Tag Archives: children

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

First Art Class in the Campo: Making Pre-Cut Shape Collages

10 Dec

Los ninos encanta sus collages!

Today we had our first art class in the campo!  We had 12 children in attendance, ages 4-10.  The kids were so super excited about the class that they all showed up 45 minutes early!  Renzo and I hadn’t even left the house yet when we got a call from Luz to come quick!  LOL, so cute.

The children were all smiles as we pulled up in the car and started unloading the supplies.  Renzo got the kids into a circle and kept them busy making name tag necklaces to wear (makes it easier for us grown-ups to learn the children’s names more quickly and the  kids love making them), while I hurriedly set up our work table.

I planned a simple, classic, collage-based art lesson, providing the children with a range of pre-cut geometric shapes in different sizes and colors which they could then arrange and glue to their papers.  I love starting with this type of project because it is interesting and very accessible to a wide-range of abilities and ages.  It provided a chance for us to talk about favorite colors and shapes, speaking the words in both English and Spanish.  (The children were REALLY excited when I told them I want their help to learn their language and that I would teach them art & some English in return).   This type of lesson also gives me a sense of where the children are at both manually (in terms of fine motor skills) and conceptually.  I’ve also taught this lesson many times to different age groups from 2-12, so those past experiences help guide me in placing where the children might be at in their artistic development, and how I might want to proceed from here.  I was actually quite surprised to find out from the children that NONE of the children had ever participated in an art class before.  Given that, I was incredibly taken with how easily they engaged with the project and their confidence in using the materials (glue, etc).

Teaching the class itself was interesting given the language barrier between me and the class.  I did my best to speak as much Spanish as I could, but often needed Renzo to translate, especially for giving out more explicit instructions and getting the children’s attention.  Classroom management is much more of a challenge in this scenario.  It’s definitely a little strange for me because I’m usually able to read and react to situations very quickly when they arise in the classroom, but not having a firm grasp of the language means losing precious seconds having to ask Renzo to translate or me struggling to find words which I needed to come out much more quickly!  I think anyone who has been a teacher will know exactly what I mean.

In terms of the children’s work, they mostly placed their shapes in different ways on the page,  playing with having shapes touch and overlap- or not.   A fewer number of children represented things from life (mostly faces, which is not a surprise).  There were a few that began representing other objects like trees, flowers, and houses, generally in their second collage (again, not a surprise).  All of the children made two (sometimes three) collages which was fantastic for me to see, because the first collage in this situation is always going to be like getting your feet wet, getting used to new materials and a new way of working, and then subsequent collages are all about new discoveries and beginning to master the materials and process which is soooo exciting for all of us.

After the children had all had a chance to make multiple collages we hung the work up on the wall and sat around for a discussion.  I asked the kids if anyone wanted to share about their collage and…………crickets.  No one wanted to share and they seemed a little embarrassed….it was probably new for them.  So instead I asked if anyone would like to speak about a collage someone else had made that they liked.  Bingo!  The children opened right up and suddenly everyone was out of their shell, wanting to talk about their friends’ work.

I am thinking about what we will do next week.  For sure I want to get my hands on another table so the children can be less cramped.  I think I also want to sit the younger children at one table and the older children at another to make it easier for us to modify the project for the different age levels.   I’m certain that I’d like us to work with collage again, but would like to encourage the children to see how they can change the paper shapes (by folding, twisting, crumpling, etc).  I’m also interested to see how the older children handle scissors (younger ones a little later on).  I’m also thinking about hanging collages…there are some great beams on the ceiling we could hang strings from, literally turning things upside down (so much fun)!

Lots of good stuff to think about.  So glad to be teaching again!

xo A


First Art Class in Session Tomorrow!

9 Dec

I’m really excited!  Tomorrow I am going to be teaching my first art class to a group of about 10 children from the community where Renzo’s family lives.  It’s about a 5 minute drive from the apartment.  We are there a lot since it’s where most of Renzo’s family lives and it’s where his grandfather’s land is located.  I already know a few of the children but am excited to meet some new little friends as well.  I’ve observed the kids around there and they often seem at a loss for activities or things to do.  They don’t seem to have much in the way of toys, bicycles, or even simple sports equipment like balls, etc.   I’m hoping to provide the children with a fun outlet for their creativity and maybe expose them to some new skills.  In return, I’m hoping to learn a little Spanish and teach them some English as well.  Recently a beloved member of the community passed away, and she used to teach religion class to the children on Saturdays, so although I am by no means a replacement, I am hoping our class can help fill the void a little bit and help to continue in that spirit of community service to the children in the campo.

Luz and Robert are very active in their community and they are such good friends to us so they happily agreed to host the art classes at their house.   They have a nice long covered driveway and some folding tables so it’s a perfect setup to teach outside.  Renzo is going to be assisting me, especially with translating, although I am going to do my best to speak as much in Spanish as possible.  The children are SO forgiving in that regard and they love helping me learn new words.   I know from talking to the kids that they don’t have art in school, but I’m not sure what their experiences are otherwise.  It will be interesting to find out.  I really can’t wait to see how they use the materials!


here's the bag o' art supplies we are starting our class with...

When I was back in NYC for Thanksgiving I spent a couple hundred dollars filling a big carry-on bag with art supplies for our class (the 10 pairs of scissors I bought ALMOST didn’t make it on the plane but that’s another story- THANK YOU kind hearted people at JetBlue as if I didn’t love your airline enough already!) however I would LOVE to collect any and all donations to add to our collection of supplies.  If you have any excess art supplies (paper, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, yarn, ribbon, buttons, paints, etc) new or used, I would love to take them off your hands.  Also, please save your fancy, shiny, holiday gift wrap paper & ribbon scraps…they are so cool and we can use them for collages!  I will be back in NY for Christmas and would be happy to pick up anything you have to donate!


On another unrelated note, we have been making some headway in seeking out a curandero (natural medicine man) for Renzo to intern with.  Robert brought us over to Julio Santos’ house last night.  He has worked with a company that formulates natural vitamins and supplements, etc for about 10-15 years.  He’s very knowledgeable about health (he’s even had success overcoming cancer with natural remedies) but he doesn’t have the experience we are looking for working with actual plant materials.  Luckily for us he put us in touch with a man in the community who works with plants and makes natural medicines…he has even written a book about it.  His name is Nelson (not the same Nelson who we are working the land with) and he’s out of the country until next week…so we are hoping to get in contact with him then.  Additionally we have a call out to Senor Pedro who is a family friend that formulates natural plant medicines for a pharmacy here.  Exciting!  Let’s see how it all pans out…

More updates next week…(and pics of the kids artwork!)

xo A