4th Graders Get The Blues

 Ekua HolmesThe 4th grade class welcomed three experts this week to guide them into the final phase of their expedition on The Great Migration. Under the guidance of collagist Ekua Holmes and resident artist musicians Levi Comstock and Christopher Schroeder, students explored the visual and musical art forms through which African Americans shared their stories in the early 20th century.

A Tapestry of Textures 

collageEkua Holmes, a Boston-based visual artist who specializes in collage and mixed media, led the students through an exploration of the artistic style popularized by Picturing America featured artist Romare Bearden, one of her great inspirations. Students read the story “My Hands Sing the Blues,” by Jean Walker Harvey, analyzed works by Bearden and Holmes, and tried their hand at this expressive style, using magazine clippings to create winter scenes rich in texture and emotion. Students explored the implications of each artistic choice, considering which colors, shapes, and lines would best convey their desired mood.

Getting In the Groove 

On Wednesday, students brought their instruments to class for a session on blues improvisation, led by resident artists Levi Comstock and Christopher Schroeder. Through a series of exerciseImprovs, students explored the connections between musical choice and emotional expression. They tested the limits of what music can express, using tone color, volume, pitch, and rhythm to convey images and concepts.

Since September, students have been exploring multiple facets of the period between 1910 and 1930, when millions of African Americans moved north to pursue economic opportunity and escape racial persecution in the south. Students have been listening to blues artists through The Listening Project and studying the poetry of contemporary poets Elouise Greenfield and Langston Hughes. Looking through historical and artistic lenses, students gain a more understanding of the relationships between art and culture.

Putting it Together 

All three visitors will return next week for follow-up lessons, which will culminate in multimedia presentations of original blues compositions. Their work will be featured at the 2012 Picturing America Conference hosted by Conservatory Lab on March 30th at Wheelock College and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Applications for the conference are still available to interested educators. Visit the conference page on the Conservatory Lab website for more details.