Posts Tagged 'Thriving Minds'

Community Connection: Thriving Minds

The DMA partners with Thriving Minds, a city-wide initiative to provide arts and cultural experiences for Dallas students, in the offering of an extended arts program during after school hours.  We have partnered with Thriving Minds and their umbrella organization Big Thought in several ways over many years.  The after school program is our newest partnership, which has become my focus during the past two years.  I am fortunate to work closely with Creative Specialist Laura Orange on this program: we share an excitement and enthusiasm for serving students during after school hours with programs that are educational, meaningful, and most importantly, fun.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to your position at Big Thought.

When I was in my early twenties, I studied with a professional company that had connections with the Paris school of Marcel Marceau.  We became the United States version of that company.  The man I studied with supported himself by being a resident artist for the state of Ohio, and he trained me on how to make a living by putting together a show and getting involved with various state arts commissions.  I ended up here in Texas in the early 80’s when Young Audiences was forming.  Young Audiences wanted a mime company, and they asked me to create one their second year.  I spent years performing through schools, doing residences and other work through Junior Players and Dallas Children’s Theater, and along the way I learned about arts administration.  As Young Audiences developed, they realized they needed in-house arts administration staff and brought me on board – that was probably ten years ago.  Young Audiences grew into Big Thought and extended into afterschool programming.  I was the representative here for 21st Century programming and was able to connect organizations with afterschool programs.  Now we staff programs at schools, and I realize I’ve almost come full circle.

What advice would you give to artists who are interested in teaching school children?

Don’t take yourself too seriously.  You’ve got to enjoy children and enjoy the journey they’ll take you.  Sometimes, something will happen that can be a really brilliant idea if you’re not stuck on what you want to do.  Some of my best adventures happened when something didn’t work right, and I decided let’s try this and see what happens?  It became a lot more fun.   

You have a performance background.  How do works of art connect with your approach toward teaching?

Works of art can be very inspirational.  From the mime background, every picture tells  a story, and there’s movement and everything.  We’ve physically recreated works of art in performances with our bodies.  You can also do a movement exercise where you take a still picture, and ask students what do you want to be in it?  A blade of glass, a tree, birds flying, part of a hill…if we were to unfreeze it, what are the little movements that would happen?   What sounds would it make?  Students can use these things to understand line, form, and shape of physical bodies.  Since mime is abstract, there is a lot to connect with abstract paintings, too.

If you could be doing anything else, what would it be?

Probably sitting on the beach and watching the ocean.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Our annual drive home to my parents’ house is usually pretty funny.  We rent a minivan and I call it “Operation Little Miss Sunshine”.  Me, my brother, my husband, my dogs, and whatever we can stuff in the van drive to Mississippi and back together.

Laura paints a henna tattoo on a colleague.

SLANT 45: Service Learning Adventures in North Texas

Volunteering and art make a great combination.  Add football and Super Bowl XLV to this combination and you get a power-packed project called SLANT 45.  In the football world, slant 45 references a specific play used by Daryl Johnston and Emmitt Smith when they played for the Dallas Cowboys.  Johnston, the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, and Big Thought are giving slant new meaning in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with the SLANT 45 project, also known as Service Learning Adventures in North Texas. Sponsored by Bank of America and The Ted and Sharon Skokos Foundation, the project is an educational youth initiative promoting volunteer service in the community and providing participating youth with an opportunity to create unique artwork reflecting their service learning adventures.  It’s a great opportunity to encourage and recognize the champions of community service.  

The goal for the SLANT 45 community-wide service project is to involve at least 20,000 youth, logging in nearly 45,000 hours of volunteer work.  Wow!  After teams of youth complete their projects, the final step is the creation of a reflective artwork.  Selected works of art will be on view in the SLANT 45 Community Heroes Art Exhibition, which will be on display at various locations across North Texas before, during, and after Super Bowl XLV.

The Dallas Museum of Art is partnering with Big Thought and artists in the Dallas community to provide workshops for SLANT 45 participants.  A few North Texas youth participating in SLANT 45 visited the DMA recently to participate in a workshop with artist Sara Cardona.  Having recently completed their volunteer work at an animal shelter and a clothes closet, these boys and girls met with Sara to reflect on their projects and create works of art inspired by their service.  The youth created an artwork based on the idea of stained glass windows.  They drew words and images reflecting their community volunteer work on a transparent film, then backed the film with metallic paper, and then completed the work with a colorful frame.

More workshops are scheduled to occur at the DMA in September and October with artists Jill Foley, Adriana Martinez, Will Richey, and Ann Marie Newman.  Visit SLANT 45 for more information about how to register.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Community Connection: Close Collaborations

One of my favorite things about my job at the DMA is the opportunity to work closely with teachers and students over an extended period of time.  Over the last three months, I’ve worked with Shawna Bateman and Daniel Hall through the Thriving Minds After School Program.  During this process, I gained valuable knowledge about the after school environment, which is immensly different than during-school hours.  An extra bonus for me was getting to know these two very interesting people: Daniel performs regularly with a variety of musicians and bands who collaborate in The Dallas Family Band, and Shawna shared an incredible found object sculpture she had made years ago to connect with one of the after school program activities.
What are you learning from your experiences in the Thriving Minds After School Program?

Daniel:  I’ve learned that when working with kids, things don’t always go as you planned.  That’s not always a bad thing –  you’re able to see art and teaching in different ways than you would have normally imagined, based on the responses of the kids and the way things flow in the classroom.

Shawna:  The biggest thing I’ve learned is how important arts education is for children.  We have a great need for arts education, and the arts are often the first thing that goes with budget cuts.

What do you do outside of the after school program, and how does that inform your work with students?

Daniel:  I’m a performing musician and artist, so I’m teaching kids about things I know and actually do.  I spend just as much – if not more – time practicing the discipline I teach, as opposed to a chemistry teacher who might spend all their time in classroom and little time working directly with chemicals.

Daniel, far left, performs with The Dallas Family Band outside the Flaming Lips concert during NX35 Conferette in March 2010.

Shawna:  I hike, read, and catch dragonflies.  I also paint and make jewelry, which allows me to talk with students about creating things on a level they can relate to.  A lot of times, kids think of art as something that someone else does. 

Shawna sits in her favorite park, thinking.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Daniel:  I don’t typically like to think in concrete terms for the future, but I will say that I’ll be playing music for the rest of my life. Five years from now, I’ll still be a practicing musician and artist.  The way that will work itself out is entirely unknown, and I’m not going to worry about that.

Shawna:  On the top of a mountain with a lovely hat.

Do you want to share any memorable experiences with the after school program this year?

Daniel:  There are always funny things that kids say that make for hours of conversations with my friends later.

Shawna: I really loved hearing that the kids would not stop talking about the artist.  Not only did they absorb what I taught them, but they were excited to use that information.  [Shawna’s students visited the DMA and viewed the artworks they discussed in the classroom.  The group leader told Shawna that she had to adjust the timing of their visit because the students wanted to tell her everything they remembered about the artist.]

Found It!

Back in November, I shared some photos from a project inspired by Dorothea Tanning’s Pincushion to Serve as Fetish.  This project is part of a new afterschool program we are developing in partnership with Thriving Minds at Dallas ISD schools.  At the time, I was testing the program with 4th-5th graders at Conner Elementary School.  I am currently working with Shawna Bateman at Twain Elementary School and Daniel Hall at Long Middle School, who are leading the program with their students.  In the process, I have learned a great deal from their experiences, insights, and feedback regarding the program.
Below are images of projects inspired by Mark Handforth’s Dallas Snake.  Through these projects, students learn about artists who use found objects as materials for their art.  Found objects are natural or man-made objects found (or sometimes bought) by an artist that are treated as a work of art just the way they are, used for inspiration, and/or used as materials for works of art.
First, the students chose several items from the collection of found objects provided by the instructor.

An array of found objects to choose from

Next, students selected materials that helped them connect their objects.

Materials for connecting found objects

One student created a time machine with cardboard, plastic beads, an old tv antenna, and other assorted items.

Time Machine

 Another student created a sculpture park with a lint roller handle, cell phone, bubble wrap, and paper towel roll.

The Sculpture Park

Saline solution bottles, foam tubing, a belt, and a pipe cleaner were combined to make binoculars.


 Students will see Mark Handforth’s Dallas Snake firsthand when they visit the DMA at the end of their program.

Dallas Snake by Mark Handforth


Flickr Photo Stream