Sunday, July 19, 2015

Art Workshops and Dinner Parties

"I don't think of working with art materials as"messy," although it is very possible that it can be so.  When you sit down to a beautifully set meal table, it is impossible to eat without creating some disorder.  Forks and knives are rearranged, plates and glasses will need washing, and crumbs may fall on the floor.  Likewise, as you paint, cut, paste or use clay, things will get redistributed.  But they need not get out of hand if you plan and set up the workspace carefully."
- from Doing Art Together by Muriel Silberstein-Storfer

The dining room of the Hollin Hall at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church provided a great setting for art making.  It reminded me that one of my favorite ways of thinking about setting a table for art is to compare it to setting a table for a dinner party.

Things need to be accessible and ready for guests and a sign of a good dinner party is that food is eaten and there is a bit of a mess at the end of the meal.  Similarly, supplies are used and the table shows traces of workers process at the end of an art-making session.  For this group the cluster of tables in the dining room offered our materials buffet while the attached sun room offered additional seating to gather in small groups for making.  We were flexile enough to make room for makers at the materials table as well. Intergenerational art making like intergenerational meals involve some improvisation and flexibility.

Different meals require different utensils and part of the job of the host is to orient guests.  If I serve steamed crabs and a guest has never picked a crab, it would be wrong to not teach this person how to pick a crab. On the other hand seasoned crab pickers are ready to begin and don't need to sit through a demonstration from me.  In group art making I try to strike a balance between giving enough direction to get started and getting out of the way to let people enjoy making at their own pace.  Similar to hosting a meal, I am also on hand for unexpected spills or to see if someone needs more of something - in this case paper or glue or a different kind of drawing tool.

A difference between art workshops and dinner parties is that in a dinner party most of the creating happens before the event and the guests consume what you make.  In an art workshop, the creating happens during the time together and consuming and sharing supplies results in these wonderful creations that offer traces and reflections on our time together.  Thanks to all who were open today to sharing their creations through these photos.

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