Arts4All Blog

Behind the Scenes at The City Show

Posted January 30th, 2017  |  By A4A.admin

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CSMA presents the annual City Show from February 1-28 at Mountain View City Hall. The City Show is a public art exhibition featuring work from the faculty and students in CSMA’s Art4Schools program. On display will be 600 pieces of art by students in grades K-8 (and their art teachers!) from over 30 local schools. This year’s theme is A Line Runs Through It.

To learn more about what goes into putting the City Show together, we went behind the scenes with Art4Schools teacher Mary Ayling. She told us about the work from her second graders at Bubb Elementary School in Mountain View.

Tell us about the lesson(s) you did with your students for A Line Runs Through It.

I first began thinking about A Line Runs Through It in the fall of 2016 during the presidential election. There was a lot of talk on both sides about policies and strategies for our futures. It was very easy to think about a line being a division - something that you were on either side of. But I couldn’t help but think about how that line could so easily be a bridge, or a path; a way to travel together instead. 

In thinking about how one travels together, the flight of the monarch butterfly immediately came to mind. I am new to California, and one of the most magical things I have encountered is the gathering of the monarch butterflies at Natural Bridges. Thousands of individuals gather together on their long migration route to survive the cold and hibernate together. The visual result is just as stunning as the realization of the resiliency and beauty of such delicate creatures.

From this place I began thinking about ways to use line as a connection between individual entities. When we think of our identity, we don’t often think of a line, but when we begin to study ourselves we come to see the line in our family trees, the routes that took us from one town or country to another, all the way down to the very roadmaps of our fingerprints.

Many species sport their own line-inspired identities, though none quite as spectacularly as the butterfly, whose wing patterns and colors speak simultaneously of both their individuality and the larger environments in which they live. Part fingerprint and part camouflage, the intricate landscape of an imagined butterfly wing became the inspiration for our oil pastel drawings.

Students imagined that they were scientists looking through a microscope at a section of a butterfly’s wing. This exercise allowed us think about studying the smaller details that come together to make up a whole. They designed their micro-wing landscapes to reflect the colors and textures needed to blend in where the butterfly currently lived, as well as the landscape it would possibly migrate to in another season. These imagined environments allowed the students a freedom to create new flora and fauna in their minds, or develop situations where the butterflies might live and travel amongst yet undiscovered terrain! The resulting vibrant colors, shapes, and textures are a reflection of their individual artistic decisions.

Tell us about your own piece of work that you created for the show.

I am an interdisciplinary artist and was traditionally trained as a print maker and glass worker. My current works are a blend of sculptural objects that are used in collaboration with choreographers to create performances that sit somewhere between life, theatre and art. For my contribution to the show, I decided to create a blueprint for a butterfly whose shapes and colors were inspired by the creations of my students. I can take this blueprint drawing, done in colored pencil and tempera, to use as a key for creating butterflies in stained or fused glass for possible future performance works.

How did you pick which student works to include?

It was no easy task to curate the works for this show, because all of the students did such an amazing job! I ended up choosing works based on variety and color and how the composition came together visually. Since we weren’t able to include all of their works in this show, I am working on a way to exhibit the other works together. I hope that all of the students know how proud I am of them and their hard work. Since butterflies migrate across various terrains I hope that our butterflies will be able to travel to different venues!

What do you think it means for your students to have their work displayed in a public art show?

One of the best parts of making work is sharing it! It is really important to show students that we support their creative endeavors. Putting their work in a public space where it will be seen, appreciated and discussed is a valuable experience. When you see that your creative actions can create reactions in people, it’s very empowering.

Did you have you access to arts education in school?

I was really lucky in terms of my art education as a child. I spent the school year in Ohio where trips to the Toledo Museum of Art were frequent, and summers in Mississippi where I we had a neighbor with a small ceramics studio in her backyard. In addition to finding art outside of school, my elementary school had an art program that was run on a combination of parent volunteers and one full time art teacher. My immersion with art began at an early age and continued through high school, college and beyond. I am very thankful for having had parents that actively sought out art and supported my interest in it. That initial support fostered a confidence that led me to study art in undergrad, find work in art studios, and open my own gallery in Chicago before deciding to attend graduate school and move here to the Bay Area. Throughout my career I have worked with youths in one way or another because I know first hand what exposure to a creative life has offered me. I hope to help open that door for others as well.

Tell us about a great art teacher that you had!

What a great question! I have had so many amazing art teachers over the years it is hard to not name them all. I loved the extended relationship that was built through the nine years spent with Mrs. Hilliard in my K-8 school where she introduced the foundations of drawing, painting and sculpture. Those building blocks supported my creative endeavors in high school where my teachers Mr. Rilling and Mr. Creech would challenge me to refine my skills through repetition and mastery. From there, I encountered a slew of teachers in my college and working lives that would open my eyes to other ways of using materials and collaborating. There are a few mantras that have stuck with me from a few teachers that I still use and think about today:

Mrs. Hilliard was great at helping us remember to be careful in our material uses. During projects where we would be gluing she always said “Don’t let your underwear show!” meaning that we needed to use the Elmer’s glue sparingly so that it did not leak out onto the rest of our artwork.  This seemingly small note on being clean in your work has stayed with me as mantra for taking pride in your craftsmanship.

In high school Mr. Rilling had the Pablo Picasso quote “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an Artist” painted across the top of our art room. This inspired me to keep working at building my skills, even when they felt hard (as plaster carving really felt at that time!) so that I could know how to use or break those rules in the most effective way to communicate my idea.

In college I had a painting professor, Ernie, who would repeat every class “When a light goes towards a dark, it gets…. Lighter!”  This was meant as a way to help us remember value and realistic shading in our paintings, but I found it to also be a helpful way to think about the cycle of creativity. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re onto the best idea (the light!) and as you start creating it gets muddled along the way, not turning out how you had envisioned (the dark)….. But if you keep working through that confusion it eventually gets to an even better place than you had ever originally anticipated (even lighter!).

What advice do you have for young, aspiring artists?

My advice for young artists is Don’t Stop Creating! One of the most empowering things about being human is that we can communicate in a variety of ways. Everyone has moments of doubt and times where they feel uncertain if what they like is cool, or if what they are doing is good enough. I’m here to say that your voice and your contribution matters!

Not everyone sees the same thing, and we can celebrate our diversity through our individual expressions and interests. Art is more than being technically proficient in a medium. It’s a state of being that allows one to look at the world with a sense of wonder and opportunity, and to be able to create from that place. Maybe you will make drawings or musical scores that move people, or maybe you will create new ways for us to save water and help the planet. Perhaps your creative endeavor will be discovering new ways of understanding teamwork through inventing a new sport!  These are all manifestations of an artistic mind that is fostered through learning to look carefully and see new possibilities. Don’t stop creating your own wild, unimaginable, creative visions… whatever they are!

Anything else you’d like us to know?

Thank you for letting me share my experiences with you. I feel very lucky to be a part of this amazing community at CSMA and Benjamin Bubb Elementary, where I teach. The care and respect that everyone involved shows for the students at our schools and for one another at our faculty meetings is undeniable. I am excited to be a part of this larger show that highlights all the amazing talents and visions of the students and teachers across this visionary community!

Tags: art schoolevents