Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the studio ecology at New Urban Arts

I’ve been privileged to be part of New Urban Arts since it’s earliest days, as an advisor, board member, volunteer and financial contributor. Over the past two years I worked with the organization in a new way, as one of the first Artist Mentor Fellows. In this capacity I was able to witness the work of the organization up close and in a more meaningful way than ever before. While my official role was to work with mentors to help them develop their teaching practice, I was also able to work with the staff, to see how the ecology of New Urban Arts provides a safe and generative space for youth, and, most importantly, to develop friendships with young people who both find and make a sense of place in the studio.

After years of understanding the organization from a governance and, frankly, theoretical point of view, being a Fellow allowed me to understand the deep value of the organization -- and to see, feel, and know how New Urban Arts is an experience of both intellectual and embodied learning for youth and mentors. While school very often rigidly defines the outcomes and process of learning – to the detriment of students -- New Urban Arts is able to cultivate the inherent curiosity of youth who participate in the studio. Importantly, New Urban Arts helps students find and utilize their innate capacities as learners – enabling learning that’s focused, of deep duration, and that results in discovery and meaningful products. As a result, students at New Urban Arts demonstrate a self-directed passion for learning and the concomitant skills necessary to be critical thinkers in any area with which they become engaged.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of adults – many of whom grew up, like me, with considerable privilege, resources and educational support -- say that they wish a place like New Urban Arts existed when they were young. This sentiment has compelled me to consider why New Urban Arts elicits such enthusiasm. While its storefront studio is inviting, it’s hardly spacious. The staff go to great ends to insure that students have the supplies and support they need and want to fuel their creative inquiries; however as much is made of recycled materials as of top-of-the-line art supplies. The value of New Urban Arts doesn’t lie in material assets; rather it resides in the quality of the relationships the organization enables. In an age of disassociation, multitasking, and fragmentation relational learning is, in the best sense of the term, radical pedagogy.

New Urban Arts is a strong organization in many, many ways, but it's also a revolutionary organization in its understanding of the dignity of all who participate and in the way that it values creative practice as tool for personal development and social change. Like those who wish they’d had a place like New Urban Arts growing up, I am grateful to have the organization in my life. While I arrived too late in my life to receive the foundational experiences it offers so many youth, my recent association has offered me a renewed sense of optimism in our cultural ability to be present to one another and to support the curiosity and profound development of young people.

Pete Hocking

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Publication Available

New Urban Arts has published a new resource guide for educators, artists and young people that details curriculum from a thematic based summer arts program for high school students. The publication’s format allows readers to adapt activities from our Summer Art Inquiry into any educational environment or individual artist’s creative practice.

New Urban Arts annual Summer Art Inquiry invites scholars, artists and high school students to spend July and August collectively exploring a common theme from a multi-disciplinary standpoint including research, art-making, creative writing and personal inquiry. Themes change each summer and explore the human experience as it intersects with creative practice. This summer's theme was the art of the archive.

The Program Resource Guide from the 2009 Art Inquiry is available for purchase online at cost value. "Collections" is a 68 page paperback book (7.44" x 9.68") with saddle-stitch binding and full-color interior ink. To buy a copy of the book, visit our Lulu store here. The resource guide can be downloaded at no cost here.

On Belonging

I think everyone who becomes involved with New Urban Arts for the first time is waiting (consciously or not) for that first clear moment when they know they belong; when they feel they've become an integral part of the community. Though I had several hints during my first year at New Urban Arts, there was one moment in particular that stands out.

At the entry to the studio, is a group of student portraits taken by artist mentor Erik Gould. At our mentor orientation, I remember being captivated by these portraits, wondering who these students were, and who took the photographs. As I believe is their intention, I had the impression that these portraits (right by the front door), were a reminder that this place was about the students; individual students with particular stories of their own. But at that point, they were strangers to me and their stories were a mystery.

[Click here to see the portraits]

As the year went on, I caught myself checking back in with these portraits. Slowly, one by one, their faces became familiar, their voices more audible. But the big moment came at the end-of-the-year Art Party when Erik installed a new set of portraits. As I walked in the front door that day, I didn't even look towards the wall (I hadn't checked it for a while, in fact). So when I turned around later that night and saw the new portraits for the first time, I was stuck in my tracks. I knew ALL these faces!

These were the students I worked with every week, whose creations I had seen blossom, and with who I could remember making things – tissue paper flowers, ink spatter monsters, giant cardboard lightswitches, FLiP – together! I admit it, I got teary (the first moment of many that night) and I knew finally, that I belonged. I smiled to myself and joined the party.

- Jane Androski, artist mentor, 2008-09

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Collections: an art exhibition

New Urban Arts presents "Collections," an interactive art exhibition of new and exciting artwork created by 33 New Urban Arts students during our fourth annual Summer Arts Studio. This summer, New Urban Arts brought together artists and high school students for a thematic exploration of Art and the Archive, an in-depth journey through Zine-making, an investigation of large-scale mural-making, and open studio time to explore one's own creative practice.


10/9/09 Friday 5-7PM
743 Westminster St
Providence RI

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thank you RISD Museum!

For the beautiful chairs and tables!