Meet Tom Reed, Artist-in-Residence
This fall, if you visited Forsyth’s art studio, you would have found the fifth graders collaborating with Washington University’s Sam Fox School Master Printer Tom Reed, our Nicholas Aaron Aitken Artist-in-Residence.
They were working on a think-big project: a grand-scale mixed media project involving printmaking, collage, drawing, watercolor, and collaboration. The fifth graders, Tom Reed–Mr. Tom to the kids, and art teacher Ellen DeFilippo created four 8-foot wide mixed media landscape panels entitled “Sunrise to Sunset” that will be installed this spring on a masonry wall at the western edge of Forsyth’s campus.
Fifth graders? Teaching fifth graders is a big jump for someone accustomed to teaching college students. What brought Mr. Reed to Forsyth? “I have never taught elementary kids before. I was curious by Ellen’s invitation to come and work with the 5th grade. Working across the street at Wash U, I have always wondered just what was going on over at Forsyth, (it just keeps growing),” Mr. Reed responded. “At first, I was a little out of my comfort zone, but it was exciting to be around a younger group of students at such an interesting school.”
What they did. Most art projects in elementary school are individual–each student creates her/his own piece of artwork per the teacher’s assignment. The challenge with this collaborative project is that each individual piece had to resonate and make visual sense when part of the whole landscape panel of 12 squares–a pretty sophisticated challenge for kids. “I’m proud of the collaboration that took place and of the unity present in the final works,” said Mrs. DeFilippo. “I was surprised at how various aspects of Tom’s work were present in the final pieces.”
How they did it. Each student layered a 24” square with linoleum prints, and other collage materials–sheet music, crossword puzzles, and monochromatic printed paper. Then, when the squares were put together into the 4 landscape panels, each had its own set of colors from sunrise through the day to sunset and night. Mr. Reed drew some of the landscape elements on each of the 4 panels to provide continuity of imagery in all the panels. Next, the kids applied color washes, drew on the pieces, and added details. The layering gives the work depth, and each of the panels has its own details to explore: birds, water creatures, flora and fauna.
“The biggest question I had going into the project was whether or not the kids would be able to handle all of the collaboration that we were about to embark on,” said Mr. Reed. “It was amazing to watch each group really work together and take ownership of not only their panel but the entire project.”
Exhibit. On Dec 13, 2016, “Sunrise to Sunset” was exhibited at the William Shearburn Gallery for Grade 5 students, their families and friends. It was the first time the kids saw the four finished panels hanging on display.
Counterclockwise: “Sunrise to Sunset”
What do you hope the kids take away from this experience? “I am hoping the students have become more open to different ways of seeing landscape with the integration of collage, layering, and printmaking,” said Mrs. DeFilippo. “I hope they learned ways to work together on a collective piece, considering the other student work, as well as their own contribution.”
“I hope that this is something that they remember as part of their experience at Forsyth. It is pretty rare that kids get the chance to work this closely with professional artists from their community,” Mr. Reed reflected. “The Aitken Artist-in-Residence gives the kids that experience. I hope the kids come away from the project having seen things a little differently for a while, and that the project inspired them to love art more than they did before.”
Flash dance: The Muffin Dance erupts!
Established in 2010, Forsyth’s Nicholas Aaron Aitken Artist-in-Residence Program provides a unique visual arts opportunity – one seldom found in elementary school – for Forsyth fifth grade art students to work with a visiting artist for a concentrated period of collaboration. Each artist-in-residence brings a new project with exposure to new media, processes, and perspectives.