Tag Archives: art

More work on the La Vereda Mural

15 Feb

I never knew this before but working on a public community mural (with kids no less) can be really tricky!  I’ve only ever facilitated mural-making teaching inside the classroom where you’ve got a certain degree of control over the environment, and can kind of manage the pace of the work and assist kids with thinking about composition and details.

This is a whooooollllle different ball game.

First, we are working on a fairly trafficked and often noisy street.  It’s not like the constant type of background traffic type noise you find in NYC.  It’s like short clips of relative quiet pierced with the REALLY LOUD BUZZ of the frequent motoconchos (motorbikes) and trucks grinding by.  So loud that you really can’t hear what the person next to you is saying.  On top of that, all of the kids in our class plus practically every kid that walks by wants a chance to paint, and it’s really had explaining to a 6 year old whose language you don’t speak very well that there’s “Just no more space at the moment but if you come back Saturday I promise you can have a chance then.”  I am beyond thrilled that the children in the neighborhood are so excited about the project- in fact I hoped exactly that would happen, but managing so many kids painting all at the same time has it’s challenges.  We don’t really have much set-up time because as soon as the children see us pull up in the car they get so excited, they immediately round up all their friends and before you know it we’re practically swarmed with kids eager to look, see, touch, grab, do, etc, etc.  Getting the children involved in the set-up is something we are trying to get better at, but the seasoned teacher (me) is still learning the language, and though the laid-back musician does the best he can things easily get lost in translation, and as all teachers (and plenty of parents) know- timing is everything when organizing large groups of kids.

Did I mention that Renzo is related to almost everyone on the block in some way?  Well, it’s pretty easy to recognize the guy with the funny hair, and despite the fact that we can have a mob of impatient children waiting for paint, or needing a paintbrush, or we finally have them all listening to instructions, every so often someone passes by and decides that it’s the absolute PERFECT time to catch up and have a conversation with him about his studies, the weather, the meaning of life, & what have you.  I kid you not but he’s actually been handed a beer while we were teaching our class!


So when we met up with the children yesterday evening, it was just kind of par for the course that there was a dark gray rain cloud kind of hanging over our heads the whole time.  We assessed the cloud situation (being the rain experts we are now having lived in Santiago for a few months) and just said let’s go for it and hope for the best.  We got lucky and the weather held out enough for us to work for a good 40 minutes or so before we had to do a mad rush to pack everything up before the rain came down.

It was pretty chaotic with about 12-14 kids working at the same time.  It definitely wasn’t the way I would have preferred to structure the activity (laughing at the word structure here) but the kids who showed up had been waiting since Saturday to paint, and with the impending rain there wasn’t time to rotate small groups so we had to wing it.  We focused on painting trees (matas) and flowers (flores) and a sun (sol).  Despite the craziness I’m happy that the kids enjoyed themselves and love the work they did.  I know this is how murals grow..in little layers and spurts.

It’s just a start, but here are some pics:

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Our next session is this weekend and we are almost definitely going to have an even larger group show up. (When we were painting on Tuesday lots of new kids passed by and expressed interest so we just told them to show up on Saturday).  Don’t laugh- but I have a plan to have kids sign in then give them give them a number.  Numbers 1-6 will paint for the first 30 minutes, 7-13 the next half hour, and so on.  The great thing is that they all live so close by that if they’re scheduled for a later painting group they can easily go home and come back when it’s their turn, and we don’t mind being there all day if need be.  I have no idea if this is going to work…but it’s the only way I can think of to accommodate all the children without having total chaos.  I know for sure the smaller groups will make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Can’t wait to see what happens at our next class!

xo A

Mural de Los Ninos de La Vereda

12 Feb

As many of you know our time in DR will soon be coming to a close.   I really wanted to tackle a large group project with the children before leaving, and I just kept feeling like a mural would be the perfect project.  I love the idea of the children creating something lasting and beautiful in their own community, especially something so public allowing them to share their pride in their work with their families, friends, and neighbors.  Taty was kind enough to grant us permission to paint on the wall outside her Papa’s former home.  The wall is one the children walk past every day, so it was the perfect site!

Here is what it looked like before we started painting:

location for our mural

One of the biggest challenges to getting the project off to the right start was thinking about a theme.  I wanted to find a theme that would capture the children’s imagination, but at the same time it would have to be able to be orchestrated in such a way that it would look beautiful to members of the community.  In addition, the management of the project had to be thought through carefully because my command of the language is still pretty basic there would be some limitations on how much direction I’d be able to provide given that there would be times Renzo wouldn’t be around.  Lastly, the class is composed of children ages 3-12 so there is huge age range, and I definitely wanted to construct a framework for an idea that would be inclusive of many different ages and skill levels.  For awhile I played around with ideas that “sectioned” off a part for each child to work on, but ultimately I knew a design like that would not read as beautifully as something more cohesive and layered.  After lots of going back and forth, Renzo and I finally decided on a “garden” theme.  Many of the items from the children’s paintings of “things they love” could be found in a garden, we’ve been working on a garden, and where the children live there are lots of plants and fruits growing so they would have a lot of prior knowledge to work with.

We don’t have a printer here, so we headed out to the local internet cafe to print some visuals for the lesson.  They only had a b&w printer so we just tried to pick some shots with good shape and constrast.  Then I realized we had plenty of gardening books here with us, so I bookmarked some pages, and we headed out to find a place that would make some color copies for us (in case you were wondering they don’t have kinko’s here!).  It wasn’t so easy to find a place, though our search did bring us to an interesting part of town.  We eventually found a cluttered little shop selling school supplies that were willing to do the copies for us, but they charged us an arm and a leg and the copy quality was pretty poor.  It was color though, so we took what we could get.

Robert finally had a chance to cut the wood that had been sitting around for a sculpture project I had planned about a month ago.  I had moved on, but it seemed like he and Luz were hoping we still wanted to the wood so they could claim that part of their backyard again, so Renzo and I decided to split the group this week, with the older ones helping to start the mural and the little ones staying behind to work on wood sculpture.  We figured we’d work out a schedule so everyone would have a chance to paint at some point. It would be way too crazy having 15 kids painting at the same time anyway so it worked out for the best.

I had the camera with me at the mural site so unfortunately we don’t have pics of the kids’ wood sculptures, but here’s a photo of the table set up before class:

When the group arrived we showed them some images, asked them some questions, and spoke to them about the mural project.  The younger ones got to work with the wood while 3 of the oldest children and I headed a few houses down to the mural site.  The pressure was totally on!  I did my best to talk with the children about the theme, the elements of composition and asked them how theythought we might start.  All in Spanish.  (There was a lot of pointing and saying “como se dice?”)  It was a pretty amazing feeling to be able to communicate with them on my own without Renzo’s help.  Children are so forgiving when it comes to language.  They are really the best language instructors of all.  Gracias ninos!

Today we focused on the background. Here are some photos of the children working:

Diana, Guillermo, & Miguelina painting "La Tierra"

Adding the green for grass & shrubs.

The younger children come by to check out our progress.

Renzo came to help us once the little ones were finished with their wood sculptures.

Painting the sky.

Watching Miguelina paint over the graffitti was pretty satisfying.

Looking good!

Los Artistas

I was there, really-just behind the camera and pouring paint the whole time!

Finished for today!

I am SO excited to see how the children’s mural evolves!  I love the work they’ve done so far- I think this background is going to be a perfect framework for lots of incredible little details like trees, flowers, plants, animals, structures, people, etc.   Their painting today is (and I quote Renzo) “already a big improvement”.  I agree!  It looks like such a pretty splash of color.  I am really proud of the children and I hope they feel proud of their work too.  We will be meeting this week to work more on the mural so there will be more updates coming soon!

xo A

La Vereda Art Class #4: Watercolor Paintings of “What We Love”

3 Feb

This past week we resumed our art class after a two week hiatus.  Luz asked if we’d want to host it on Monday instead of Saturday because the children had the day off.  We did, but for some reason most of the girls were missing that day.  I’ll have to see what happened this week; maybe they didn’t find out the schedule had changed.

In any case,  I had been planning and preparing for awhile to work with the children on making wood sculptures.  Robert was kind enough to get some wood scraps for free but he hadn’t had a chance to cut the pieces down yet so we reverted to Plan B.  I had picked up some watercolors and watercolor paper when I was in Florida last week, and I thought it would be fun for the children to have a chance to draw and paint.  In thinking about an engaging motivation for the lesson, I looked ahead to what I hope will be the culmination of my work with the children- a public mural designed and painted by them in their neighborhood.  I thought the theme of “what we love” would be inspiring and easily accessible to all the kids and might provide a springboard for our mural in the coming weeks.  When the children arrived we asked them to write down 5 things they love- it could be an object, place, person, event, action- basically anything.

Here are some of their lists:

sweets, lollipop, juice, chicken, coconut

lollipop, ice cream, bicycle, trucks, pistols

Dad, coconut, bicycle, car, orange

juice, orange, chicken, dog, ball

Not surprisingly our student Miguel who arrived to class sucking on a paleta (it’s how you say lollipop in DR, but it literally translates as “reed”) inspired many of the children to “remember” that they love paletas so that showed up on lots of lists, haha!  The children are also very fond of chicken (obviously a staple of the Dominican diet, but also a special takeout treat that is economical enough for many to afford), oranges (I need to ask the children where they are getting their oranges because every orange I’ve tried here so far has been meh…not so tasty), and coconuts (si!  hooray for coconuts!).  It was fun to read the children’s lists and ask them about the things they really like and love.  I’m not completely sure but it seems like the group isn’t really used to being asked such questions.  This type of question from a teacher seems to be a new experience for the kids.  Sometimes they seem a little embarrassed or shy at first, but then they seem to enjoy the opportunity to express an idea of such personal interest to them.

The children were given sharpie markers to make a drawing of something (or more than one thing) they love.  It could be from their list, or it could be something else they didn’t put on their list.  After they made their drawings we put out watercolors so the children could add color to their drawings.

Here are some pictures from our class:






Some finished paintings:

"Coconut, apple, cup of juice" -Miguel

"Chicken, apple, cup, rocket, car." -Luis Eduardo

"Sun, coconut, cookie, spongebob, orange, and a car." -Brayan

"Robot & Spongebob" -Guillermo

Briley's Painting

"Ice cream. I like the red." -Onasis

"I made a waterfall. It's similar to a beach by a river." -Diana

We like to celebrate our work too:

Smiles & Paintings!

Check out our marvelous paintings!

This weekend our class will hopefully be working on wood sculptures…and I hope to start working on the mural project with the children very soon.  Will keep you updated!

xo A