A contemporary totem pole.
For a number of years, I had the desire to do an outdoor sculpture. I wanted to include all twenty-five of my high school students in the planning and design of this piece. The structure that evolved was a contemporary totem pole.
The students researched Native-American art and developed a symbol on paper that represented who they are or reflected an aspect of their personality. They transferred their design to a 3/4" piece of plywood. Students drew their symbols on the wood before working together to cut each piece. Next, they sanded, primed and pained their pieces with oil-base paint.
I explained how contemporary sculpture needs to have a visual sense of unity. Since the forms were so varied, it was important to look at the use of color very carefully. To show unity of overall form, I limited the color scheme, but allowed the students to choose the color range. We discussed color at great length before choosing the color range of blue to green.
I gave each student a sheet of paper divided into 2" (5 cm) squares for drawing their ideas. After they completed their drawings, I made fifteen copies of each design. Each student received a complete copy of the class' work. Then, I asked them to arrange, cut and structure how they envisioned the final result.
After looking at the many possibilities, each of the two classes designed two totem poles, using the designs from their class only. The paper designs were then laid out with the wooden shapes on a table, and the students had an opportunity to arrange and rearrange all of the design possibilities. It was like working with an unusual set of building blocks. A class discussion followed on the overall structure, design and visual balance of the pieces. Once again, before the ideas were finalized, the students voted on which construction worked best due to its overall visual design. The students bolted the final pieces to a vertical pole. They covered the bolts andc the poles with paint, adding to the overall sense of craft and unity. At each step of the project, student involvement in the decision-making process was critical to the overall success.
The four contemporary totem poles came together to form one large piece. Remaining consistent with the Native Americans who positioned their totem poles at entryways, this pices is on permanent display outside the front doors of the library.
Because the students were part of the decision making, they had a greater sense of ownership in the overall project. As an art educator, I see the need to empower the students we teach through risk-taking, decision making and
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|Title Annotation:||high school sculpture lesson|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1993|
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