Event season is a busy time at P.S. ARTS! To be fair – it’s ALWAYS busy at P.S. ARTS – but as we wrap up the LA Marathon and dive into LA Modernism Opening Night Party planning, it’s easy to feel a little lost in the hustle and bustle. I recently met a second grade student named Derick who helped remind me why I do what I do and what a privilege it is to be part of this organization.
As the Communications Associate, I spend a lot of time at my desk writing, editing, and designing materials about our programs and the 20,000 students we serve, but nothing is as powerful as the time I get to spend on-site with them. Long before I was worrying about meeting printing deadlines and proofing for typographic consistency, Derick sat in a P.S. ARTS classroom with Teaching Artist June Edmonds studying the elements of art that would inform his Paul Klee-inspired piece, which would later become the starting point for this year’s LA Modernism invitation.
I first saw Derick’s project in an email from June Edmonds and was instantly drawn to the vibrant colors and geometric shapes. The clean lines and architectural forms really lent themselves to an event featuring over 40 premier national and international exhibitors presenting furniture, decorative and fine arts representing all design movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.
It’s common for me to get caught up in the design process and tune out everything else around me, but as I got closer to finishing the invitation, I decided to set aside a few hours to get away from my computer screen and drive to FDR Elementary School in the Lawndale Elementary School District to meet Derick, thank him for his hard work, and see if he had any last minute suggestions; I’m so glad I did!
I walked into Ms. Rho’s second grade classroom at FDR as P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist June Edmonds was leading a lesson on warm and cool colors. Once she sent the kids to work, June pointed out Derick to me and I watched as he led his table group in carefully separating a tub of oil pastels into cool blues and greens and warm pinks and oranges. June and I pulled Derick aside so I could introduce myself and show him the invitation; I watched his eyes light up when he realized what he was looking at! I asked if he remembered working on this project and he immediately began explaining his process of making it. He even pointed to his favorite section of the piece where he used the colors of the Mexican flag. I told him a little bit about the event and all the different kinds of artists that would be there; I told him that the invitations would be printed on a giant press bigger than his classroom and that we would send them out to 2,500 people! I asked him if he thought I should adjust anything and he told me that he liked how I changed the colors and added a “cool” teal to the background.
Once I wrapped up my conversation with Derick, I had a minute to chat with Ms. Rho who said, “Derick is a great student who loves to learn new things. Thanks to our amazing art teacher, Ms. Edmonds, he has developed into quite an artist. Ms. Edmonds is patient and has a great rapport with every student. She is knowledgeable, and we are so grateful to have her as our art teacher. Thank you P.S. ARTS for bringing the arts to our school!”
As I drove back to the office, all the little details and deadlines cleared away, and I felt honored to be a part of the powerful work P.S. ARTS is doing. In that moment, I got a taste of the “magic moments” our Teaching Artists experience every day in the classroom. I saw a sense of pride on a child’s face as he was recognized and celebrated for his creative ideas. That single piece of 11×17 paper layered with colored construction paper suddenly became a symbol of all the ways the arts classroom can provide opportunities for success. We aren’t just teaching kids how to make art; we are teaching them that their ideas matter – that their work is important, valued and worthy of being displayed – so that they have the confidence to imagine the world they want to see and the tools to begin creating it.
Finishing up the invitation became much easier with Derick’s blessing, and I was especially excited to seal and send the finished version to him and his family – We’re looking forward to seeing them at 3LABS on April 24th!
Here is a short video of Derick explaining the process of creating his Paul Klee-inspired piece. (Please excuse the background noise – I started filming right as recess began!)
For more event information, visit psarts.org/modernism2015