For the past two years, I've taught Drawing at Cooper Union's The Saturday Program, an after-school art program for underserved NYC public high school students. Because I love teaching and want to continue doing it, I thought I would share some of my work as an educator here!
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, I've taught my class online. The move to online teaching has presented innumerable challenges, but I'm happy to say that we've adapted with grace. It's worth mentioning that the undergraduate Instructors at this program have full creative control over our curriculums, so I had the luxury of teaching without having to follow any standards. That freedom has certainly made my job easier during this time, and has lightened the load on my students, I'm sure.
In the first semester, we miraculously taught art without sending our students any official art supplies. We weren't able to mail art kits on the anticipated timeline, so I designed projects that would work with whatever materials students could find in their own homes, which of course varied greatly between my 25 students. I'm exceedingly proud of the work we were able to produce under those circumstances. In the spirit of the folk artists I shared — among them James Castle, Helen Rae and John B. Murray — we made a lot with a little. Paper and discarded boxes became homemade sketchbooks. Old magazines and photos became collages, reference images and opportunities for story-telling. Household objects like toothpaste, mascara wands and soy sauce became rich drawing tools. Collectively, we pursued the poetry in the everyday, ultimately learning how to sustain ourselves as creators when space and materials are limited.
In the second semester, which is still ongoing, I decided to take a different approach. We got art kits out to our students (yay!), which increased our options. I ultimately chose to teach a new print-making technique each class, which I felt would encourage students to experiment (as you can create multiple prints from the same "block" or source material, which allows you to make endless variations). I think that print-making also removes the pressure to be conventionally "good at drawing," which can really hinder creativity. In the first class, I taught rubbings, a personal favorite technique of mine. As we are all still stuck indoors, students were asked to make compositions out of rubbings from objects around their homes. Some of their excellent work can be seen below!
(All work is kept anonymous to protect students' identities.)