I got home on Friday night after five solid days of art with kids in the small, largely Athabaskan community of Northway. What fun.
Like many rural Alaskan communities, Northway is crazy for basketball. I arrived at the school right as a multi-day basketball tournament was concluding. As many of the designs by the students focused on their favorite sport, we had to include these flaming basketballs in one of our panels.
The younger kids were an easy sell on the project and jumped right in with drawings and ideas. We had four class groups, and the only one that I struggled with was the junior high class. I was amazed by their ability to turn anything – and I mean ANYTHING – that came out of the mouth of anyone in the room into something risque. (And I thought I had a pretty thoroughly developed gutter sense of humor!) However, by the last class even that group was working hard. . . or perhaps with them in mind I’d better say working well. . . .
In all, we finished four panels. The images were entirely based on designs by the students. The elementary kids helped with the tile mosaics but also completed some very nice cut paper pieces.
With a short time in the community and a lot of work to do I did not get out as much as I would have liked to. I brought along some of my own work that I am finishing up and spent several hours on my own art agenda after school got out. I hope to be able to return in the future to do another project in the future and get to know Northway better.
The drive back along the rivers and mountains was beautiful in the spring sun. This is along the Tanana, south of Fairbanks.
These short term teaching contracts are becoming a bigger part of what I consider to be my job as an artist. It allows me a lot of freedom to say yes or no to a request, the pay is decent, and I feel like I can go in and do some good in communities where the teachers have their hands full. Assuming the schools that have contacted me so far receive their grants, I’ll be traveling far and wide during the 2011-2012 school year.