future of the program looks exciting as it continues to develop a professional learning community of educators set on exploring a flipped museum experience through student directed initiatives. 

Melissa Purtee explains her group's proposal
You can be sure Apex will continue to be involved not only with continued teacher planning but student engagement in many of the upcoming activities.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Making Artists...

by ian sands

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn't you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Scarecrow: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it's that — if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
Glinda: That's all it is!
Scarecrow: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you -
Tin Man: I should have felt it in my heart -
Glinda: No, she had to find it out for herself. 

I've learned a lot over the last year and it has changed my personal philosophy about teaching art. My old motto was "make art". Now, I'm not so much interested in having students make art but rather making artists. This was a big paradigm shift. It removed the focus from the product and placed the emphasis on the person and the process.

Ariel was a student in my class last semester. She was consistently exploring geometric vs organic shapes through a series of small, acrylic paintings. As her teacher, I wanted to see her push past these exercises. I could have assign her a project but that would have been my solution. Instead, I gave her the materials and instructions for building a 4' x 4 ' canvas. 

The newly gessoed canvas outside on the picnic table

Ariel took a few days staring at the canvas. I joked with her that she was afraid of it. To some extent I was right but soon Ariel started painting her organic shapes.

The painting during week one

A few days into the painting, Ariel (in her words) was having a bad day. She took a palette knife and covered the canvas in muddy brown. 

The mud after a bad day

The painted remained in this state with Ariel not picking up a paint brush for several days. It was now mid May and I was starting to second guess my teaching. If I had just given her a project, she would already have a successful, completed product.

Then, Ariel changed course. She started cutting out magazine images in geometric shapes and glueing them to the canvas. Next, she applied thick, black organic lines in paint. 

Starting over

Ariel was onto something. Throughout the month and into June, Ariel continued to work on her art. By the end of the school year she had almost completed a well balanced composition that incorporated both geometric and organic characteristics. 

Ariel was thrilled with her results as was I. She had spent many weeks not simply painting, but contemplating, struggling, engaging others in conversation and eventually, following her own voice.

Ariel with her painting in June

Any opponent could easily argue against my teaching philosophy. It could be pointed out that Ariel wasted two months on this project. She could have completed at least four teacher-directed projects in the same time. Teacher-lead projects could have also incorporated more concepts with less ambiguity. 

If my focus was still on making art, I would agree. However, I believe the process that Ariel went through held the most value. It was something I couldn't tell her. 

Scarecrow: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you -
Tin Man: I should have felt it in my heart -

Glinda: No, she had to find it out for herself. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Summer! The Art Teachers Must Be Sitting by the Pool, Right?

Actually, the Apex Art Teachers and friends have a busy two weeks ahead of them. Here are a few of the items on our agenda...

AOE Conference Summer 2014
Thursday, July 17th

Ian Sands will be presenting "Beyond Collaboration - Connecting Sister Schools" Imagine if two schools decided to work together in a true exchange of ideas, over an extended period of time, with open dialogue and communication.In this presentation you will learn everything needed to partner with a Sister School. You will gain proven project ideas, explore the best methods of communication, and learn which technology can be used to ensure a successful Sister School collaboration.

TAB/ Mass College of Art and Design Summer Institute
Wednesday, July 18th

Speaking of Sister Schools, Colleen Rose will join Ian Sands as they share their experiences teaching their style of choice based art education with fellow high school art teachers. This workshop is part of week long course and is the only course exclusively offered by the founders of Teaching for Artistic Behavior. This course is available for graduate credit.

NCMA Teen Inspired Thinktank
Wednesday and Thursday July 23-24

Melissa Purtee, Kimberly Sudkamp, and Ian Sands will take part in a thinktank of educators who will re-imagine the NCMA's Teens Inspired exhibition and plan an online resource for students. Participants will brainstorming how to transform Teens Inspired to a more student centered approach.

Right along with all these exciting activities, we've still been very busy planning our new units.. and these aren't your momma's art teacher's units! Each unit we are developing is based, not solely on making art but on being an artist. We took a long look at what artist do, created a list of possible artist behaviors, and scrubbed the list down to our top seven. Take a look, click here!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Transitioning from Modify Choice to Full TAB

We received an email asking how we used themes and concepts together and how we presented these ideas to the class. In this post, we'll respond to that email by outlining how we transitioned from Modified Choice to full TAB using our Art Two class as an example.

Last summer we made a chart with three different categories: Themes, Concepts and Media. It was a big list of all the things we thought we might want to cover. Here is a look at each:

Themes: some of our themes were more conceptual (I.e identity) and some were less ( I.e up close and personal). The less conceptual ones are easier to solve so are better for students who haven't had as much experience coming up with ideas. In either case, we prefer themes that allow for more than one solution as opposed to using a noun as a theme. For example, "Animals" makes a poor theme because the students will simply print out a photo of a turtle or puppy. 

Theme Examples:
Up close and personal, sticky situation, culture, identity, play, systems, empathy, boundaries, transformation , absence 


Concepts: This was basically a list of principles we wanted the students to be familiar with. With Art Two, we wanted to focus on the principles of design.

Concept Examples:
Contrast, repetition, exaggeration, juxtaposition, emphasis, movement, interactivity, appropriation, collaboration


Media: When we created our media list, we put a focus on what materials we wanted to introduce. We also grouped them when it seemed beneficial. In a TAB situation, you want to make sure the students have an introduction to the material. If for no other reason than to make sure they know how to retrieve, properly use, clean up and put away the supplies. Grouping the media is also beneficial when teaching mini lessons. I.e you can teach cross-hatching with pencil and with pen & ink. 

Media Group Examples:
Black and white: pen and ink, charcoal, pencil. 
Color 1: oil pastel, chalk pastel, color pencil. 
Color 2: acrylic paint, water color paint, spray paint. 
3D: clay, paper mâché, plaster strips.

The final step was to select which themes, concepts and media to group together. We did our best to determine which theme would match up with which concept and what order to introduce media. 

The earlier projects had less choice. As the class progressed, everything opened up. Here are examples of a few of our Art Two projects in order:

Project 1:
Theme: What's the Point 
Concept: Contrast
Media: Pen & ink, charcoal or pencil

See more student solutions here:

Project Two:
Theme: Up close and personal
Concept: Emphasis
Media: oil pastel, chalk pastel, color pencil 

( you will notice in this project some students were already breaking out of the box using water color and even make up

See more student solutions here:

Project 3:
Theme: Sticky situation
Concept: Repetition
Media: Paint (any)

See more student solutions here:

Project 4:
Theme: Portrait
Media: non traditional material 
(the point of this project was to let the students realize they could break out of any box)

See more student solutions here:

So how did the students react to this method of teaching? 
You can read their responses here: 
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