Artist as Storyteller

After two months of school I am delighted to see the PFS campus coming alive with art . Students are beginning to finish their first projects and art is filling up the walls. During the first part of the year we are focussing on the artist as storyteller , the first of four units that explore how artists connect to the world around them. Each grade is engaged in projects that look to the expressive and narrative aspects of art. Students of different ages are engaging with a variety of materials and techniques to help illustrate the range of ways that artists can tell a story with their work.

The beginning school starts the year off by exploring the basic elements of art. The b-schoolers have spent the past weeks exploring color and shapes. This week students are wrapping up their first big project where they used different processes for collage to create friendly monsters.

First and second graders started the year off by painting maps of imaginary worlds. We looked at illustrated maps from fantasy stories, and then students embarked upon a mapmaking quest where they created a setting where their own stories could take place. Some students expanded upon their maps by making pictures of characters and creatures that might inhabit their worlds.

Third graders began the year with an introduction to textile art where they learned a variety of techniques for creating art with fabric with a focus on weaving. Along the way we learned about artists like Miriam Schapiro who made art out of fabric to highlight the importance of the overlooked work of women who practiced textile crafts, and who fought for the rights of women. In the coming weeks I will be collaborating with Megan Culbertson to bring the students a cross-curricular language arts/visual art project in which they will create story quilts inspired by the work of Faith Ringgold.

Fourth and fifth graders are putting the finishing touches on large scale paintings that use symbols to express ideas, emotions and stories. Students discussed the ways in which everyday symbols convey meaning and express emotion and looked at how pioneering abstract artist Hilma af Klint used symbolism in her artwork. As a class we worked to create our own symbolic language that could express both things that we can see and things that we can’t see (like emotions and ideas). Students then drew from this symbolic language to create abstract paintings. Through the use of symbolism the students learned that artwork does not need to look like real life to tell a story.

Sixth and seventh graders began the year by responding to a simple, but challenging prompt: “create a three panel comic that tells a story without words”. The constraints of this project encourage students to develop strategies for efficiently conveying visual information. After developing their concepts in pencil sketches students gained experience using brushes and ink to make their work permanent. While a permanent material like ink can be quite daunting for artists of any age, I encouraged the students to go with the flow and embrace mistakes.

Last but not least the eighth graders have been hard at work on the 2020 project, a collaborative painting project in which the students are creating a series of paintings to represent their personal and collective experiences in the year 2020. Throughout the process the eight graders practiced a variety of skills like preparing their own painting surface, color mixing and hard edged painting to help to realize their ideas. Students deepened their understanding of art’s ability to convey personal histories by studying Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. Once completed the 2020 series will be hung in the great room on campus, and an accompanying video featuring the student’s work will be distributed among the community.


I believe that exhibiting work is an important part of artistic practice. As students begin to finish their first projects I have been creating displays of their work around campus. When possible I get the students to participate in the exhibition process by helping to hang work and making decisions about how their art is displayed. Exhibiting work on campus helps to foster pride and ownership over the work students make and encourages curiosity and community across grade levels as students look at the artwork made in other classes.

While I would typically host an art show to invite parents to come see their children’s work, this year I must develop alternative forums for parents to see their children’s art. I will send artwork home at the end of each term, but in the meantime I have been brainstorming creative ways to share student work. In the coming weeks I will begin to expand this website to include digital galleries where I will post student art. I also hope to experiment with alternative methods of exhibition like creating videos, zines, or displaying work outside near the drop off area. I invite you all to reach out to me via email if you have suggestions or ideas.