Enriching lives through art and craft

Freedom Schools Blog Post Part 1: East Tennessee Freedom Schools Summer Partnership with Arrowmont

– by Ellyx Martinez, 2022 Summer Arrowmont Visions Intern

At Sarah Moore Magnet Academy, students K-5 spend six weeks of their summer learning and mastering key reading and writing skills. The program that brought them here, East Tennessee Freedom Schools, is devoted to cultivating positive attitudes toward learning and reducing summer reading loss. In addition to its inclusive reading curriculum the program “supports children and families in the areas of parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational leadership development, and health — physical, mental, and nutritional.”

One of the ways the students access the wider goals of Freedom Schools is through the provision of art classes. This summer, Arrowmont partnered with East Tennessee Freedom Schools to provide a unique, multi-week workshop for the students in attendance.

Lauren Farkas, an emerging educator from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, designed and taught a printmaking class utilizing Gelli plates for an accessible and expansive opportunity for students of all ages to practice and perfect their skills in monotype.

The Gelli plates provide a six-by-six-inch flexible surface for students to roll paint onto. Unlike common printmaking practices that require carving away material in order to create an image, the Gelli plates offer a more easygoing opportunity to lift the paint from the surface after it has been placed. This can be done using a variety of tools – some resemble a paintbrush and can essentially reverse-draw into the paint, while others resemble a comb-like structure to lift paint up to create a pattern. When the students are satisfied with their plate, the next step is to print. Placing the paper carefully onto the plate, they apply even pressure to the back of the paper to stamp the design evenly onto the surface.

The result is a beautiful and unique print, made in minutes, completely resolved by the hands of the student. From there, they can continue printing on the same paper to create layers, or create a whole new print. As the weeks passed, Farkas introduced new techniques for creating and layering their prints including stencils and blending multiple colors.

The Gelli printing technique provided an engaging, safe, and experimental space for the students to make work that they love. In the spirit of such experimentation, Farkas has encouraged the students to make their work abstract, focusing on the feeling of their favorite thing before moving to illustrate it. This has felt vital to the expression of the students in their making process, and can be observed in the endless sea of drying prints, bursting with color and singing with texture.

Studies show arts instruction is vital to a student’s development of critical thinking, problem-solving, inventiveness, language, and so many other important life skills. The weight East Tennessee Freedom Schools program gives to wellness alongside reading is a refreshing and impactful take on education. On one of the earliest printmaking days, as students were just beginning to grasp the process, one could observe new energy in the room. Excited and confident, one of the students exclaimed “I want to be an artist!” What followed was a mini chorus, little echoes of the first student’s announcement, all declaring their desire to be artistic.

Next week in Part 2 we will highlight Lauren Farkas, the art instructor teaching Gelli printing to the k-12 students participating in the East Tennessee Freedom Schools Program  at Sarah Moore Greene Magnet School.

Ellyx Martinez

ART WORKSTENNESSEE ARTS COMMISIONTENNESSEE FOR THE ARTSTennessee Specialty License PlatesEAST TENNESSEE FOUNDATIONWindgate Foundation Arrowmont is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP5534 awarded to the State of Tennessee by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

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